Hunts to Remember
By Leroy Hauge
It has been quite a few years since we used to go out west to Washington and Idaho to hunt with Kelly Messer and Glenn Buckanon. They were two bear hunters that hunted from spring to fall and treed anywhere from 60 to 100 bears a season. They hunted Swampland dogs from start to finish. So I’m going to write about a hunt I took with them out West and ended in Michigan. The dog I’m referring to was Hornet a Big Saddle Back Plott that had the best mouth on him that I’ve ever listened to.
I hate to write about my own dogs. But they are the only ones I ever hunted with except the occasional ones that came to our hunts through invitation and I must say they had good dogs, be it Walkers to Redbones. You never brought trash when you hunted with Glen.
Glen had a Plott from me that he called Rusty also Sport and Hawk. Kelly had Red Buck, Jenny, Nailer, and Mosey. I brought along a couple of Doc C dogs that were some of the best they had ever hunted out there. They had taken Hornet out the year before. So he was doing it all. Striking cold trailing and a real tree dog. Some of my friends had brought along their dogs also so we had plenty of dog power, too many dogs to tell the truth.
It’s a long way out to Washington. After driving 45 hours straight through we were a bunch of tired people and dogs by the time we got there. So we decided to just hunt there dogs plus Hornet as he was already out there.
The next morning we took 7 or 8 dogs and set out. Glenn put up Hornet for a strike dog, as he wanted me to see this one-year-old work the box. We headed up into the foothills around Park Falls and it wasn’t long before he struck. Man what a mouth like a freight train, he never shut up. I tried to hold his mouth shut so we could talk. No way he just blew it out the sides. The rest of the gang finally got there and we turned loose. They trailed about a quarter of the way up the mountain when they all split up. Some went up; some went down, some around the mountain. After about 3 hours of this all the gang called in treed. Glen and I followed Hornet, Rusty and Jenny. We were at the foot of the mountain on an old logging road and the dogs were up high in some black timber, they call the Hugh trees out there. Kelly was up high and as we went to them we heard a shot and figured it to be Kelly. So we headed out and found out there were 3 bear treed and taken. When we stood around and rehashed the hunt, we noticed a man with 2 Redbones tied in his truck looking to be about 6 months old. We all thought he was with the other bunch. When it was time to see who did what with the bears his truck was gone along with the big sow bear. We never did find out who he was, but he sure got himself a nice bear the easy way. We sure got a good laugh out of that one for the rest of the hunt.
The next morning we headed out. Again we used Hornet to strike. We drove along an old trail when he struck. I looked down the trail and I saw the bear cross the trail ahead of us. So we drove down to where he crossed and turned loose. It must have been a pretty smart bear as he went to a big cliff that had a big dead pine lying against it and the bear climbed up this big tree and topped out on top. After climbing up this rugged mountain we found all the dogs treed on this tree leaning against this cliff except Hornet. He must have found a crack of cleft where he climbed up and took up the track. We lost him for that day, as there were no tracking collars around back then. Anyhow the next morning we still couldn’t find him. One of the local hunters told me that there is an old rail spur up a ways with an old shack at the end of it and that he was going to walk it the next day and maybe find Hornet at the shack. We started a track the next morning with Sport as strike dog way on top of the mountain. We got out to check for tracks. Kelly looked down the mountain and said look down there he pointed to a small clearing way down the mountain and there was a black bear standing there. Some guy said, “No way did Sport strike that bear from up here”. Kelly replied, “you want to bet”. I looked at Sport his nose was pointing down the mountain. Kelly got him off the box. He was now 11 years old. He started to work his way off the mountain. Pretty soon the bear took off and Sport came out into the open and started the track. Kelly said he has done this before. He gets the scent on wind currents and up drafts.
We got into the trucks and went down slipping and sliding until we came out on a flat and here came Sport. So we caught him up and turned in several younger dogs including my Kate. She was a littermate to Glenn’s Rusty and the race was on they followed the river but we were on the wrong side. We stood there listening and watching when on the other side a big bear started across this rock shales with one little Brindle dog groping his butt every 10 feet or so.
We had met another bear hunter that morning, a friend of Glenn’s. He tagged along that day as he was by himself. He turned in a female by the name of Fancy. As we watched this dog until into the bear time and again. I said, that Kate is really working on him”. He said, “Kate hell that’s my Fancy”. I turned to Glen and asked, “isn’t that Kate. He said I can’t tell, but if he says its Fancy I guess its Fancy”. Just then the bear got into some big pines and we heard the tree bark. Glenn said you guys drive around I’m going to swim across and go to the tree.
We got back to the bridge and came up the other side only to find Glenn lying under the truck with Kate sitting beside him. The man said, “where’s my Fancy”. Glenn said, “she ain’t got here yet”. The man got mad and said, “you probably run her off”, at that Glenn got up and said, “Say that again”. Just then the rest of the dogs came in including Fancy. So the man picked up his dog and left. I for one was glad to see him go.
As Glenn doesn’t take bear hunting lightly and when someone accuses him of something he had better leave or shut up. Anyhow Earl shot the bear out and I couln’t believe the size of this old bear. He was the biggest framed bear I ever saw. He was as skinny as a mink as this was July, the breeding season, but this old bear still weighed over 400 pounds.
We finally loaded up and headed back in and there tied to Kelly’s gate was my Hornet. The man said he found him at the old railroad Shack. He had several holes in him nothing serious but enough to tell us he had caught up with him somewhere. We got three more bear before we headed home. I left Hornet out there as they were coming over to Michigan to hunt with us in September.
September finally rolled around and we met Kelly and Glenn up in Michigan. They brought my Hornet dog along so I could hunt him as my rig dog. They said he is really good on the rig and as a start dog on cold tracks. We started down the road to check out a dump, as there was a lot of bear sign around. Hornet and Red Buck struck and we were in business. We turned loose and and they trailed off into the swamp. Pretty soon we heard Red Buck off to the left. I stayed on the road with Bob, and Hale a friend I brought along. The rest had followed the pack that were now baying and walking.
As we were listening to the fight we heard Red Buck start treeing about 100 yards in the swamp. There was about 2 feet of water all around the swamp. I told Bob, “here is your bear go in there and get him”. He shook his head and said, “I ain’t going to get myself all soaked for no dang coon”. I thought I better get in there and get that dog shut up or off the tree before the guys start coming back. So I waded through the ditch and swamp. Boy was that water ever cold. I saw Red Buck roared up on a broken off pine tree about 20 feet high and there stood a big bear doing a high wire act. I thought about Bob out on the road and turned to get him when the bear started down. So I had to shoot. He was a nice bear about 325 pounds. Boy, was Bob ever mad that he didn’t go in. Just about then 3 or 4 shots rang out in the swamp. We waited for about 2 hours before the rest of the party came out dragging a huge bear hide. They said he was just too big to bring out through that stuff. So we had 2 nice bear before noon.
Just then a man drove up and asked if we would put the dogs on a wounded bear. He said he shot a bear up in a field the evening before and hit it pretty good, but it took off before he could finish it off. In fact he said there were 2 bear.
Glenn said for him to show us where he shot it. He took us to a field and showed us some blood. Glenn got Rusty and put him on it and he trailed down into a big swamp after a while we heard a long howl. Glenn said, “Rusty found a dead bear, but he won’t bark anymore”. He told me to get Hornet and put him on the track, as he would bark at a dead bear. He took off but started going to the right of where Rusty was. He trailed through the swamp, crossed a road where the other guys dumped in. Eight more dogs crossed another swamp. Glenn and I went down another road when about a quarter mile ahead of us a big bear crossed over with Hornet and nine other dogs nose to tail right on him. Some of the other guys came up and went in. They found them bayed up in a river. Peter said that Hornet dog was all over him and pushed him out of the river. Meanwhile we were driving the roads looking and finally we drove in two tracks and went in a mile or so and found them treed up 3 white Birch trees where he was braced in between them. Soon as we got there we had to shoot as he was coming out and he fell onto Hawk and broke his hip.
Just about then Pete, Tom and Earl came up and started telling what a great job that Hornet dog was doing on that bear. Pete said, he is my kind of dog. Course I was happy to hear my young dog was now a good bear dog. He also was a good stud dog as I raised over 300 pups from him.
We went back to the first swamp where this fellow was still waiting for us. We had forgotten about him and to make him know we were sorry to have left him Glenn got out Hornet and Rusty and took them to the track. Rusty started and turned them loose, this man and a couple of our boys followed them in and soon they were baying and the boys found them baying the dead bear. Boy was this guy ever happy. He gave Glenn $100. So we got our dogs on 4 bears that day and everybody was happy.
Hawk went to the vet and he fixed him up with a splint and he healed and went on to become a good lion hound as he wasn’t fast enough to keep up with pack. But he went on and treed quite a few lions until he was stolen out of his doghouse never to be heard from again.
Well the next morning rolled around nice and frosty. We headed down the road with Hornet and Buck on the box. We drove in an old logging road and got a strike right at the end we turned loose and the dogs soon were out of hearing. We came back out and scattered in different directions. We drove and listened every mile or so but never heard a bark. This was big country. Noon came and we all came together and decided to go to town for dinner. After dinner we circled the country again, nothing. Glenn said let’s go back and see if any dogs came back yet. We drove up this old logging road without stopping until we came to the end, no dogs. So we turned around and got out and there they were treed, only about a hundred yards off the road where we had started him that morning. He was about 150 pounds, not big but he sure had us worried for a while. We got him out and got out just before dark, so ended a long day. They dogs were getting tired so we decided to sleep in late and have a short hunt the next day and get another good nights rest and then start home. We fed the dogs real good and turned in for a much-needed rest.
The next morning we got up about 10am and had a good breakfast. We loaded up and put Rusty up for strike. I’d say we drove around for 2 hours, the sun warmed up, and we drove into a small field to turn around when Rusty who I had laid down and gone to sleep, jumped up and struck hot. Everyone stopped and dropped their tailgates. The dogs piled out and were gone in full cry. We jumped into the trucks and tore out onto the road, listened and heard the dogs up ahead, jumped back and tore down the road and here they came, coyotes and all. We almost ran over the whole shebang. We stopped and jumped out hollerin’ and yelling bloody murder. We got most of them stopped except Tiger and Jenny. The dogs we got stopped got a lesson right there and were a sorry looking bunch when they were loaded. So off we went looking for the other two. After going down the road we heard them coming. We got out and spread out along the road. The guys were picking them up and laying them down when here came the coyote right between us. Jenny got across and kept going. Tiger stopped and went for the truck. He knew now he did something wrong and knew it for sure when Glenn got ahold of him.
Jenny made a round and here the coyote came back across the road but Kelly was ready now and put the leather to her. We got the dogs out and dragged them across the tracks and boy they had enough Coyote to do far the rest of their lives. As I never heard of anyone of them ever running one again.
Hornet was killed out in Colorado by a big brown bear. Rusty and Kate never came back from a bear hunt in Washington. Jenny was killed up in Wisconsin on a bear hunt several years later. All were good bear dogs and paid the price. Glenn and Kelly and I are all over the hill. But like the dogs we enjoyed every minute of it. We didn’t kill every bear we treed but we lived for the hounds and the hunt.