I have done a lot of black bear hunting, even briefly guiding bear hunters in Alaska, so when I tell you this was perhaps the wildest black bear hunt I have ever been on, it was pretty insane.
We were hunting in Idaho with my friend Chris Korell and his brother, Cody. I’d elk hunted with Chris a few years back and while I did not score was so impressed with him and his outfit I knew I wanted to hunt with him again. Chris grew up in a hunting family. Along with a couple of good friends, Chris’s dad, Larry, was known as the premier hound hunter in the region, so it was only natural that Chris, 41, and Cody, 28, took up the game.
Chris started going on hound hunts with his dad “as soon as I was old enough to go,” he said. The Korell’s are top-notch guides & outfitters, real cowboys and second-generation houndsmen that guide for mountain lion, black bear, elk, mule deer, bobcat & wolf where Chris has exclusive guide rights to 350 square miles of public (BLM & National Forest) land, plus another 25,000 acres of private ranch land, all located in Southwest Idaho in the vicinity of the Payette River.
The country is steep and rugged, and this week the weather sucked — rain and even some light snow during the last week of May, which is crazy. No matter — the region is loaded with bears, and we were going to find some. “The black bears in this area have a genetic disposition toward colors other than black,” Chris said. “Common colors include cinnamon, red, chocolate, and the occasional blonde. Over the past decade, approximately 70 percent of the bears our clients have killed are color phase bears. And when we turn the dogs loose, 90 percent of the time we catch that bear.”
There’s not space here to tell you the entire saga, but you’ll be able to read about it in an upcoming issue of Bowhunting World magazine. Suffice it to say that my hunting buddies, Jason Bear and Derrick Nawrocki, both got their first taste of following a pack of hounds in this steep, rugged country. Both killed excellent cinnamon bears on hunts that they will be talking about for the rest of their lives.
Once the boys headed for home it was my turn. Naturally, the weather — which had been sunny when both my buddies killed their bears — had turned 180 degrees. This day we awoke to rain and fresh snow up high. No matter, we are going hunting anyway. My team included Chris, Cody, and their buddy Kidd Youren, who has run dogs and hunted with the Korells since they were all kids, and two sets of hounds.
We are not into the hunt an hour when our dogs sound off. Chris stops the truck and we get out and see the track. It’s big. Turn the dogs loose!
Of course, just then it begins to rain and sleet heavily. Chris radios Cody and Kidd, and they get over pronto. The bear takes the dogs up into a brush-choked canyon, and Cody and Kidd follow on foot with some more dogs. Chris says it is best for us to stay put until we know exactly what the bear will do. “It isn’t unusual for these big boars to not go up a tree, but instead just keep walking ahead of the dogs, or back themselves up into some brush jungle,” he said.
About 45 minutes into it, as the rain is coming down in buckets and I cannot see anything out of my eyeglasses, we spot the bear! He is walking across the opposite hillside, the dogs right on his heels, sounding off as loudly as they can. We figure we can cut them off in the truck, so we drive back to where we started the chase, then get out and sidehill around through the nearly impenetrable brush.
Finally the hounds bay the bear up in some of the thickest, nastiest alders imaginable, and Chris and I slip in above the bear, getting as close as 15 steps. The bear has his butt up against the trunk of a huge pine, but there is no way on earth I can get an arrow through that mess. The bear sees us and knows this is not good for him, so down the hill he goes, dogs fast on his heels. Chris shoots down after him, me following as fast as I can given the fact that I am carrying a bow and cannot see squat. Finally I just take my glasses off and, being nearsighted, do the best I can to squirm my way through the rain-soaked alders down the slippery-as-snot 60-degree slope in the direction of the sound of the hounds.
It takes me about 30 minutes to catch up, and when I arrive it is total and complete chaos. The boys are at the bottom of the canyon, along the banks of a swollen creek and it is raining buckets. I wade the knee-deep creek to reach them and quickly see that the hounds have the bear bayed up on the ground in the thick brush along its bank. Immediately I slide down the bank, nock an arrow, wait for the bear to expose his ribs, then draw the Hoyt Carbon Element back and turn one loose.
Upon impact the bear roars, spins and snaps at the spot where the Thunderhead 100 has bored through him while the dogs, sensing an opening, attack. As the fur starts flying, Cody and Kidd jump in and pull hounds off as fast as they can so they won’t get bitten or swatted until the bear, after about 30 seconds, finally expires.
Lord. All of us are drenched like water rats, and after three days of this my legs are dead and my back is killing me. But the dogs howling at the moon, the team is laughing and yelling and back-slapping, and I have hard-earned a 275-pound cinnamon boar on the ground. It just doesn’t get any better.
If you like adventure and a pure adrenalin rush, I recommend this hunt highly. More information is available from the Korell’s exclusive booking agent, Wade Derby, 925-679-9232; crosshairconsulting.com, or by visiting the Korell Outfitters’ website, firstname.lastname@example.org.