Another bear, another amazing experience

I watched the crack in my windshield grow slightly as the heater kicked on.  It was still dark and the temperature gauge read 27 degrees.  I took a sip of coffee and exhaled; it was a perfect September morning to go bear hunting.

I met Bill Dereszewski, owner of Hollaback Guide Service at the gas station in Princeton.  We drank coffee and planned out the day as we waited for more people to join us.  Bernie was the first to arrive.  A local retired hunter who assisted Bill, his truck was filled with shortbreads and coffee to keep us filled as we chased bears.  Bill Gillespie and his pup Tawny joined the group and finally Matt Mcdonnell and a group of hunters from New York arrived.  They had been checking trail cameras photos sent to their phones to see which bait site had the most recent activity. 

The caravan of trucks headed to the chosen bait site with Bill and I the lead.  I was amazed by the technology that each truck had; large screens connected to GPS that would pinpoint where each dog was and CBs that allowed each truck to talk and hear one another plus a hodgepodge of radios, collars, and equipment. 

The sun was coming up over the tree tops when we turned off the dirt road onto a trail leading into the woods.  Matt and Bill got a few dogs out and brought them into the bait site.  They immediately started barking and took off into the thicket.  Matt reviewed the trail camera pictures and realized that the dogs had taken off on the wrong trail. “They took the trail he came in on,” he said shaking his head, “we can call them back.”  But he didn’t need to.  With his dog Lobo in the lead, the group came back to the bait site and Matt pointed to the bear’s exit trail, “get ‘em” he said and the dogs took off again.  Gillespie put Tawny into the mix and we had six Redbones chasing a bear for me. 

We listened as the barking got further and further away and we rushed to the trucks to get back to the road and see where the dogs were.  The chase was on and we tried to get ahead of the dogs so that we could see the bear.  Turning on to another side trail, Bill slammed on the breaks as we came up over a knoll so that we wouldn’t hit the last dog in the pack.  We had just missed them.  But, we could see the size of the bear’s paw as it ran across the road.  We needed to find this bear.  I said a little prayer that it would tree as I did not want to worry about shooting a bayed up bear.

Returning to the dirt road, we watched the GPS as the bear and dogs continued to run.  Then, they stopped. Someone’s voice came across the CB “I got a ping.”  “Me too” came another.  I looked at Bill. “When the dogs tilt their head back, like they are looking up in the tree, they send a different tone.  The bear is in the tree.” My heart skipped. Once again, we left the dirt road and headed into the woods. Bill and Matt were talking over the CB to figure out the best way to get to the bear and dogs. 

I took another deep breath as everyone climbed out of their trucks and stretched their legs.  We were excited to see the bear but getting there would not be easy.  I grabbed my rifle and followed Bill through thick trees and overgrown brush.  There were puddles in the low lying areas.  We stayed hunched over as we moved forward and tried not to whack the person behind you with a branch.  Finally, we came to a clearing where we could see the black mass in the tree and a few of the dogs on the ground.  Bill ushered me into a spot where I would have the best shot possible while Matt, Gillespie, Bernie and the others helped to tie the dogs back. 

The bear was dead before it hit the ground. 

We took photos to celebrate the hunt and this one is one of my favorite hunting photos ever. All six dogs that helped me have a successful hunt are in the photo along with Bill Gillespie (2nd from the left), Bill Dereszewski (3rd from the left) and Matt Mcdonnell (next to me with two dogs).  The amount of time, energy and money that was spent by these men prior to me squeezing the trigger far exceeds what I paid for my Master’s degree.  They love what they do, they love their dogs and they love to hunt.  There is no better combination if you are looking for a guide. But be warned, as you have read in my article… once you start bear hunting, you won’t want to stop!