A True Tennessee Monster

Buddies, Bears, & Treeing Walkers

The morning of December 12th, 2023 started out like most normal days, but was far from what we had expected. ???We all woke up around 4:00 a.m. and sent our texts to each other to make sure everyone was awake and getting ready for the day. I went to Matt’s house to meet him and Austin. We let the dogs out of their kennels to run around and stretch out before their long day started. After everything was loaded and ready to go, we began our routine drive to a local diner, The Burger Hut, to eat breakfast.  

As we were eating, we were producing a plan about where we were going to hunt and who was going to cover certain areas. We decided on a place we had success in last year but had not hunted yet this year. So after eating and collaring the hounds, we hit the road again towards the hunting area we had chosen for the day.  

Once we arrived, the sun had started to come up and it was a cold 20-degree morning. We hit the mountain quickly to get moving around and warm up. We started up a ridge about half a mile and decided to drop off the side into the holler just because we had never tried finding a track there before. We made it about halfway down when the dogs started leaving our sides and prancing around with their heads up, smelling the wind. After a moment of checking the wind, our four hounds Karen, Cruze, Twitch, and Covid were gone and on the track followed by two of our pups Oz and Cash. The hounds only ran about 150 yards when they changed over and went to baying, and slowly walked up the creek. We knew by the way things were happening that they were probably on a good sized bear, but we had no idea what we were getting ready to see. 

We finished our climb down to the bottom of the holler and started closing in on the dogs. As we were walking up the creek behind the hounds, we started to see this bear's tracks and knew instantly this was not your average bear. After seeing the tracks, we started in but, as any bear hunter knows, a big bear gets big by being smart and surviving. Matt got within 40 yards and the bear knew he was there. The bear then turned and started walking up a rock and laurel covered ridge. Matt directed us to get up the creek as quickly as possible. He and another friend of ours, Wyche, were going to go to the top of the ridge to cut him off or push him down to us. At this point, none of us had been able to lay eyes on this bear due to the thick laurel and rock, but that was about to change.  

When Matt and Wyche started from the top of the ridge down to this bear, he knew they were there, just like we had planned. The bear turned back to the creek where Austin and I were waiting. The hounds went from barking and baying to screaming again. I was watching the yardage drop on the Garmin and we knew he was coming. Things started to happen fast after this, so we got ready. With our guns raised, the sound of the hounds screaming and baying grew closer. We could start to see the laurel moving and swaying around. We then knew exactly where he was going to cross. Austin and I positioned ourselves to be able to get the shot. When the bear finally stepped out, we could not believe what a mountain monster we were really looking at. Just as quickly as he stepped out and we saw him, he saw us. The bear turned to retreat back into the laurel, but the hounds knew we were there and what was about to happen.  

The hounds tightened up on him, causing him to make his mistake. The bear went to turn and run at the hounds. As soon as the dogs spread apart and gave us a split second, we took our shots. Austin pulled the trigger and I quickly followed. We both put two 30–30 rounds behind his front shoulder. The two shots dropped the monster, but did not kill him. He rolled off a small hill into the creek, then slid down a small waterfall with the hounds all over him. Anyone that bear hunts knows this is a dangerous situation for the hounds. So just as quickly as he went over the hill, Austin and I pursued him. We went off behind him and as he was fighting the dogs back, I sent the final round to end this hunt of a lifetime.  

As we all regrouped and caught our breaths, we started to really look at this beast. We realized he was an absolute stud of a black bear for these eastern Tennessee mountains. We then got on the radio to call for our good friends and hunting partners James Babb, Ralph Lawson, and Johnny Webb to tell them what we had just harvested. They hiked into the mountain towards us with ropes and scales. The bear weighed in at 614.2 lbs. It took all seven of us about six and a half hours to get the bear out. We had to take turns doing certain things since it was very tiring for everyone out there. And none of it would have been possible without the help of our friends. We were beyond blessed to be able to harvest such a beautiful animal of that size and to accomplish it on the last day we could hunt for the year.  

We would like to thank our friends Eddie Patterson and Michael Ewing at Notellum Outfitters in California. Without the great hounds they provide us with, hunts like this would not be possible. We would also like to thank Brian Puryear with Dynamics Taxidermy in Camp Creek Greenville, Tennessee for doing the full body mounting on this bear for us. Each year is a blessing for all of us being able to hunt and provide food for our families. We have an excellent group of men and women that all hunt together. We have people from other states that come in and hunt with us as well. Without support from all of them and all of us working together, it would make days like this hard. We are all grateful for the opportunities given to us in the mountains we call home.  

Most importantly we are thankful for the hounds we have. It takes a lot of heart and soul to perform the way they do daily. They are the true athletes and warriors of this sport. We want to encourage any youth interested in hunting to keep a positive mindset. There will be hard days, but the work you put into this sport and lessons you learn will always pay off. You may be the one to catch the next 600-pound bear.