Hound Hunters Kidnap Bait Sitter!
By Dave Samuel (Field Editor)
Bear Hunting Magazine September/October 2005
Towards the later part of the season, here in Wisconsin, we had checked all of our baits and again, no big bear sign. Chip, another guide we hunt with, called us on the radio and told us he had a couple of pretty decent bear on his baits and no hunters with tags so we were welcome to jump bears off of his baits if we so wished.
The dogs cold trailed out of the area we were in and got out by a black top road. We all converged to catch dogs and redirect traffic. Finally, the dogs made it across the road and were busy cold trailing off to the north when suddenly we all heard someone shout over the radio, “A guy has a gun pointed towards our dogs, we better find out what is going on.” Mark had gone in on a secondary road and he let us know over the radio there was a camouflaged figure standing in the power line clearing with his gun pointed towards our dogs.
If you want to see someone’s blood boil and a person come unglued, then all you need to do is threaten to shoot a houndsman’s dog. You can steal his pick-up, talk bad about his sister, wife and kids or anything else you wish to do and he will not get nearly as upset as when you talk about harming one of his dogs. Neck veins will immediately protrude, veins on the forehead will pop out and eyes will show a glazed look of hatred normally only seen in cornered animals that fear for their life.
What could be worse, a busy highway or hunters with a gun close to your dogs? Mark headed in towards the hunter to speak with him and make sure no conflicts arose.
To make matters worse, at the same time Mark went to talk with the guy with the gun, we had an anti-hound hunter claiming to own the land we were on. He was telling us we were trespassing and to get out or he was going to call the sheriff. We were legal where we were and knew exactly what he was up to. We were actually not even on anyone’s land, we were sitting on the edge of a black top road on public property. The dogs were on public land and we knew it. We pulled out the plat book and showed him where we were and where the dogs were, but he just kept at it. Finally we walked away and simply told him to call the sheriff and we would discuss it with them. We had bigger problems right at that moment, an unknown person with a gun near our dogs.
The camouflaged figure turned out to be a bait sitter who had been unsuccessful hunting over his bait this season. The heat had been in the 90’s and the bear just were not moving or feeding very much during the day. He said the dogs had been barking as they came towards him, cold trailing into his bait. He had stepped out on to the power line opening to see he could get a glimpse of the bear. The bait we had turned the dogs lose on was one and a half miles from his bait site, but the dogs had the scent and just kept pecking along on the track as the bear had moved from one bait site to the next one during the night. He was not mad, just hoping for a glimpse of the bear. Mark told him if we got the bear treed and none of our crew wanted it, he could shoot it if he was close by. Of course that was an offer he could not refuse. For a while he tried to stay with us, following in his vehicle. Finally, Mark or Paul grabbed him and put him in their truck with them. He played musical trucks for the remainder of the day.
When the dogs trailed across his bait they had split and some headed back to the highway again. We converged and started to scoop up the dogs. Don and Wendy White’s dog Lady had split from the rest of the pack and was north of the road still grinding on a track by herself. She is a terrific cold trailer and a top-of-the-line bear dog. She just kept grinding out the track and eventually brought it across a trail where we could get some reinforcements to help her out. They headed into a swamp marsh that was full of water. Some of the dogs lost the track and Troy grabbed them up. Lady jumped the bear and brought it towards the north end of the piece and more dogs were released. Unfortunately, the dogs that were cast in grabbed the back track and away they went in the wrong direction. Since we did not know they had the back track for a while, we followed the new dogs thinking they were outrunning Lady. Again Lady came through and stayed on the track by herself, just simply ignoring the dogs that went in the wrong direction.
Jeff called on the radio asking us to come over to where he could hear Lady heading in his direction. At that point I was confused and had no idea what the devil was going on. We had dogs in different directions running and no one had seen the bear for quite awhile. I was sitting tight trying to make sense of the radio messages and trying to figure out how to help cut off the dogs that were not in the race.
Jeff called again and Paul went over to see exactly what was going on. Paul called and asked us to bring some dogs over where Jeff and he were waiting. I drove there and found out the bear had crossed. Jeff had put Don and Wendy’s dog Bandit back on the track along with Lady and Paul had added another dog to the race. I fired in three more dogs and they went out of hearing to our north.
The section of land they were headed into is nine miles wide and 16 miles long with no roads or trails. It is full of green cedar swamp and high rolling ridges. This section is made up of glacier ridges which are officially marked as such on the north end of the section. It is not a good parcel for a pleasure walk or for the weak of heart when after a bear! It takes better than an hour to drive around the parcel where we had just released the dogs. Fortunately, about half of it is bordered with good black top road. But, to make up for the good roads, the north end will tear a truck’s shocks off and break the springs if you attempt much more than 10 to 15 miles per hour.
By now, Scott, our kidnapped bait sitter was riding in a truck after two or three failed excursions into the woods hoping to get a shot at the bear. I cannot imagine what he was thinking. Here he was with a bunch of crazy lunatics running around in the swamps listening to dogs bark. Dogs had been running backwards on the track and I am sure that to him there did not seem to be a rhyme or reason to what we were doing.
Once we got all of the four-footed wayward souls gathered up, we started taking readings on the pack that was headed north into God’s country. As we continued to track the dogs from the south end, some of our crew headed north around the section. I had three dogs in there and they all had tree switches and every one of them was locked on the tree mode. Not for sure, but a good indicator that something had finally happened. Using readings from a GPS showing waypoints along the northern area along with reading from the tracking colors on the dogs, we estimated where they were on the north side.
Those of our crew that had already departed for the north drove to about where we had determined the dogs to be treed. Sure enough, right along the road, they were singing hard. Just as they got to the tree, out jumps the bear with no fear or respect for the dogs. He lunged with the dogs tight on him, showing no mercy. They forced him back up a short distance away and let the world know they had him in the tree again.
We all converged on the road and decided that our kidnapped bait sitter, Scott, and two people from our crew would head to the second tree. The rest of us waited out on the road so the bear would not get excited and jump again. The shot was taken and the bear was harvested, a good boar dressing at 279 pounds. Not bad for a combination of a kidnapped bait sitter and some hounds’ people who had never met before.
Scott said he had never hunted with hounds prior and was really impressed by the sport. The only problem for Scott was that he was with a bunch of strangers, had no idea where he was, had a 279 pound dead bear and had no idea where his truck was. He was kidnapped and felt stranded all at once. Needless to say he was well taken care of and returned to his vehicle after the bear was registered and weighed. I do not think he will soon forget that day.