I was without a doubt a houndsman – not for skill or any accomplishment – but rather because I had, in that moment, irreparably “gone to the dogs.” Hounding was in my blood. That first tree still stands out in my life as one of the few truly transformative events I’ve experienced. My passion for hounds and bears irrupted; the baying of tree dogs became a sort of siren song in my life, and the pursuit of our quarry together took on an almost sacramental value. My awareness of, fascination for, and infatuation with bears and bear conservation was also born that day.
The sport of running hounds has grown in the past few years. Almost everyone that gets into hound hunting got started going with someone else and their hounds, and instantly had that burning feeling of needing their own dog. Some, not many, are content just going along and helping, but the majority of people get hooked, and there is no better feeling than having your own dog in the mix. This may or may not affect the original houndsman’s future.
This book is about Ed Vance’s 25-plus years of hunting with hounds in California, Nevada, Utah and Montana for both bear and mountain lion. As a young man who knew nothing about hound hunting, Vance pursued knowledge of the sport with tenacity and eventually became an expert outfitter.
Sometimes we get lucky and our hounds will hunt right up until their final day, and other times the onset of old age suddenly brings with it the certainty that retirement is the only reasonable option.
It was three days before the season ended, and we’d had pretty good success with a couple of harvests as and some we treed-and-freed. With few tracks available now nearing the end of the season, our group decided to search outside of our normal hunting grounds to a place way less forgiving. We had been to Fayette two other times in this late season and had found ample sign that some bears were still up and about.