Airguns, Hounds & Horses
Bear Hunting Magazine|July - August 2020
Sometimes hunting means doing your best to keep up
Levi Sim

I’m not accustomed to feeling useless. I’ve lived in three countries, I’ve had 45 professions, and I’ve run my own business for the last ten years. I can do a lot of things. But each time I go hound hunting on horseback, I feel more like deadweight than a hunter.

And I love every minute of it.

I’ve been invited to hunt with my friends Don and Riley three times so far. Our setup is usually a big pickup with a six-horse trailer on the bumper and a camper in the bed with kennels built over the wheel-wells. On this hunt, I was anxious to pull my weight so they’d invite me again. This time it was just me, Don and the beautiful sunrise.

The trouble is, I’m not a horse person, and I’m not a dog person. I’ve ridden horses a handful of times, but my first time hunting with Don & Riley, I rode five-times farther in a day than I had the rest of my life combined. I’ve seen how saddles and bridles work, but it’s just faster to let Don get my horse ready instead of showing me how.

Don also has the dog situation under control. He puts collars on the dogs which communicate with the GPS unit he carries. The collars are identified in the GPS so he knows which dog is where and he puts the proper collar on each dog. Sheesh, those hounds all the look same to me, so I’m no help there either.

The best I can do is to make sure that I’m ready when he’s ready. And he’s so proficient that by the time I’ve laced up my boots, we’re ready to ride.

There were four horses for the three of us, with an extra to pack a bear. I’m always impressed with the horses’ and hounds’ performance.

Don’s palomino, Wrangler, is a Missouri Fox Trotter; the white, Casper, is a Tennessee Walker; and I’m on a red roan Paso Fino named Copper. These gaited breeds all ride smoothly and handle steep terrain confidently. Don sometimes brings his new mule, but not today. Don pointed Wrangler at the hill and up we went. We’re like a nucleus of horses orbited by seven hounds. The dogs, ages two to eight, are Treeing Walker Coon Hounds, and they’re line bred.

These dogs are tenacious and adorable. They’ve got the classic look of hounds with floppy ears and jowls drooping increasingly with age. Their coats have a white matrix with patches of brown and black and they are slim and springy which makes them puppy-like even in their old age. If someone said, “Let’s go hound hunting,” these are the dogs you would have in mind.

The houndsman’s job is to lead the dogs to a place likely to have bears and then keep up, which is what the horses are for. This country makes high demands on a traveler’s legs, so four legs are a significant advantage over two.

Starting out, we climbed 1,000-feet, followed two ridges, and dropped down into another creek. Each creek has many draws that empty into it, so the creek gains volume as it flows. The dendritic pattern of creeks is separated by 1,000-foot-tall ridges.

The sun crested the ridges, shining into the bottom where we were walking an overgrown logging road. The rays illuminated the steam on the horses. For a guy who didn’t grow up riding horses and has only been hunting for two years, it was idyllic. I sat with my horse, marveling at how lucky I am to enjoy this experience, whether we find a bear or not.

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