Monday, November 23, 2015
Going to the Dogs, Hounding Bear with Spaulding Lake Outfitters
As the sounds of the hounds begin to grow distant, I wander over to the guide to examine his handheld GPS dog tracking unit. A true marvel, the GPS unit is capable of tracking the movements of each individual dog, as well as indicating when a dog is sitting (resting) or has treed a bear. Given the massive size of the territory we are hunting, I cannot fathom how difficult hounding must have been before these units and their predecessors radio collar telemetry were created. How a hound man ever recovered his dogs after chasing a bear across this massively expansive country must have required a Herculean effort. Watching the hounds give chase to the bear on the small screen is addictive. The track of the hounds is overlaid on a detailed topographical map and shows the bear following streams and crawling through cedar bogs in an effort to evade the rapidly advancing hounds.
Maine law only allows 6 dogs be used at a time be to chase a bear and so several hounds wait impatiently in the back of the truck for their chance to join the chase. The trailing dogs, despite being hot and thirsty, don't want to quit the chase and whine incessantly when placed back in the truck. The fresh dogs, now released, charge into the underbrush, eager to join their friends at the party. The fresh dogs rapidly catch the lead dog and soon I see on the screen that all of the dogs have stopped, their icons all indicating that they are placing their paws on a tree or looking up, a sure sign a bear is treed.
The massive bear, to my surprise, appears comfortable and almost relaxed sitting on his high perch, seemingly unconcerned at the commotion occurring at the base of the tree. As we nudged closer, the guide warns that despite the bears lasai fair attitude, I should not be lulled into complacency. A bear's actions can be erratic and a treed animal can rapidly develop a change of temperament the moment it begins to feel threatened.
As soon as the guide pulls the last dog, the bear slides down the tree and rockets into the underbrush faster than a person can blink. The bears movement is so unnaturally fast, that it makes you realize how quickly this situation could go bad, if not for the experience of a professional hounds man, his aggressive hounds and a little luck. As the bear races off, the hounds again go crazy, wanting, no needing to do that one amazing thing they were bred to do, give chase.
I think that no matter how you feel about hunting, everyone should at least participate this event at least once in their lives. Special thanks to Jeff Fey of Spaulding Lake Outfitters for allowing me to join hums and his rambunctious hounds on an adrenaline packed morning in Maine's wild lands. If interested in joining Spaulding Lake Outfitters for the 2016 season to run bears with hounds or hunt bears with hounds or over bait, be sure to give Jeff Fey a call!