The early morning fog was low and heavy to the ground. The air was crisp and the leaves on the trees were just starting to change into beautiful shades of yellows and reds. You could certainly tell fall was here! Wayne and I made our way down the sandy road towards the first bear bait we planned to check. Before we even made it to the bait road, Trapper rigged!
That means he caught wind of a bear, and when a good rigging hound dog lets out his rig sound, it is unmistakable. I suppose I would compare it to a locate bark when a hound first trees or bays up its quarry. Trapper lets out a much lower than normal, long low bawl tone followed by a few low chop barks, then right into a steady chop bark as if he were treed. He gets really excited when he smells a bear and he definitely makes sure you know it! A true and solid rig dog is a priceless thing to have some days!
Trapper is by far our slowest dog, and he is deaf in one ear so you cannot cut him into other dogs that are already barking and running a track. He will hear their barks out of his good ear, and head that way, which is usually about 180 degrees into the wrong direction. We kind of laugh about it because I think he figures he better be good at something if he’s going to get to go hunting! Luckily the ol boy has a pretty cold nose too, so we use him as a start dog lots of times, then try to catch him up at the first road, and let the younger dogs do some of the leg work from there.
Anyways, when Trapper let out his bellow of a rig strike, I immediately stopped the truck! Wayne and I jumped out and we started looking for a track. He walked north, and I walked south. From the south wind that was blowing I assumed the track would have to be in that direction for Trapper to have smelled it, but to my avail I walked up and down the road and couldn’t find a track. This was pretty soft sugar sand, if a bear walked across the road, I figured I should see the track?! But, nothing.
Sometimes though, the bear never actually crosses the road when the dog rigs it. It may come right up to the road, then be spooked back into the woods by a passing vehicle, or the sound of hounds coming! So sometimes you just have to trust your dog, cut him loose, hope he goes the right way, hope it’s on the right species, and hope it just all works out! That is a whole lot of hoping! Well, in hounding and hunting, it seems there is a whole lot of hoping going on!! Haha!! However if you never give your dog those chances to take, you may never know. It can really make a true and solid hunter in the end. (Not to mention a few headaches for you until you get to that point!)
Just as I was walking back to the truck, Wayne hollered that he thought he found the track! So I went over to check it out. It wasn’t real clear to see, but I had to agree that was probably it. The track was downwind of where Trapper rigged, but the bear walked at an angle across the road. Trapper must have been able to smell the bear from in the woods. That dog has one heck of a nose on him! The hounds were still sounding pretty loudly, so Wayne jumped on the truck and cut Trapper loose. Trapper hit the ground running and barking! Next was Hatchet immediate to follow. They took off barking on the track and sounding really good! Time for more dogs! The second I turned around to cut more dogs loose, there was Moosey, Jr and Jager, (about 230 pounds of pure adrenaline and paws) all in full leap stride off the tailgate about to pummel me to the ground as they landed. I took one hurried leap to the side and those three dogs hit the ground running and Wayne was right behind them with a big ol’ grin on his face. He chuckled and said…”Hillbilly dump it is!” The race was on now! Or so we hoped! The dogs were all either barking in pure craziness and excitement, or most likely what we hoped was at the scent of a bear!
It appeared they were off to the races! They ran through two sections of woods and we caught their track at one of the crossings. They were indeed on a bear chase! They were heading towards a very large section of woods that we generally try to stay away from. Considering the fact that there was only 3 people and 5 hounds, we were outnumbered! These odds were not good for catching dogs, they are just to darn fast! So, we decided if they did cross into the big woods, we would let them cross, then back off. Many of the times we get lucky and the bear comes right back across in the same spot. We could only hope for that now. The hounds ran the bear almost all the way through the section two times!! The bear made big wide circles as the dogs followed in close pursuit. Crazy Dave showed up and was able to cut Rebel into the chase. This is just what we needed. Sometimes when you cut a fresh dog in the race it picks up the pace a few notches, and sure enough, with Rebels fast speed and enthusiasm, that’s exactly what happened. He pushed those tired dogs to run a little faster and a little harder! They were coming back for the third time now! Would they finally cross out of there?!?
Sure enough! The bear came running across the road!! It was amazing, like the bear knew exactly where it came from, and headed right back that way! I guess they have a sense of smell and direction much like the hounds! He crossed the same two sections back and was headed right where we started from!
The hounds were surely tiring out now. They were losing distance on the bear and it started to sound like the race was petering out. We decided it was time to catch the dogs. They were tuckered out and running out of enthusiasm. They were coming quite close to the road now and this was our chance to catch them. Wayne parked on the side of the road and we both patiently watched the road ahead and our gps’. No dogs came out. We stood outside the truck and listened. We could hear the dogs barking. They were about 575 yards away now, but they didn’t sound very excited. Then all of a sudden the excitement in the barks rose a bit. Treed! They were treed!
We drove up the road a little ways and took a trail that was headed right to them! We were only about 325 yards away from them now. We anxiously walked through the woods heading towards the hound song. When we got there the dogs were barely barking.
They were pretty tired, but they got it done! Sure enough they had a bear up a tree! Way to go boys! Jager was hardly even barking anymore, Moosey just stood motionless looking in the direction of the bear, Hatchet, well he was barking like a fool. He is about unstoppable, same with Rebel. We picked Trapper up before they treed, so he didn’t make it into the tree, but that was ok.
The entire race lasted 3.5 hours. Just when we figured we had been out run, the bear gave in and the hounds treed it. We walked the dogs back out to the truck. There was a little pond there and they all dove in to cool off and get a good long drink.
When we got home we put the dogs up to rest. The ol’ boys were praised with love and a pound of frozen ground beaver meat. They could get in some much needed rest now. This chase ended less than 400 yards from where it started. What a perfect ending, and it all started on a rig strike!