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Living in Florida we hunt wild hogs with dogs pretty frequently and it is very enjoyable. I understand hunting with dogs is not for everyone, I enjoy watching the hounds work, and getting up close and personal with a handgun to dispatch your game can be great fun. I decided to try a bear hunt in New Mexico with the aid of Joe Troyer, of Lil' Joe's Big Game Hunting.
The hunt was to be conducted at Lincoln National Forest in southern New Mexico, home of Smokey the Bear. Before the hunt I went to the range to fine tune my Smith and Wesson .500 with Leupold DeltaPoint Pro Reflex Sight. The addition of the reflex sight has greatly increased the accuracy of my handgun. Ammunition was hand loaded Barnes 375 grain XPB bullets loaded pretty hot. At 50 yards with a sturdy rest I was putting it in the bulls eye pretty nicely.
I made my drive to the Smokey the Bear Motel the day before the hunt. The motel was affordable and quant. The only down side was a giant group of hunters from Texas where right next door to me drinking all the corona and playing loud mariachi music. But no matter, I made the best of it by drinking two of my own local beers and going to sleep early.
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Day one Joe picks me up with his truck full of hounds and two mules in tow. We drive to the base of a canyon, mount up the mules and release the hounds. We rode up and down many mountains with beautiful views. We saw many nice bull elk bugling, mule deer and best of all very few people, so that was nice. The hounds got a few skunks during the morning of the hunt, so the smell followed us around a bit. The dogs then caught another sent and it was off to the races. We followed the hounds up and down the mountain and into a canyon for an hour or so. Unfortunately at the end of the trail was a raccoon. Not exactly a large black bear but, it happens.
One thing I learned on the hunt was that the hounds will chase numerous scents, and not just the intended target. The unfortunate thing is you can end up chasing a raccoon around for hours and not even know it. This can cut into your three day hunt in a hurry. I also learned that ridding a mule through the mountains with a cowboy hat on, makes you feel pretty cool, but at the end of the day my back was sore and my ass hurt like never before. So day one ended with no black bears seen, but we hunted a hard 10 hours and had a lot of fun.
Joe collected the hounds and dropped me off at the motel. I got back to my motel door after navigating a sea of empty corona bottles. The mariachi band did not even bother me that night cause I passed out from exhaustion.
Day two Joe picks me up with the hound truck, this time he was able to leave the mules at a camp ground with pens, so that made the drive quicker without having to haul them around. Turns out Joe had to go back after dark to retrieve some hounds from the mountain, so he did not get as much sleep as me, but was in good spirits.
We saddle up the mules and hit the same mountain. Joe felt confident in the bear activity, due to the tracks and scat we found the other day. We rode and hunted for about five hours before the hounds caught a sent on top of the mountain. The hounds ran down toward the canyons, while we held our position to determine the best entry point. We began the long trek down the mountain to follow the hounds to the canyon. At the very bottom of the canyon Joe says to me that he thinks the hounds have treed something but it's up at the top of a super thick steep canyon. I thought he was joking, but he insisted it was time to get some cardiovascular training in. We tie the mules up and shed as much weight as we can, I ask Joe if I should bring my binoculars to evaluate the bear, but he thought the bear would be low enough that the extra weight would not be worth it.
We start the steep climb with lots of slipping and sliding, I was grabbing whatever little roots I could to gain traction. After what felt like forever we get to the top of the canyon and I take a few deep breaths so my lungs can catch up with my feet. Joe than turns to me and says maybe you should have brought your binoculars. In my head I say great, maybe I should have brought my rifle. Joe points to the tree that the bear is in and it might as well be a redwood as far as I'm concerned. The tree looked to be 150 feet tall and a black blob was at the very top.
Joe says it's a shooter, so we approach the sequoia. The bear catches a glimpse of Joe and I and immediately starts running down the tree. I think great he is getting into a better shooting distance, but Joe quickly instructs the hounds to continue baying, and the bear runs back up to the top. I try to find a sturdy rest but, all I can find is a thin, unstable twig that's attached to a tree. I ask Joe how far the shot is and he says 60 to 65 yards. So I try to slow my heart rate and breathing as I rest the five pound S&W .500 on the twig. I put the red dot on the small black blob and squeeze the trigger. I don't know if the twig moved or I pulled my shot but I was a bit low and all I saw was tree bark explode.
The bear was understandably startled. So I quickly take an offhand shot and abandoned the damn twig. I hit him in the spine and the bear is hanging on by the front paws, I shot again and hit a double lung shot that saw to it that bear was dead before she hit the ground. I shot a fourth time as the bear was falling, but I might as well have been skeet shooting with a handgun cause I think I missed, but another shot was not needed, I was just caught up in the moment.
After the adrenaline wore off we inspect the bear and it is a 5 to 6 year old female, with worn teeth and a lot of fat built up for semi hibernation. Joe and I began skinning, quartering, and putting meat in the game bag. It was so steep it was hard to keep the bear from rolling. We found two bullets on the off side of the hide with perfect expansion. Joe grabbed the hide and I grabbed the game bag and threw it over my shoulder like a bloody Santa Clause. We did our best to get down the steep canyon side, I fell about three times but luckily some rocks broke my fall. We finally made it to the mules in one piece.
Joe carefully puts the hide on a nervous mules back, and since the other mule is deathly afraid of bears I decide to carry the meat a half mile to the truck. My shoulders are starting to burn when I see the sweet sight of the truck. I put the meat in the flat bed and notice that my green camo shirt is now red. Joe meets me at the truck with the mules and we get packed up. I arrived at the motel and the party in the parking lot was playing Carlos Santana this time. I did not mind, I thought about celebrating with them as long as I did not have to drink any corona.
I began cleaning the meat and put it in a big cooler along with the hide that went into another cooler. I grabbed a bunch of ice and iced the meat and hide down, and finally got cleaned up. The shower looked like the scene from the original Psycho movie. I celebrated with a La Cumbre Brewing Malpais Stout and a hatch chili cheese burger and passed out. The next day I checked in with fish and game and drove home. I dropped the hide off at the taxidermist for a shoulder mount. I than prepped the meat for five hours, then I cleaned and whitened the skull.
I understand many do not like to hunt with hounds, but I had a blast. Joe was an excellent guide and hounds man. I would highly recommend him for all your bear and cougar needs. He will hunt as hard as the client is able to, and will work his ass off to get you, your game. I told him I was up for a hard hunt and that's what I got. I also think the pistol was a good idea for this hunt. It made moving and climbing the steep canyons much easier. And as always I'm glad I practiced at longer ranges than I thought I was going to need because Murphy's law always strikes when I'm hunting.
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Wow! Makes an old man glad just reading about your hunt. Congrats and best of luck in future hunts, God Bless......
NRA Benefactor Member
US Navy Veteran
|one of us|
I felt like I was there, awesome story.
I'd like to try to get a mtn lion this way. I'll remember to always grab the binoculars if I do
|one of us|
Congrats!! Great report and pics. unbelievably beautiful country.
|one of us|
Really nice, great hunt!
Superb bullet performance too.
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[Thanks for the good story of you excellent hunt. Good job! Brian
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