Hounding! There aren’t many things that get the blood rushing more than the cacophonous bays of hounds tracking a black bear through the woods. The love of the chase, the joy of watching coonhounds doing what they are born to do, and bear backstrap on the grill keep us bear hunting with hounds whenever we get a chance. 

Conner Capurro recently brought down his first trophy bear with the help of some trusty hounds. It was an unforgettable hound hunt, no doubt, and a proud moment for everyone on the Prime Revolution team. But how does a hunter go about bear hunting with hounds? In a few words, it’s all about the dogs. 

bear hunting

All photos by and property of Prime Revolution.

Hunting with Hounds

Hunting with the help of treeing dogs, Coonhounds, Plott Hounds, and Treeing Walkers, primarily, has a long and decorated history in North America. Hounds are known for their incredible sense of smell. These hounds are cold-scent dogs, meaning they can get on an animal’s trail up to a day after they were there. 

Hounds are most commonly used to hunt mountain lions, bobcats, raccoons, and bears, though hounds are great at tracking and treeing any quarry! Many houndsmen go out with as few as three bear hounds to as many as 20, which is an experience in and of itself. A pack of hounds can get very loud!

There is usually a single lead hound that is the best at finding the track on a bear hunt. Houndsmen call the lead dog the “trail dog” which determines where the bear is headed and how “hot” the trail is. Hunters can actually tell how close a bear may be by their hound’s bay. 

Once the houndsmen decide it’s a worthy chase, they will send more dogs after the first, a term called “packed.” Hunters will then follow their dogs, often for miles over rugged, rough terrain. It’s usually no walk in the woods when pursuing a bruin!

The hounds will have the bear treed or cornered, which is when the hunters can decide the sex and age of the bear and whether it is worth bringing down. 

Bear Hunting Ethics

As with hunting any type of animal, there is controversy around hunting big game with dogs, especially treeing dogs. Opponents of the sport say that using hounds gives hunters an unfair advantage and cause the bear unnecessary stress. They also argue that hound hunting endangers the dogs and often separates mother bears from their cubs. 

However, advocates will argue that bear hunting with hounds is akin to catch and release fishing. Many houndsmen will pursue bears simply for the thrill of the chase. The dogs love it and it keeps the bears wild, they’ll argue. Chasing bears with hounds also allows the hunter to get closer to the animal. That way, the hunter can distinguish the sex and age of the bruin before making the decision to bring it down. In some ways, bear hunting with hounds is more responsible than still hunting from a tree stand since mistakes are easily made when looking at a bear through a scope. 

Hunting bears helps with bear management, especially in areas with huge bear population numbers like Maine and Idaho, two states where black bear hunting with guide service outfitters is most common. 

Plus, any hound hunter will tell you their dogs do not, in the slightest, make for an easier hunt! Hounds will chase bears for miles with their loud baying and hunters have to hike out in pursuit!

Prime Revolution | Bear Hunters, Houndsmen

We are hunters at Prime Revolution. But we are also dog people! There’s a special bond between a hound hunter and his or her dog. It’s a connection that runs deep, a connection that spans generations! Hunters have been hunting with dogs all around the world for centuries. Most of the breeds we see today were bred to chase some sort of quarry. 

Training and practicing with any type of hunting dog is an amazing experience. We love black bear hunts and we love our four-legged friends! Also, humblebrag, Conner brought down his bear hunting archery!

arrowhead hunting archery

We also want to give a shoutout to Nevada Sporting Dog Alliance, keeping the sport of hunting with dogs alive in our great Silver State. Check out their site to learn more about protecting the tradition!