March/April 2013 EBJ (Issue 76) - In 1972, California Governor Ronald Reagan signed a bill banning all mountain lion hunting in the state, and that ban has been extended over and over again by California’s Legislature. In February, 2012, the president of California’s Fish and Game Commission got into some hot water because he lawfully hunted and tagged a mountain lion in Idaho. That hunt ultimately lead to his resignation as political pressures mounted.
Just this past September, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill into law prohibiting the use of dogs when hunting bears and bobcats. California isn’t hunterfriendly despite having some of the most beautiful and wild landscape in the country, and to houndsmen like Tom Hansen the stroke of Governor Brown’s pen was the death knell to a hunting tradition.
Tommy Hansen has taught me a lot about bears over the course of our friendship. I have hunted with him for a long time in California’s backcountry for bears and cats. He is a local hero in his neck of the woods and all the ranchers and townsfolk know him. He is one of the best houndsmen I know: the kind of guy that takes better care of his dogs and his truck than most people care for their kids. That’s saying a lot. With Grave, Widow and the rest of his Plott hounds, Tom gets calls all the time from local ranchers and residents to handle problem bears. He never asks for anything in return, except information on where the bear was last seen and if he has permission to access private land.
This hunt was no different. Tom and I planned on going out one morning, and as luck would have it just before we left, we got a call that a bear we had been after for three years had been seen ravaging a ranch. It took us less than an hour to find the trail and cut the dogs loose. The chase was on.
Watching Patch and Grave, Tom’s two brutes, bay up this giant boar is something I will never forget nor will I ever be able to describe. Bears are incredibly fast and agile, making the dogs work and work to keep up. Zipping up ridgeline after ridgeline, it was like watching a tennis match from mid-court; back and forth they went. The problem was I had to still try and keep up with the race. If you have ever tried to keep up with a bear and dogs, you know that it can cause you to see stars and make your lungs turn inside-out.
The big boar finally treed, and all the hounds kept him there until Tommy and I could finally make it up the last little rise to catch up. I wanted to shoot him with my bow, but I had my trusty 10mm just in case. After catching my breath and getting a good shot angle at open vitals, I was finally able to bring this guy to the ground. He hit the ground running but only made it about thirty yards down the hill before he finally cashed in his chips.
In the tree he looked at least 300 pounds. On the ground, he actually grew. As I walked to him I could smell him - that unforgettable stench of a wild beast that doesn’t care much about hygiene. He grew more as I got my hands on him.
The rancher that had called eventually made his way up to us and wanted to weigh him. We loaded him on a trailer and it took all we had to get him on a cattle scale. We all had guesses--ranging from 325 to 375 pounds. We were all wrong by a long shot. He tipped at 440 pounds, by far the biggest bear I have arrowed.
For a full account of Jason's adventure, go to page 46 in the March/April 2013 issue of Eastmans' Bowhunting Journal.