By Clay Newcomb
I’m not a voracious reader, as in “fast”, but I’m a diligent reader who thoroughly enjoys the classic medium of the written word to transfer authentic stories, information, and the heart of the writer to an audience. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much when I cracked open a book written by a lion and bear hunter from California, but it looked intriguing. It was about the second chapter when I heard a clear, strong voice emerging from the pages. I felt like I was side-by-side with a young man as he struggled, without much means, to forge out a ideological lifestyle of hunting. He overcame obstacles that would have stifled most. He had discernment to see through the riff raff of the sport. He seemed to be led by the integrity of his heart drawing him to towards his goals. Over the span of two-and-half decades he surrounded himself with quality people who shared his value system. By the end of his career in hunting with hounds he’d achieved what he set out to do. Then he let it go.
Ed Vance’s Story
It was 1959 and 19-year old Ed Vance was working on an assembly line in Van Nuys, California putting together Chevrolets. Across the line from him was a man who told stories of following hounds through the Okefenokee swamps of Georgia chasing raccoons. With no background in hunting, the tales intrigued Ed to no end. “I was all ears.” Ed recalls. The impact of the stories were significant and would ultimately change the trajectory of his life. Ed was raised in the city, but as a young boy he fanaticized of hunting as he gripped his Red Ryder bee bee gun while trolling the suburban forests behind his home. Ed dreamed of getting out of “city life” and into the country. The imagery contrived in Ed’s mind by the hound stories ignited a drive to pursue a lifestyle he knew nothing about.
“I knew nothing about hounds, where to buy one, where to go hunt them, or how to hunt them,” Ed said. He would ask his friend from Georgia where he could get a hunting dog. “This guy suggested I take a look into some of the major hunting magazines and that I’d see dogs for sale.” Within a short time Ed began writing letters to hound breeders and in 1960 he purchased a Redbone hound out of Arkansas for $35 plus shipping. The dog was named, Buck. And it wasn’t long until he purchased his second Redbone named Minnie. In pursuit of a country life for his family, Ed loaded up his family and moved to Oajo, California to a place where he could keep dogs and horses, of which he promptly bought two. He was set to be a hunter, now he just had to learn how.
Ed began hunting with some local houndsmen, but after months of not catching any game he said, “I started to get suspicious that they were actually chasing anything that could climb a tree.” Ed wised up, “I decided that I needed to quit hunting with them, and started looking elsewhere.” Ed decided he needed a trained hound to jump-start his efforts, so he gave away Buck and Minnie and started all over. In his search Ed would learn about a government lion and bear hunter named Willis Buttoph. At the time there was a bounty on lions and bears in California. In 1962 Ed wrote a letter to Buttoph asking if he had any trained hounds for sale, much to Ed’s surprise, he did. “It was only about 700 miles from where I lived to this guy’s house,” Ed said. “So I jumped into my old beat up 1951 GMC three-quarter ton pickup and hit the road.” That’s a long drive in an old truck.
Buttoph was a veteran lion hunter and willing to share his experience with the young hunter. Ed was intrigued to be in the company of real hunter. Ed said, “We had been visiting for about two hours or so when I asked him how long it had been since he’d caught any lions. He paused for a moment and appeared as though he was trying to remember back in time. The he said, “Today.” In fact, it had been only a few hours since he had finished skinning it out.” Ed was shocked and excited to be around a successful lion hunter, and even more about purchasing a finished hound from him. Ed said, “For the first time in my life, I felt that I was in the right place.”
The hound that Buttoph was willing to sell was an experienced lion and bobcat dog, but wouldn’t run a bear. And Buttoph didn’t like that, however, Ed didn’t mind at all. The dog’s name was Red. Ed would hunt Red for several years, sell the dog, and ultimately come back to Buttoph a few years later to buy his first top hound. Ed emptied his bank account paying $1,000 for the hound named Pat. With current inflation rates this would be like paying $8,400 in 2019. Tragically, the dog was killed by 1080 poison, a deadly substance used to kill lions, on one of his first hunts with the hound! “I was devastated, and with the loss I felt totally defeated,” Ed recalled. “It didn’t take all that long for me to realize that I still wasn’t going to give up. I wanted this more than ever before. So I licked my wounds as best I could, and set out to start all over again.”
In 1964 Ed met a gentleman named J.D. Reynolds from Wasco, California who had a six-year-old Redtick hound for sale named Bo. Ed went hunted with the dog and was impressed when Bo led the race and treed first on a bobcat and fox. Ed would end up buying the dog the next weekend when it treed two more bobcats. Ed said, “I would learn that to call “Bo” good was an understatement. Was he perfect? No. But as far as hunting dogs go, he was outstanding in every way.” He would hunt this hound for the rest of the dog’s life and catch a tremendous amount of game. The dog would ultimately “teach” Ed what a good hound should do and how to hunt. The dog was Ed’s entry point into good hounds.
Bo was out of the Vaughn line of Redticks, later to become Vaughn Blueticks, out of Paragould, Arkansas. Ed wanted more dogs like Bo so he went right to the source. Ed stayed with Elbert Vaugn in Arkansas for three months in the mid 1960s and hunted with many of his hounds. Ed would learn a lot about hound breeding and training from Elbert, but most importantly he would pick up another pup. Elbert offered Ed a job, wanting him to hunt his hounds in competition coonhunts all over the region. However, Ed didn’t like the swamps and loved the Greenhorn Mountains so much that he turned down the offer. Overtime, this line of dogs would be his pathway to having good hounds and ultimately lead him into full time outfitting.
The Rest of the Story
After many years of determination, roadblocks and setbacks Ed was finally heading in the right direction. Ed would end up becoming an expert houndsman, lion and bear hunter. He started an outfitting business in 1966 and began to advertise in Outdoor Life Magazine purchasing a one-inch by one-inch ad for $50 a month. Without much money and an unbeatable passion, Ed was simply interested in living a hunting lifestyle. The best way he figured he could do that would be to an outfitter.
He got a big break in 1967 when a writer for the Los Angles Times contacted him and wanted to do a story on mountain lion hunting with hounds. Ed had three dogs, beatup pickup truck and a good horse, but a lot of spit and vinegar. Ed would end up catching a lion for the hunters and the article in the paper boosted Ed’s business significantly. Ed was a “no kill, no pay” outfitter, which was common at the time, so he had to be good in order to make a living. “If I had two nickels to rub together it was because I caught somebody a lion.” Ed said. Overall, Ed would have close to a 90% success rate on catching his hunters game during his career. After 25 years of hound hunting Ed knew it was time to get out. And he did. He quit hunting in the late 1980s.
Ed was known for being an honest, hard hunting outfitter who could catch lions and bears consistently. He spent most of his career in the Greenhorn Mountains of California, but also spent time hunting in Montana, Nevada and Utah. Ed had a truck system build where he could carry his horse and hounds in the back without using a trailer. He didn’t use the horse much with his clients, but he used it for scouting for lions and accessing backcountry when they couldn’t find a track on the road. In one of the most exciting chapters of the book, titled “From Devil’s Kitchen to Bull Run”, Ed recounted a bear race that went 25 miles with Ed following by foot using only his hearing to course the dogs. The race went from daylight to dark and ended when Ed had to shoot the bayed bear. It was an incredible feat for the dogs, but also for a man. The book is full of interesting and incredible stories and good insight into hound hunting.
Now in his late 70s, Ed’s friends and family encouraged him to write a book, which he did. The book is called “Trained By A Hound Dog.” Ed is a great storyteller and a compelling writer. The book goes into great detail about his life and hunting, and this author gives it five stars.
You can check out Ed’s book at www.trainedbyahounddog.com or by mailing a check for $25 (plus $5 shipping) to Trained By A Hound Dog, PO Box 154, Posey, CA 93260-9750
Also, check out our podcast with Ed Vance on the Bear Hunting Magazine Podcast.