Utah Spring Bear Hunt

Buschy

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Kirby. Did you take any pics of your bear? Might think about posting them for guys like me that have to work for a living and don't have a sheep tag in their pocket. Just sayin'.
 

Khunter

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4 day hound hunt wrapped up in 3 days.... Two days with tough hunting weather followed by one golden day with perfect and productive conditions. Built up 9 bonus points trying to draw this tag in Utah and finally reach the top of the heap in year 10. As a Coloradoan where they beg you to buy bear tags OTC I can't wrap my mind around having to wait 10 years for one...but as a guy who professes he will 'put in for skunk if they ever offer points cuz you just never know when you might be jonesing to hunt skunk" I put in for UT spring bear along with sheep , bison, elk etc.

Intention was always to bow hunt spot and stalk if I could ever get the tag drawn (required my 9 bonus points as a non resident to guarantee a tag). Only 4 nonres permits per year. But this last year my dog was attacked by a mountain lion on our deck in Glenwood Springs Colorado. He lived and is now fine, which was a miracle. Through that experience I had met a houndsman at work who then connected me with some other houndsmen who indicated willingness to come out and help me hunt. Apparently they hunt with pursuit only (no kill) permits annually as a way to train dogs and of course have fun. Thus a super cool and new-to-me adventure with some awesome new friends begins...

Cold and rainy and then snowy and not conductive to tracking bears on Thursday when I met up with new friend Zach Fisher from western Colorado and his friend Richie from Vernal at 5:15 am on top of the Book Cliffs. They both breed and train incredibly talented “red hounds” they build up from various breeds. Obviously they both are great at training dogs. Zach is not an outfitter or guide just a great guy who loves hunting, hounds and hound hunting and training his dogs. He sells some amazing fully-trained dogs to guides and outfitters who don't have the time or inclination to breed and train their own hounds. Was really incredible to hear their endless stories of lion and bear hunts in NM, UT, and CO each year and the many memorable dogs they have worked. These generous guys hads not seen me in person till that morning were all in to help me with my tag that REQUIRED 9 bonus points to draw, and were patient and supportive of my desire to bow hunt....knowing that could spell trouble if a wounded bear came down a tree as it would mean injured dogs and possibly injured hunters. The marching orders to this hound hunting newbie wisely were...shoot arrows non stop till the bear is dead, dead, dead. And then fling another. Richie was there just for Thursday but Zach was making himself available through the weekend. And a talented houndsman with Plotts hounds, Scott Summers, and owner of Canyon Rim outfitters (lion hunts in Colorado) would join the hunt Friday night if we had not tagged out by then. Truly, I am blessed to have such talented guys willing to take me under there wing and incur the expense of helping my on my hunt with no payment expected (nor allowed as they are not licensed for paid Utah hunting). They had the pursuit permits for Utah and were good to go to chase bears to their hearts content all month and I had the rare bear tag in my pocket to close the deal if we get on a bear I like.

This country, at least the part where they like to hunt, is very rough country. I had hunted milder, softer hills sage and oak and service berry areas on the west end for archery deer many moons ago so was surprised at the ledgy, cliffy country they led me to. They are tough as nails and for sure back away from nothing when it comes to turning the dogs loose in an area you know is gonna “leave a mark” as it were by the time you get yourself and the dogs reunited and back out to the vehicle many hours, miles or a day later. On this day I was the one who drove the truck down to the bottom of areas as Zach and Richie trailed and directed dogs from top to bottom looking for bears. Largely because of weather (bears holding tight) the action was minimal and no full-blown chase occurred so we made a plan for 5:30 the next morning, where Zach would be up by 3 am to look for tracks with the dogs sniffing the air event before I met up with him at break of dawn.


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Khunter

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Friday hunt was only slightly better conditions and included a nice heavy rain for Zach and his dogs during a 3 hour hike while the tag holder, me, sat in a truck and also drove some roads with part of the hounds sitting up topsniffing the air for Bears.

Zach's hiking with the red hounds did produce a solid tracking/pursuit opportunity and off the dogs went into the roughest country around. And Zach's knowledge of the area indicated he should just back out for a long-way drive way around the other side of the dogs to get to them and get them rounded up. He told me this via InReach as the radios can’t reach everywhere in this canyon country. This is a high tech hunt, the dogs have GPS tracking collars and we can see where they are at most times and the collars log data where Zach can see how fast each is moving, if they are barking, and if they have a bear treed or not based on barking intensity and movement.

After some miles, ultimately the bear gave the dogs the slip in some cliff and ledge country and a couple of the younger dogs had to be retrieved as they were 'cliffed out' while the older dogs made it through to a road. Apparently they know enough to just hang at the road or walk down it in these situations awaiting being picked up. Smart, well trained, hard working dogs. If I am going to get a bear it will certainly be the abilities of the dogs and the handlers that make the difference.

Below picture is of two of the 5 in my truck that came down the road to me as Zach and James took my ATV in on a trail that fortunately got them close to the cliffed out dogs for retrieval. Great lookin’ dogs!

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They 'rig' as the houndsmen say or 'scent for bear' in my way of saying it from the top of truck as you drive down the road. As shown in pic.

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When they hit a bear scent they open up with barking. When this 'easy' way to cut a track does not pan out that is when the guys pile off into the brush to seek fresh bear sign and huntable tracks Zach's truck busted the "upper control arm" on Friday which necessitated his hunting buddy James to come out to the recue in the sticks with a car hauler--and then he helped round up dogs before they both went home and I returned to my camp. Great to have friends like these and Zach, even with his main truck out of commission and broken on 'my' hunt, and with plenty of farm work he could be doing actually committed to coming out Saturday again when we finally expected optimal bear hunt conditions. James who also has hounds and wanted in on the fun also planned to come out on Saturday. Awesome, generous and committed guys! I am very fortunate and I know it. We are already having a great time by late Friday and have yet to tree a bear. I am learning a TON about bears and bear hunting from experts.


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Khunter

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Here are the red hounds tuning up for the hunt a week before I started hunting. Zach scouted on a Friday and brought the dogs out the next day and treed a big, old, sow. Hopefuly you can see how scarred her face is and how it is missing lots of hair from old age.

Pretty cool and it had me excited for when I could get out there! Just before Zach sent me these pics I had drawn my Colorado archery sheep tag. Hunting anticipation overload!




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TheGrayRider

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Hound hunting for bears is one of the most underrated hunting experiences out there. Some bears go 30 minutes and tree, others go 2 days and you never see them at all.
I agree with your statement. Several nonhunters and even some hunters have opined that shooting a treed animal bayed by hounds is nonsporting and unchallenging. I would invite them to go on an actual mountain bear hunt and then give their opinion.
 

Khunter

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Saturday, the 3rd day, is when it all comes together. The weather is picture perfect as it warms up nicely and dries out mid morning which gets the bears moving and thus more huntable. Pretty quick the hikes with hounds are producing fresh tracks in the same drainages we had hunted the two previous days and the dogs are quickly trailing. Scott’s dogs were all over this good looking track I photographed and another, different bear with a colder track as he and I hiked in a basin with his Plott hounds.


As Scott and I were on our hike and chase, James had hiked in basin a mile? away with part of Zach’s pack of red hounds. Meanwhile Zach and Scott’s wife were in a couple vehicles staying mostly high so they could maintain radio/satellite tracking of us and the dogs....and with a plan to hike in if we tree and harvest a bear or otherwise pick us and hounds. up wherever we drop out to a road. Did I say this was a high tech operation?! It sure was. Super cool to be taken under the wing of such bear and hound experts and to see the fruit of all their labor to breed and train such talented hounds. They could have simply focused on enjoying chasing and releasing bears per usual with their pursuit only permits but volunteered to give me a hand with my hunt. For sure I was slowing them down from their usual rapid hunting pace.


As it turned out the hounds James was running got in close to bear with a BIG track and ran the bear right to/through the hounds Scott and I were running with and all the hounds joined up and QUCKLY were a mile then 2 plus miles way up in the roughest, cliffiest canyon and PJ country. Shortly, by time, but after a 5 mile chase the radio collars and GPS indicated they had the bear treed!

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Khunter

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As we realized simply chasing after the dogs for miles up steep rough terrain for 5 miles (as a crow flies and not counting all the ledges and cliffs we would have to climb or go around) would likely be a lot tougher, slower and perhaps fruitless than regrouping and and considering better/shorter/faster access points we hoofed it out of the hole we were in and got back to the trucks. Another consideration is the Plotts hounds are known for taking the fight to bears and lions and every several critters chased seems to require bringing out the dog first aid kit to close wounds and address nasty infections. As the chase happens the dogs can be right on the bear as it walks or runs for miles and getting bitten or slapped around and otherwise maimed is a real possibility so getting to the dogs as fast as possible is paramount. The dogs can have the bear bayed (perhaps trapped or simply more willing to stand and fight than to climb a tree or run) and that is dangerous for the dogs—as much as they love their work.

I marked Scott’s “Dogs Treed” coordinates in Onx on my phone so we could see the detailed terrain, aerial photography and roads/trails data I had downloaded before leaving the house. What we found was a 10 mile loop around on two track roads would get us within 2,000 feet of the hounds that apparently had the bear treed.

Actually, the access looked pretty amazing given to roughness of the country and general lack of handy roads and trails..... there was a road above the dogs and a spur of the same road that traversed below them. Both roads had a spot about 2,000 feet from the dogs and bear!

I suggested we see if luck is on our side and we drive to the spot above the bear and hounds and if we are really lucky, and the bear stay’s treed for the over 2 hours it would take to get there, we might even be able to pack the meat and hide downhill, instead of up...Gotta dream big! So off we went to see what the dogs had treed knowing it was the end of the trail of a great looking, well above average size track for the area into county just like the attached images.24B8AF6F-2520-4628-A19F-DD24CB856CCD.jpegDDDD6499-6AB0-43AF-98DD-A68D7311126D.jpeg

If you look close you can see we are n steep canyons with rock ledges and unpassable cliffs in spots, with primarily PJ. As we neared to spot we needed to get to all I saw was short cedar trees which was worrisome from the perspective of “ are there even trees adequate for the climb?”. As it turned out the bear worked his way into a small pocket where here were good numbers of suitable trees to climb above the hounds.
 

Khunter

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So...as fast as we park the trucks where the road is closest above the hounds apparent GPS coordinates, we can CLEARLY hear the hounds barking at the base of a tree 2,200+ feet across a couple drainages with a few challenging rock ledges between us and them. It is LOUD and CLOSE and has my heart racing.

Scott Summers, the professional outfitter and guide and principal for Canyon Rim Outfitters is quick into the bush so he can do his best to prevent his dogs from getting hurt by the bear...that has now been treed for at least 2 hours and surely is ready to jump out of the tree and take the fight to the dogs...and generally assess the situation.


What a talented and dedicated guy. While we are friends and he is doing this for the fun of it and to train his dogs and for absolutely no payment whatsoever, I have to say if anyone wants to book a Colorado Lion hunt I can sure recommend him. Organized, tireless and he has great hounds and territory in western Colorado. Take a look at his compay’s FB page to see the giant lions they take in Colo.

Zach and James arrived a few minutes later and while I was still trying to figure out a way around just the first ledge Scott sailed down with no problem as he left me in the dust. They also were far quicker than me (I am the oldest guy out there but geez I thought I was better than they showed me to be by comparison). Anyway they were all at the tree 10 minutes before me with my pack and bow, and “ladylike hiking poles as they said”. Here is what they all saw upon arrival and as they were radioing me to “HURRY the bear is coming down the tree”. “He is huge! You gotta get here fast!”
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And I want to emphasize that while Scott’s amazing photos have his company logo on them, this was not an outfitted hunt and he does not guide or outfit in Utah. He only does that in Colorado. He was there as a friend, on his own driving his vehicle, buying his own gas and received nothing except my gratitude, and some torn up equipment he had to repair on his own dime. And had to pay a vet bill for what is in my next post.
 
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Khunter

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Here are the dogs at the tree doing what they love. Note the first pic shows Gina who obviously got slapped around AND bitten during during chase. A week later she is still fighting off a terrible infection and the deep gash that had to be stapled shut is beginning to heal. That is HER blood not the bear’s blood! And she is still wanting to get ahold of the bear. As I understand it, these PLOTT hounds can’t wait to chase another bear as fast as they can heal up..they are looking for a fight with any bear or lion. Truly amazing.

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Khunter

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So I finally get myself and my bow to the bear, the hounds and Scott, Zach and James who are really thinking I would not make it there before this outsized boar baled out of the tree. Apparently the bear did climb down a good ways while they watched and as they leashed up the dogs.

They say an average bear would have baled out long before then once it recovered from the initial chase...but this one was so big and he likely spent all the energy he had over the 5-plus miles. Basically as big as he was, he burns up more energy than a smaller bear with every step and every mile.

I wasted not a moment to even soak it in, and did not take any “before” pictures as I was still hyperventilating from the effort as I arrived, stripped off my pack, unbuckled my bow and knocked an arrow to close the deal.

I am still huffing and puffing, confirm with the guys where I will aim, and that the dogs are leashed and pull hard on the string for an easy 20 foot? shot....
 
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Khunter

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I get nothing oit of my bow, it is as if the string is seized up. As I was knocking the arrow I absolutely thought and saw my knocking point and D loop were WAY off but in my rush I figured surely I cannot miss.

Well, a bow cable had slipped off the cam either during the morning hike in the thick stuff or I had hung it u and knocked it off in the short but rough hike to the bear.

We try futilely to get enough compression on the bow to re seat the cable to no avail. I realize my “bow hunt” is over and ask if anyone has a pistol I might use. Words have hardly passed my lips and out comes a 40 semi, a 44, and 45 revolver. Obviously not the first bear hunt for these guys, thankfully. Had I been left to my own resources I would have been hiking out empty handed and away from the biggest boar I ever could have hoped to tag in Utah.

Anyway, the advise givn was to use the pistol with the most ammo and to shoot till I am certain the bear is absolutely dead and not moving.Which I do, when it hit the ground there was no question. And no dangerous “wounded bear rodeo” for dogs and humans to dodge.

So here is my “trophy”.


Credit for which 100 percent belongs to Zach Fisher, who volunteered to hunt with me for 3 solid days, two in absurdly poor bear hunt conditions when he easily and rightly could have said it needed to be put off till the 3rd day when we had a much better near hunt conditions and chances......James, Zach’s hunt buddy who rescued Zach’s truck that busted an upper AR arm and had to be towed back on Friday evening and then took a day off work to come back with Zach on Saturday to join the hunt again...Zach’s other hunting buddy Richie who came out from Vernal with his pack of red hounds on Friday before dawn and of course Scott Summers of Canyon Rim Outfitters, who incurred a torn up 5th wheel toy hauler and a wounded dog over a couple days to help me. I was blessed to have these incredibly talented and passionate houndsmen so willing to join the adventure and become such a core part of my 10 year quest to obtain a tag and go on a spring bear hunt in Utah! This hunt was so much more than I ever could have expected because of these guys. Thanks guys!!! And hope to return the favor someday..8D450C15-4BC5-4962-992E-1ED0556DEE07.jpegD1649233-30C7-4B03-B578-CCD64D8AD5FD.jpeg

and so nobody gets to wondering where my orange is, I had it on hand....
 

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Khunter

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CD3A338F-B638-4CC9-A344-BA446B7D13B5.jpegWith a seriously wounded dog, Scott got out of there quickly to start patching up Gina his hound.

James carried out first two quarters and Zach was a beast—actually said and then backed this up “If you let me use your pack I will carry the hide and two quarters out of here”. And you can bet with all that weight he still beat me down the hill by a county mile as I carried back straps and random meat and all our gear, which was mostly just my crapola and a malfunctioning bow.

These guys are intense hunters with no quit in them whatsoever. After we got everything and dogs loaded on Zach’s side-by-side we were headed from the low road to the high road to get me to my truck.

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Well the dogs “rigged” a strong bear scent and opened up barking and begging to be turned loose..and we found tracks in the road that were not there when we first arrived a few hours prior. Zach checked with James who said “Yes! turn the dogs out even if it means we are here all night”. And so they did and down into a hellish hole the hounds went, clearly already right on a bears heels not 500 yards away. Down they went and got quite far away and then some of the hounds were making a loud run back up towards us where we had repositioned 3/4 mile further down the road by my truck. Zach said the bear was gonna come up to the road and so it did...twice, the first time it got within 30 feet of us when Zach yelled at it to turn it back down hill. We had seen several fesh bear tracks showing they were feeding on fresh grasses on the edge of the two track...here is the bear that popped up within 30 feet of us TWICE in spots a half mile apart in a 10-minute span.

Truly an amazing day! I then hauled butt out of there with the meat and hide to meet a UT Wildife officer at 11 pm in Vernal as I could not return to Colorado before having the bear checked and obtain a “permanent” tag they put on the hide. I arrived home in Glenwood Springs Colorado and put meat and hide in the freezer at 2:30 am completely whooped and still on cloud 9 at the same time.

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Khunter

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Sunday brunch was bear steak and eggs and the meat was awesome!

Nothing says I love mom on Mothers day quite like fresh bear steak? LOL
 

rtraverdavis

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Great story, great pictures. I'd like to hunt with dogs like that some day. Thanks for the generous share.
 
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