Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Killing a treed bear: a post for Fair Chase Hunting

Hounds work to pick up a cold bear trail.

© Holly A. Heyser 2012
I did something this weekend that I wouldn't have dreamed of doing three years ago: I hunted bears with hounds, and shot a bear out of a tree.

Did that get you emotionally riled up? It does that to everyone - not just non-hunters, but many hunters as well. That's why I decided to examine my reasons for going on the hunt (and for having an aversion to such things previously) in a post for Fair Chase Hunting, the blog of Orion The Hunter's Institute.

© Holly A. Heyser 2012


  1. I read your post, and it was interesting and engaging as always. Yes, my first reaction to bear hunting has always been kind of like, "Why are they killing those sweet, fluffy bears?" I guess it never crossed my mind that you can eat them. So this was really interesting.

    Also: I love organizations that rescue and care for animals, but it does seem that as soon as they get political, they start to get annoying.

  2. I forced myself to read your piece. Glad I did. Still not sure I would do it, but I totally get your logic and your points. And you eat the meat, which in the end is always what matters, at least as I tend to think about the ethics of hunting. Thanks for still writing about these issues. I always enjoy your work.

  3. Thanks, both of you!

    Jessica, bears are pretty adorable. But so are ducks :-)

    Jill, I'm still chewing on the hunt a lot, and I thought of one other point that might interest you (though it didn't enter into my motivations to give it a try): Bear hunting with hounds is a LOT like pheasant hunting with pointers, flushers and retrievers.

    Seriously! In both pursuits, humans use dogs with superior senses of smell and other unique attributes that ultimately force prey we would rarely find on our own into a position where we can kill it. With pheasant hunting, the fleeing bird eventually takes flight. With bear hunting, the fleeing bear eventually climbs a tree. Both are much easier to kill when they do this.

    Another striking similarity is the hunters' love not just for their dogs, but for watching their dogs do great work - they admire the dogs tremendously. Both types of hunters are often motivated to hunt primarily for the dogs.

    Here's the biggest difference: I've never heard of a pheasant hunter passing on a shot opportunity (the disdain of the dogs is just too much to, uh, bear), but the houndsmen I've talked to often release the bear by pulling their dogs away and creating an escape route for the bear.

    Here's the more relevant difference from a public relations perspective: Bears are charismatic megafauna, often one of the first dolls/toys an infant human gets (my first was Winnie the Pooh); pheasants are pretty chickens, not particularly loved or admired out of hunting circles.

    Here's the more politically relevant difference: Bird hunters tend to be far more affluent and influential than houndsmen. Influence prevents dumb laws like California's new ban from passing.

  4. Thanks again for doing such excellent work in support of hunter education. I'm very slowly warming to the idea of hunting bears myself. I have some ideas about them that make me hesitate, but even with that, I was angry and didn't support the banning of hound hunting here in Oregon. If there is a well-researched quota for an animal, then lets help people get clean humane kills to meet that quote, for crissakes.

    I have the same images, a scared bear, treed... etc.

    Your points here in the comments section are superb. I wish they could have made it into the article, because I think they're very relevant.

    Thanks for doing what you do,

    Huge fan

    Brandon from Oregon

    1. Thanks Brandon! As with my old blog, a lot of the thinking and realizing comes out in the comments. The conversation is an extremely important part of the writing - even the trolls' contributions.

  5. Black bear hunting uses several different methods to achieve the same goal... a monster bruin to add to your trophy room. Which method you utilize will depend on where you hunt, resources available to you, and your own preference. huntingage