The Last Hunt

Full Cry March 2012 CoverFULL CRY – The last hunt trails us all. From the first time our ears are graced with the full cry of the pack your last hunt has caught your scent. In time life will bring us all to bay, the hunt concluded, the circle of life complete. With the recent passing of legendary California houndsman Boone Shockley I find my self faced with that of another kind of last hunt: The last hunt of one of the brother/sister pair of my first hounds, my strike dog, and the most stubborn, tenacious black and tan bear dog on the West slope of the Sierra Nevadas, Buford.

The hole is dug. The decision made. All I can ask for now is the chance to walk him to a tree and let him face the bear on the ground, the way he likes it. The way he got my first bear with his sister Shauna years ago when I was a clueless greenhorn wandering around the woods pointing my yagi with one hand, trying to talk in the radio with the other, and hoping today would be the day, be it day one, day 2, or day 3 that I could finally round up my dogs.

When we finally finished that bear off in thick manzanita with Buford firmly in control of the bear’s head I truly believed in miracles. Regardless of the fact that he pulled away from me, magnet in, short leash attached, he still treed the bear, followed it after it jumped the tree, and brought it to bay in a small, very small clearing. My girlfriend Lorry and I managed to kill the bear without shooting each other or either of the dogs, another miracle.

Buford by no means was without fault. Deer in our yard? They could walk six feet in front of his house. Deer on the box?

Well, I learned the deer bark so well as to be able to almost anticipate it like a sprinter anticipates the gun at the line and was just as quick to remind him with a little jolt. When it came to dead bears, Buford is never aggressive to other hounds, he just thinks that a tug of war to end the ages has begun. Usually not a problem except he always seems to pull and drag in wrong direction. Dead coons and bobcats? Buford is completely indifferent. His nonchalance is baffling considering his habits with bears. It may come from his father, Buzz, a legendary black and tan that had a habit of catching a ride up the tree via the bear’s rump.

His illness was not sudden in its onset. It’s outcome inevitable. His spirit is strong, his nose as keen as ever, yet his body is failing. He tires on the box easily. As I have cut back the strain on him I can see, Trapper my other male Black and Tan picking up Buford’s habits on the box and for this I am grateful. I am sure that over the course of my hunting career I will have many hounds, some will bring fond memories, some good natured cursing and condemnation.

This won’t be the first dog I’ve buried, but it will be the first one I trusted my life with, the first one that brought me success in hunting bear with your own pack, and more joy and outright frustration than one man should have in his life.

I will miss him.

The one absolutely unselfish friend that man can have in this world, the one that never deserts him, the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous, is his dog… all other friends desert, he remains. – George Graham Vest

By Peter Meyer, P.O. Box 571, Somerset, CA 95684, 530-620-7280, foxredlabmeyer@gmail.com