The term “bear dog” means something different to every houndsman. It seems simple, but the definition isn’t clear-cut. It’s often an issue of preference and style. However, the specific tools needed by a bear dog differ by region. Topography, forest type, hunting pressure, and the population dynamics of bears all effect what skills are the limiting factors to consistently catch bruins. Ultimately, that’s what we’re identifying – the limiting factors of hounds catching a bear in the different regions. Another way to say it is, “If a hound doesn’t have enough of (insert trait here), then it won’t catch bears consistently here.”
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.
Winter maintenance on hounds begins long before winter drops its first snowflake. Well-conditioned dogs will fare better in the long term than hounds that aren’t.
Hound hunting is a sport that requires a lot of time, effort and most of all great hounds to pursue the animal of your choice. There is a great amount of time that is required to achieve a top dog and endless effort from the houndsmen. There will be many hours of training that goes into training your pup and countless mistakes. It’s a sport that requires a lot of patience and time.
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.