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Bears, being huge and also very aggressive, require dogs, which are fearless and have a lot of stamina to track them down. Hunters have used beagles to hunt bears, but their short legs and limited size puts them at a disadvantage as they tire very fast.
Hunting hounds are the best to be used for bear hunting. Their high stamina, sense of smell, their aggressiveness during the hunt and the lack of it otherwise, make them ideal bear trackers. There are a variety of hounds such as the Rhodesian ridgeback, the Treeing Walker Hound, the English Coon Hound, the Blue tick Coon Hound and the Plott Hound, which were originally imported from Germany, or even mixed breeds, which have originated from the above breeds. These hounds have excellent sense of smell, sight and are good swimmers. They also have distinctive individual howls, which expert hunters can decipher to know the hound’s position during the hunt. These hounds are specially bred and trained just to hunt big game. Most of their hunting is done by instinct developed over “dog” generations, but they also have to be specifically trained to ‘hold’ back until the hunter reaches the scene. Many dogs are also taught to hunt smaller animals before being moved up to hunt bears.
Hunters might place several baits such as jam and bread or cereals in tree stumps. At the start of the hunt, the hunters along with their dogs will first check out the bait. Whichever bait is missing from the tree stump is assumed to be taken by a bear and here the hounds are ‘dropped’. The hounds sniff around the missing bait to pick up the bears scent. Normally, these hounds hunt in packs of 6, which is required by law and once they pick up the bear’s smell, they bolt off in hot pursuit into the woods. All the dogs in a pack might have radio collars fitted on their neck so that the hunters can track them in the woods or even if they get lost or stolen. Once the hounds corner a bear, then in most of the cases, they will force it up a tree, or the bear might climb the tree itself in order to get away from the pack. This is known as ‘treeing’ the bear. Once they find the bear, their barking pitch changes, and even if the hunters are far away, they can make out from the change in the dogs howling, that the bear has been located. Not all bears climb up trees when cornered. Bears are known to have ripped apart entire packs of hounds, and the hounds have to be alert when the frightened and angry bear is cornered. Younger dogs are let into the chase during the later period of the hunt in order to let them get a feel of the hunt and this acts as a training ground for future hunts. If the hunt takes place during the training season, then the bear is allowed to walk free but during hunting season, the bear is hunted down, usually with a weapon as approved by local laws, which can include shotguns or rifles or even mechanical devices such as crossbows, longbows or compound bows. It is essential that the bear be killed immediately, since it can be extremely dangerous if the bear lands from the tree in an injured state. The time taken for the dogs to track the bear from the missing bait to ultimately treeing of the bear could take at least 2 to 4 hours and this is the period when the hunter feels his heart pumping faster and faster in an adrenaline rush. This is the moment the hunter has dreamed about during the last few days, weeks or even months.
Different states have different rules on hunting with bait and/or dogs and these rules have to be adhered to while hunting. Bear hunting, especially using hounds requires lots of training and patience and proper training imparted to these hounds can result is a successful hunt.
Posted November 30, -1 by Justin Ott