Spring bear hunting on the Pecos

Joined
Dec 22, 2000
Messages
198
Location
Pecos, NM, USA
Spring Bear Hunting on the Pecos


As we drove up the rugged mountain road, the orange-red tinge in the eastern sky was becoming just bright enough to see if a bear track had come off the soft cut bank beside the road. As we drove along my John and I talked about wildlife, weather and game management policies, but the discussion always seemed to return to the sport of bear hunting with hounds.

When we finally reached the top of the hill, we parked the truck and trailer in a high mountain meadow and unloaded our horses, Rocky and Spirit. After packing our lunches and releasing the anxious hounds from the dog box, we saddled up and began our hunt.

The cool, damp spring morning made trailing conditions ideal for starting a bear race. Hunters, hounds and even the horses seamed to be in high spirits as we rode along the Apache Creek Trail. We had not been riding for more than thirty minutes when suddenly the dogs became very tense and excited. Upon inspection of the spot we were elated to see a huge, fresh black bear track clearly etched in the damp soil. Little did we know then the kind of adventure the day would bring.

Growing up near the town of Pecos in North Central New Mexico, a country boy like myself that enjoys being outdoors, hunting, fishing, camping or riding could not ask for a better place to pursue these activities. My hunting experience then included Elk, Deer, Turkey and other big game but recently hunting Bear and Cougar with hounds had become, and still is, the most exciting type of hunting to me.

John Brown, a very good friend and well-known outfitter located in the mountains North of Pecos, had gotten me started in the dog business a couple of years earlier. Little by little I had begun getting my own hunting dogs and on this day although most of the dogs belonged to John, I was proud that he trusted my dogs enough to allow them to run with his pack.

My two young dogs needed no encouragement to run the track and immediately were out of sight as they bayed frantically on down the hill. But why were the older veteran dogs uninterested in the fresh trail? Did these seasoned dogs know something about this bear that we didn't?

After some encouragement, the hounds, for the exception of Dottie, started on the track and were soon out of sight as they bayed in the direction of the younger dogs. Dottie was a very well-trained Bloodhound that John had raised and used as a strike dog for many years. She had been in on countless bear, cougar and bobcat hunts, but for some reason wanted nothing to do with this bear.

We ran our horses along an old logging road following the pack and trying to stay within hearing distance of them. After following the dogs for about three miles, we stopped to listen for them. As we sat quietly atop our mounts listening to their melodious chorus, we suddenly recognized that the baying had suddenly become much more intense. John looked over at me and said, "They've caught up with the bear and they're baying him at the bottom of the canyon!" Dottie also recognized the change in the dogs' barking and as if knowing they needed her help, suddenly began baying and in a flash was down the hill to lend them a hand.



John at once recognized the danger the dogs were in, as the bear refused to take refuge in a tree and instead had stopped to fight the dogs on the ground. Without hesitation he turned his horse toward the fight with Rocky and I in hot pursuit. Before we could get to the bottom of the canyon the bear again broke and ran up the opposite slope with the dogs bawling and baying so loudly we could tell almost exactly where they were. We tried hard to get a glimpse of them as they went up the hill, but the thick scrub oak they were in made it impossible.

As we started up the hill after the dogs and bear, we found that to traverse the rocky hillside we would have to hike and lead our horses through the steep, rocky terrain. In the time it took us to reach the top of the ridge, the dogs had put allot of distance between us and were out of hearing range. It was now 11:00 a.m. and it had been about an hour since the last time we heard them. We struggled through rocky draws, up steep ridges and over deadfall in the direction we thought the dogs had gone, but it was very difficult to make good time.

We finally reached a point overlooking a deep basin that would allow us a good position to listen for the dogs. We stood there straining to hear them but it was hard to hear anything over our own panting. After a short while, we could faintly hear barking in the next canyon over.

The top of the ridge was fairly level so we remounted our horses and ran toward the action. In the excitement, as we recklessly galloped our horses down the ridge, I misjudged the height of a big, green branch that was quickly approaching my position. As I tried to duck to my left to miss the branch I lost my stirrup and the next thing I knew I was flat on the ground beside the tree. Fortunately Rocky stopped a few yards away and I was able to remount and catch up to John before he realized what had happened.

After a couple of miles on the ridgetop, we again stopped to listen and found we were only a few hundred yards from the dogs. There we tied our horses to a couple of pine trees, I grabbed my .44 carbine from the scabbard and we quietly made our way toward the dogs' barking hoping to get a shot at the bear.

As I followed John along an old game trail, the music of the pack became louder and louder. Suddenly John stopped, pointed down the hill and exclaimed, "There he is and he's a hell of a big bear!" The dogs were all around him and would run back and forth in front of him as he would lunge toward them snapping his teeth and growling, then he'd turn and try to go the other way. Instantly the dogs would be in his face again baying and trying to get at him.

As we ran toward the melee, suddenly Dottie seeing an opening, lunged forward grabbing the bear by the neck. In a flash the bear rose on his hind legs, grabbed Dottie with his powerful forearms and bit into her neck. As the bear let her go, she fell to the ground and laid there motionless.

At the sight of what had just happened I had a hard time concentrating on a shot but I also felt that I must kill this bear before he had a chance to kill any of the other dogs. As the bear again swapped ends, for a brief second I saw an opening between the dogs and took a quick shot at the bear. The bear wheeled around and in a blink of an eye was running full speed down the hill to our right with the dogs hot on his tail.

We laid Dottie's body at the base of a big fir tree and without saying a word turned and quietly walked back to the horses. It was hard to leave her after witnessing the courage and loyalty she had just displayed, but the safety of the other dogs was a concern that needed our immediate attention.

I felt badly for having missed the shot, as this meant we could have other dogs hurt or killed, not to mention the possibility of the race going on for many more miles.

Upon reaching the horses we mounted and rejoined the chase. The last we had heard of the dogs was when they bayed down the canyon and up over the next ridge.

For the next three hours we rode and hiked down more canyons and over more ridges than I care to remember, hoping to catch up with the dogs or find some sign that would show which direction they were going. We could do neither and hope of catching this bear before dark was fading.

At that point we turned down hill again to the creek bottom. John thought it would be best to climb back out of the canyon to see if we could hear anything from the ridge top above us. I thought I could hear a very faint echo of the dogs barking down the canyon but it was very hard to tell for sure because of the sound of the creek. Sometimes you want to hear the dogs so badly that your mind plays games with you. I decided I would go down the creek to check it out while John tried to make it to the top of the ridge. If we didn't find anything I would slowly make my way up and meet him on top later.

As Rocky and I made our way down the creek for about half a mile, the brush was so thick that the only way that we could get through was to go right down the middle of it. Now I was sure I could hear the dogs and they were not more than a few hundred yards away up a side draw that drained into the creek we were in. I rode about fifty yards up the draw until I found a good green tree I could tie Rocky to.

I grabbed the rifle from the scabbard and quietly began climbing up the draw on hands and knees in the direction of the barking. I knew I was getting close to the action but it was not until I poked my head over a ten-foot cliff that I knew just how close I really was! I could not believe my eyes, for there, not twenty yards away was the biggest, maddest bear I had ever seen. As he was busy fighting off the dogs, he had not yet seen me, so I eased back down off the cliff and chambered in a round.

I knew I had to make this shot count. The last thing I wanted was to wound the huge bear that was already mad and needed little excuse to cause serious harm to me or the dogs. I climbed back up the ledge, found a solid rest for the rifle, took a deep breath and carefully aimed for the side of his head.

At the report of the rifle the bear dropped to the ground and instantly the dogs were on him, biting and tearing at him as they rolled him toward me. The bear was snapping and growling at the dogs and trying to sink his deadly claws into them. I quickly ran up, shoved the gun barrel through the mass of hounds and finished him. The hunt was over.

After a few minutes of wooling the bear, the exhausted dogs quit barking and laid down next to their huge trophy. They had been on this bear for thirteen hours without rest, food or water and now it showed.

John heard the shots and after a few minutes rode down the creek and up the draw to where we were. He dismounted, tied up his horse and walked over to admire this monster of a bear. After congratulations and some back slapping, we too, could now sit and rest after the grueling 15 mile trek we had just made.

As we sat there repeatedly reliving the day's events, I turned and asked John how we were going to get the huge bear back over all that God forsaken country and back to the truck. He laughed and said, "Don't you know the truck is only a few hundred yards down the hill?" In all the excitement I did not realize that during the course of the day we had made a huge circle. He laughed and kidded me for being able to "get lost in my own back yard."

We hoisted the bruin up a tree using Spirit, then walked Rocky underneath him and slowly lowered the bear into the saddle. Rocky had a hard time carrying this three-hundred-plus-pound bear down the steep slope, but soon we were back at the truck with our trophy.

The dogs and horses had worked very hard for us and that night when we arrived home they all got extra feed, and the dogs got some fresh bear meat. It had been an unforgettable day for all of us.




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Thumper

New member
Joined
Dec 15, 2000
Messages
339
Location
Aksai, Kazakhstan via Covington Louisiana
Man, I love them hound stories. I am hoping that I can get into the mix with a rouge bear like that one myself!
It is unfortunate that you lost the gyp, but I guess that is something us houndsmen have to accept! Sooner than later the game, highway or age catches up with them!

I reckon, if you never lose one or two you just have not hunted them !

Dandy bear as well, I never figured they would make a b-line and cross the country without treeing or bailing the hounds! Guess that old boy had been ran a time or two and knew some tricks! got to respect that and makes you remember the hunt more, even though it is bitter to see one of the hounds get ripped!
Good story!
Thump!


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IF YA CAN'T RUN WITH THE BIG DAWGS, KEEP YOUR ARSE ON THE PORCH

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Muledeer4me

New member
Joined
Dec 11, 2000
Messages
1,597
Location
Idaho
BCA, what a story,I can only imagine the excitment of hunting like that and hearing the dog's and feeling how tired you must of been.How good it must of felt to know that the truck was that close after a hard day.All the emotion's of loosing a good dog and getting that bear.You have to feel sorry for those that have never hunted and can not even feel the excitment of just reading all the story's.Thank's

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Debbie
 
Joined
Dec 22, 2000
Messages
198
Location
Pecos, NM, USA
Thumper, yes some of the big old bears just won't tree. Not sure what it is, but for some reason, they'd rather fight than tree.

Muledeer, this is a story I wrote for a local newspaper quite a few years back. Looking back and re-reading it, I am really glad I wrote about it when I did. A note to all sportsmen, log down info. on your hunts, you'd be suprised how much you had forgotten when you read them a few years later. Deb, I just wish I still looked as young as I do in that pic!

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B

bcat

Guest
BCA-Dont know why it wouldnt if ya want ti to be!!!! Its longer than 100 words but its a good story! I dont think we can get the full meaning of a story with out going over 100 words. Didnt even detect too much BS in it BCA!!! Good for you!
bcat

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If you aint the lead dog the scenery never changes
 
Joined
Dec 22, 2000
Messages
198
Location
Pecos, NM, USA
Bcat, count me in! Also, if you go back and read the rules, I think you will see it is a MINIMUM of 100 words, not a maximum. Just thought I'd let you know.

[This message has been edited by Bear Creek Adventures (edited 01-15-2001).]
 
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