The connection between a houndsman and a hound is hard to describe. Certainly, it’s a unique bond that outranks the bond between a pet owner and their pet. A hunting dog is a provider. He is a hunting companion. He is the hunter’s connection point to the wild game they pursue. Hounds that achieve “legendary” status are few and far between. They are a special class of hound. Though some dogs are blown out of proportion, a real houndsman knows when a dog is the real deal. Such is the case with a 40-pound plott named Shamrock’s Timex.

When animal-rights activists portray bear hunters, they do so in a manner that casts a disparaging light up on them in the eyes of non-hunters. They call hound and bait hunters things like lazy and slobs who employ unfair tactics to lure hungry, unsuspecting bears to slaughter.

It’s up to hunters – houndsmen and bait hunters – to educate non-hunters, the media and even other hunters on the truths pertaining to their chosen methods.
So when should you trust your dog? Unless you’re certain they’re doing wrong, it’s probably worth giving them the benefit of the doubt. This uncertainty can be excruciating at times, but in my experience the most remarkable stories usually have moments where it is tempting to conclude that the race is over, or the dogs have taken the track backwards, or worse yet that they’re running something they ought not to. But when the dogs pull up treed following those moments of doubt or uncertainty, the feeling of accomplishment and pride for one’s dogs is unsurpassed.
There is a lot of controversy in the hound world about the level of development you should see in a hound by the time they are two years old. Some people like to see puppies at six to eight months old running, treeing, and baying bears. It doesn’t happen very often and certainly isn’t the standard for pup development. I’ve gotten excited when I’ve seen pups at five months old bay caged coons. It’s easy to think, “Man, this pup is gunna make a bear dog.” Then they go right the other way. I have also seen puppies that show no interest in caged coons, and they turn out to be super bear dogs. No matter the case, training season is the time to introduce puppies to the hunting world.
On a year when there is a good crop of nuts (hard mast), you can find bears wherever the nuts grow. This past year in Maine there were some areas that had them and other areas that didn’t. If there is any kind of natural food source in the woods, you can be guaranteed one thing--the bears will find it. If there is a limited amount of that food, they will go nuts over it.