If you have never been on a bear hunt with hounds or have never been on a chase with
a bear that would not tree, you are missing out on some really great fun.
By Jeffrey Folsom
Bear Hunting Magazine
Jan/Feb 2010 Issue
Excitement was in the air as the dogs struck the scent of a bear shortly after the morning hunt got underway. Travis checked the area for tracks and found a good one, then he let a few dogs go to get the track lined out. They were off and barking hard in no time so we dumped more hounds in. It did not take long before they were over the mountain and out of hearing. We jumped back on the ATVs and headed after them as quickly as we could.
I had hunted with Reggear Outfitters for both bear and mountain lion in the past, and knew this week would be packed with a lot of fun and a lot of bears. This particular hunt happened when one day, Ted Nugent sent an e-mail to me about bear hunting across America, and I asked if he wanted to include a hound hunt in Idaho. He thought it was a killer idea, and I gave him the contact information for Travis at Reggear Outfitters. From there we worked out the best timing for all and made it happen. I arrived a few days before Ted as he was at the NRA Convention and I was able to get in on a few bears, hoping to bring home a large color phase.
Back at the top, where the trucks were, we got a reading on the dogs. They had already crossed the main road, and were putting on the miles to the next section quickly. We loaded the rest of the dogs and the ATVs, both 4-wheelers and 6-wheelers, and made our way to the dogs the best we could as roads were few and far between. We had quite a crew with three trucks, five ATVs, about 20 dogs, three guides and two hunters. The other hunter was John Boger from Virginia. He had hunted with Travis in the past also and had brought two friends along this year for a bear hunt. They had already filled their tags, and John was hoping to take one with his bow on this hunt.
Once we caught up to the chase we had to grab some dogs that had enough of the bear. In the past hour or two they had traveled 10-15 miles, so it was understandable why they wanted a break. This bear kept going back and forth along a ridge, and we were going in circles as we tried to get more dogs into the chase and find the ones that dropped out. We had to regroup and get a new plan as this was one mean bear that had no intention of climbing a tree. A couple of dogs that dropped out had bite marks on them, and Travis was determined to get this bear before it could cause more damage. I was using a shotgun with slugs, but John would have to put down his bow and grab a shotgun loaded with buckshot as we knew we would be in for a close encounter on the ground with this bear.
This was a completely new adventure for me, but I found out that this is what every houndsman lives for–an adrenaline rush from being on the ground with a bear! Generally, a bear will tree after the dogs catch up to it as it just wants to get away from them and they know a tree is a safe place. When a bear does tree it gives you a great chance to determine if it is a bear that you want; you get to check out the size, coloration, hide condition and sex before shooting. One great thing about hunting with Reggear Outfitter is that there are plenty of bear in the area, and there is no pressure to shoot a bear you are not happy with.
From the area where we picked up another dog, Travis had a good idea where the bear was headed, back where it came from. Travis, along with guides Mike Stockton and Mitch Payne, led some fresh dogs along the dirt road to find the scent again in order to get as many dogs as we could in and get the bear stopped. It did not take long and the dogs were lined out on the bear and well out of hearing. This bear was putting on the miles quickly, and we needed to find a spot to cut him off. I had no idea where we were or even which direction we were going most of the time, but I was having fun on this chase. These guys have hunted this area for years, and knew every possible trail to get an ATV on to get us where we needed to go.
We finally got close and could hear the dogs heading our way. John and I split up a few hundred yards apart along a trail, hoping one of us could get a shot when the bear crossed. As luck would have it, the bear turned and did not cross. Maybe it heard the ATVs. Travis and Mike were gone in the direction of the dogs and I jumped on with John as he headed in my direction. We went as fast as we could without wrecking to catch up. Travis and Mike were waiting for us and we were close, we just needed to get close enough for a shot. I went with Mike to circle the bear, and John and Travis headed right for it. The brush was so thick that at 15 yards I could hardly see even one dog. They were doing a great job by the sound of it, but the bear just kept moving.
Being a flatlander from Minnesota, I was having a hard time keeping up with Mike in the higher altitude. My lungs were burning, and I needed to stop and catch my breath. Mike would having nothing of that, and I knew why, as he encouraged me to pick up the pace. We needed to get this bear before more dogs got hurt. Every time we got within 15-20 yards, the bear busted out of the dogs on a short run. John and Travis got even closer, but could not get a shot. After a few rounds of this I needed a rest. I just couldn’t go any more. Mike finally said I could get a short breather once we double-timed it back to the ATVs as the bear had now cleared out, and we had to find and cut him off again.
I cannot even begin to describe the adrenaline rush going through my body as we were so close to getting this bear. I could see dogs moving, brush moving, dogs were barking and I could even hear the bear woofing at the dogs, but I was never able to see the bear. This was great and I could see why houndsmen like these chases.
The dogs were again out of hearing in no time, and by now the bear must have covered 25-30 miles through the mountains. This hunt started before 9 a.m. and it was now nearing 3:30 p.m. I had seen my lunch bag a few hours earlier, but decided I might need it later by the way this chase was going so I did not touch it. With all the excitement this bear was giving us I sure could have used an energy boost the food might have given me.
Travis and John took one trail while Mike and I took another. I was riding in the back of the 6-wheeler and Mike was driving like he didn’t care I was even there, though I know he did his best not to bounce me off the machine as I was the one with the gun.
We slowed a few times to listen for the dogs, and decide which way to go when the trail gave us an option. We came out to the main trail behind John and Travis. They were already off the machines and into the timber after the bear. We kept going to see if we could cut them off on the other side. It ended up being much further than I expected, but the bear was moving fast so Mike wanted to make sure we were in front of them. The ride was quite eventful with the speed Mike was going and the many bumps we encountered, but it was great to be in on such a fun chase.
When we finally stopped we could not hear the dogs at all. We were confused. We started heading back at a different angle to determine where they were and still could not hear them. We had hand-held radios and called Travis to see where they were. It turned out that when we went by them the bear turned in their direction and John was able to get in position for a shot and drop the bear.
It was a great bear. A big chocolate colored bruin that squared 6´ 9˝ with a skull over 20 inches. This was an incredible day and an experience I will never forget. The way we all worked together and shared the events of the chase made both John and I feel that this was our bear, even though he pulled the trigger. It is a neat experience when you build a friendship during a chase, and hope the other one gets the bear knowing that when all is said and done, the circumstances surrounding the hunt are more rewarding than the actual kill.
John Boger took this exceptional, and mean, bear on the ground at close range during an all day chase.
We treed another color phase bear the next day, but let it go. The day was getting warm and the dogs really needed a rest. They let me make the call to keep hunting or head home, and I called it a day. Ted was coming in later on and I really wanted to get him a good bear.
Moments after Ted and his son, Toby, arrived he had to read me an article he wrote for our magazine while on the flight to Idaho. It was pretty cool that he was thinking of me and our magazine, being as busy as he was that week. We were all there for fun and tagging a bear was just a bonus. There were a lot of laughs during the next couple of days and we treed several more bears. I was more interested in making sure Ted arrowed a bear for his TV show than getting one for myself. He, on the other hand, wanted to make sure I took one home, too. He always asked if I wanted the bear when we arrived at a tree instead of feeling he had first dibs.
I was there for a big color phase and had a thrilling, adrenaline filled chase that made the trip more than worth while so I passed on the average bears that week and chose not to fill my tag. Travis and his crew showed me eight bears, six were color phase, in five days of hunting. I had to head home before Ted tagged his bear, but knew he was having a great time. It made me feel good that I was able to introduce him to a top notch bear hunting outfitter when he told Travis he will try to make this an annual event.
Idaho has so much to offer, especially for bear hunters and a bear hunt is a great place to make new friends. You may get a bear to tree within feet of the trail like we did one morning, or you may have an all-day chase with an adrenaline rush you will never forget. I know one thing for sure, I will be back in Idaho with Reggear Outfitters soon. There is a big color phase bear waiting for me!
If you are looking for a thrilling hunt give Travis at Reggear Outfitters a call at 208-476-5638. www.reggearoutfitters.com.