We are well into bear training season here in northwestern Wisconsin. Things are looking pretty good so far this summer. No major catastrophes yet…. and hoping to avoid any and all that could come our way. Although everyday is a new adventure and you never know what kind of chaos you or your hounds can encounter.
Our pack is quite strong again this year. We have three hounds that are seven years old, one is five and three that just turned two years old. The old boys are having a hard time keeping up with those young dogs now. They used to be the top of the top and it is bittersweet to see these young dogs passing them up like they are. Sometimes speed isn’t everything though! Two old boys proved that today. We cut two dogs out of the truck and we were just roading them down a trail. They struck scent and we made a crucial mistake next. We did what is known as the “hillbilly dump” (I don’t know if that’s the “technical term”, or maybe we made it up, I’m not sure, lol). This is where you whip open the doors to the dog box and they all come barreling out at mach speeds running like crazed fools on a mission in what you can only hope is the right direction and on the right kind of game! Fingers crossed!!
Seeing as to how this has worked for us so well in the past, when I went to cut another dog to the two dogs we had on the ground already, Wayne hollered, “Do the Hillbilly dump!” “…..Alright…!” I hollered back, and that’s just what I did. Pros and cons…. Ok pros, all of your dogs get out of the box and get to run and get exercised. There are no dogs barking in the box….a quiet truck is a beautiful thing. They are hell on a bear when five dogs full of ambition, drive and desire take off all running for the same purpose. Cons…if one dog trashes out on something he shouldn’t be running….the whole gang is likely to follow suit. Too many dogs on a cold track will most likely screw up scenting conditions and they may not ever figure the track out…. If someone goes backwards…they could all go backwards….If they tree a coon, you are most likely walking in to get your 5 dogs off that coon tree and hope it’s not a mile walk into the tree…..so you can kind of see there are a few risks that go along with the hillbilly dump.
One thing we have going for us however is that other than treeing an occasional coon, these dogs are all pretty straight to only scent bears. Even the young dogs, which at their young age is pretty cool really. Also most of these dogs are pretty independent. Which means they are not likely to honor one another. They like to do their own tracking and just because someone else barked, they may or may not run to that dog to see what he may or may not have. Which can most definitely work against you too! Picture one dog gets the bear scent and is running and barking on it….nobody else follows suit…pretty soon the other dogs find another track to run….bam! You’ve got a split chase going on. Which is what happened today.
So back to this hillbilly dump business….one dog struck scent, we cut the rest to him…they took the track backwards at the road….and went as far as they could until they got hung up and were running out of scent. Then all of a sudden two of the older dogs (Jager and Jr.) turned it around….came across the road on it right and were running it at THEIR speed….not the insanely fast speed those young bucks run at! Just a nice even pace on a cold bear trail. Maybe they just aren’t as gung ho anymore as those younger dogs, or maybe their bodies just won’t let them run as fast as they used to. Or maybe, just maybe they are a whole lot smarter than we give them credit for. It was a crisp 52 degrees, and the track was not very fresh when they started it. Maybe those old boys knew they would need to pace themselves for this race.
They crossed 4 roads before they jumped the bear. Now the pace really picked up and they kicked in the throttle boosters! At this point the bear knows he is being chased and he tries to lose the dogs. Not too many bears are getting away from these hounds though. They crossed 2 more roads, then finally, there it was. The loud, long, distinctive locate bark, followed by never ending tree barks. That’s right, they were treed! Only 928 yards…..only….
Well we knew they had the bear and the other three dogs, well all we knew was their last location and that they were heading southwest. With only two people and one truck we would have to catch up with them after we get these treed dogs out of the woods.
I was the first one into the tree. As I was getting close enough to start seeing through the thick brush, all I could see was a big ol’ bear butt coming down a big pine tree. Sure enough Jr and Jager were right there to push him back up. The bear was only about 7 feet off the ground when I got in there. I stood under the tree next to Jr and Jager hoping to keep him up there. I also got a leash on those 2 just in case that bear decided to come down after all. However, the bear decided it was in his best interest to climb a bit higher in the tree getting himself to a comfortable spot. I loved up the hounds and snapped a few pics. Wayne had gotten to the tree now also and we decided we had better get these dogs watered up and back to the truck. Then on to the next go round with the other boys.
Once we watered up the hounds at the truck we boogied back to the last known location we had the other dogs. To our dismay, we could not track them from there. They were out of that area and all we could do was drive around until we either picked them up with gps signal or hear them barking. So we traveled around a few nearby sections and finally picked them up on the gps. They were coming right to us! What were they running? (I secretly wondered). They were only about 350 yards from crossing the road by us when they made a hook to the north! There was another road just up the way so I turned the truck around and we headed up that way, full throttle! If we didn’t catch them here it could be awhile, as they were heading into a pretty big section of land and they had to be tiring out by now.
So we raced around the piece and got there just as the dogs were clearing through the brush! I hit the breaks and jumped out of the truck hollering for them as their tired bodies were hell bent on staying on that track! I caught Hatchet (miraculously as he is super fast and usually pretty hard to catch!). Wayne got ahold of Moosey (also a hard one to catch) as he was running across the sand road. Trapper was the last dog coming. I hollared his name and he came right to me. As if to say, “Geez ma, where were you a few miles ago?? I am READY to be done!! Trapper has also pulled a few goofy moves this training season….I’ll talk about that later though, haha. So we watered these tired boys up and looked in the road to see what they were running.
That is the beauty of sand, snow or just soft ground. Depending on conditions, there is a story left behind. We walked upwind about 10 yards from where the dogs came out to the road….and sure enough, there it was. A running bear track. We had just pulled these three dogs off of a running bear! Way to go boys!! A super supper is in store for all of these hounds today!!
I guess this hillbilly dump worked out today afterall!