By Bob Robb
I love black bear hunting so much that when I lived in Alaska I guided a bit for them and hunted them hard both spring and fall. I shot my first-ever bear in the early 1980s, back when you could chase them with hounds in Oregon. Before I left for that hunt, I thought it would be all peaches and cream. You know, dogs chase bear up tree, hunter strolls over and shoots bear, then heads back to camp for cocktails, not a hair out of place. Just like that.
What I found was one of the most physical hunts ever, as we had to chase the dogs up and down and all around some of the steepest, nastiest country in western Oregon. I loved it! That was some 25 years ago. And while I have followed hounds in pursuit of mountain lions and wild hogs a lot since then, I had not chased bears again.
So in late May 2011, my friends Derrick Nawrocki of Alabama and Jason Bear of California joined me on what would turn out to be an archery hunt with hounds that none of us will ever forget. We were hunting with Chris and Cody Korell of Emmett, Idaho-based Korell Outfitters. I’d bowhunted elk with Chris a few years back. And while I didn’t get an arrow off, I was so impressed with Chris and his outfit that I knew I wanted to hunt with him again.
“We do it a little differently than some outfitters,” Chris told me. “A lot of dog guides will turn their hounds loose on the first bear they come across. It might be big; it might be small. Whatever. Before we cut ’em loose, we get out and look for tracks. I will not set my dogs off on small tracks. We only want to shoot mature boars, and the only way to make sure we do that is to not chase small bears. Plus, you are only going to chase so many bears in a week before the dogs need some time off. It’s best to know what you are getting yourself into before you start running the mountains. And when we turn the dogs loose, 90 percent of the time we catch that bear.”
The first morning we split up into three trucks and the search began. There were two packs of dogs: the Korells’ and another belonging to Kidd Youren, a close friend and local houndsman who has been hunting with the Korells for years. Chris and Cody’s father, Larry Korell, was in one truck along with Cody and Jason. Derrick and I were riding with Chris. Kidd and a couple of his buddies went off on their own to see what they could turn up.
We weren’t in the game two hours when our radio crackled. It was Cody, who had found a good track and cut his dogs loose. They had treed a bear up a big pine, so we all vectored in on the tree. As we looked at the bear, I thought to myself how lucky Jason was to be first up. The bear was a stud, big and with a flawless cinnamon hide. Jason made a solid bow shot. Less than half a day into his first-ever day of hunting bears with hounds, he had had tagged a superb 250-pound boar.