Long before the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776 or the United States won its independence from Great Britain, westward expansion was leading rugged, hardy men and their families to settle the western frontier. They were carving out a life in what is still known as Appalachia.


In the 18th century, Appalachia was a dangerous place. Indians roamed free and many tribes had aligned themselves with the British—leading to raids along the frontier on homesteads and settlements. Most homesteads, nestled in the mountains, were far from civilization. The mountain men faced additional danger from the harsh environment, rugged terrain, and dangerous predators. With communication nearly nonexistent, save an occasional post rider, people had to be self-reliant, resourceful, and just downright tough.


Appalachia is commonly defined as the area ranging from southern Maryland to northern Georgia and from the start of the mountains in western Virginia and North Carolina spreading west to eastern Tennessee and Kentucky. The icon of the Appalachian Mountains is, no doubt, the black bear. In the mid 18th century, the black bear was especially iconic and was known for its predation on the meager crops and livestock that settlers depended on for food. Settlers had to protect these valuable commodities at all costs if they intended to survive. Bear hunting skills and bear dogs were developed out of necessity. Bear meat was a welcomed source of protein to the pot and the dinner table. Bear fat was rendered down for a variety of uses from baking to leather preservation, to firearms and iron tool maintenance. While it was an antagonistic relationship, the settler depended on the bear and the bear didn’t mind the corn and fresh pork he stole from humans. From that heritage was born the “Bear Hunter”.


Johannes Plott stepped off a ship in the colony of North Carolina as an immigrant in 1750. He brought with him hunting dogs from his homeland of Germany. The particulars of the characteristics of these original dogs is lost to history, but it is commonly believed that they were hound-like in stature, had superior scenting ability, and possessed a high level of drive to hunt and catch game. Johannes wasted no time in moving westward into the Appalachians. There, several generations of Plotts developed the breed known as “Plott”. With plenty of work to be done in settling this wild land, the Plott family continued to refine the breed into what is now recognized as the North Carolina state dog, “The Plott”. As the reputation of the Plott grew, this versatile, homestead guardian and varmint-catching dog spread across the region.


Fast forward to present day; there are multiple generations of people that have stayed close to their roots and have never left the mountains. They have carried on the heritage of their bear hunting forefathers. Not all of them use the Plott to hunt bear, but a high percentage do and if you travel to the area it is rare to see a bear hunting rig on a mountain road that doesn’t have at least one Plott in the box.


With this in mind, it is only fitting that the American Plott Association (APA) holds its annual meeting, also known as Breed Days in the heart of Appalachia. Bear hunters from across the country converge at the foot of the mountains in Greenville, TN to gather with other bear and big game hunters. This really is a rendezvous and it possesses an old timey feel. As you pull into the grounds, there is a wonderful lodge situated at the base of the great mountain range. Its timber frame sports a large fireplace on the huge front porch. The event is held in early April and the smoke can be seen rising from the grand chimney long before you arrive at the gate, signaling a warm welcome to all houndsmen and bear hunters.


The event is a celebration of bear hunting and, more importantly, bear dogs. Lasting for three days, this family event features hound events, storytelling until your ears fall off, and great food. It is a friendly, light-hearted event and truly a gathering among friends. Attendees have the opportunity to meet and talk to true legends of the bear dog world, hear their stories, and benefit from their wisdom. Vendors are set up to peddle their wares. This truly is a come one,  come all event. It makes no difference if you hunt with Plotts or not. All are welcome and you may be surprised to find out that some of the “Plott legends” have other colored dogs in their hunting rigs. Many of the folks there can tell stories of grandfathers and great grandfathers hunting in the same mountains surrounding the lodge. There is no other event like this for bear hunters anywhere. The APA did it right in closing the location and time of year.


Appalachia truly is the “Cradle of Civilization of North American Bear Hunting”. There is no place that can boast a longer history, the amount of black bears killed, or the legacy of bear dogs or bear hunters than this area. Make plans to attend this iconic event for next year. You won’t regret it.


*** Note: for more information visit www.americanplottassociation.com