Although Maine bears are not known to get very big, Rhodes says this hunt is simply too much fun to pass up. He says Cole hunts with a pack of Walker hounds that he breeds and trains himself. He slowly drives up the backwoods roads with his strike dog, one of his most experienced hounds, in a kennel strapped to the top of the truck. When the dog picks up a scent and barks, Cole stops to let him down and look for tracks to determine if the bear is worth following up. Cole has agreements with landowners across the state, and is able to target whichever area is seeing the most bear activity. Rhodes says this is especially important during a year like this one when the trees produced a poor crop of acorns and Cole was able to focus on areas of the state with apple orchards instead.
Weather and an early hibernation made finding bears a challenge on Rhodes' hunt, but he says the apple orchards paid off. He says the pitch in the dogs' barks changed when they suddenly hit a hot scent and changed again when they jumped the bear and began chasing it. Rhodes says the terrain can make it difficult to follow the pack because of thick brush, steep hills and marshy areas. He says the dogs chased his bear around a swamp until the animal finally broke out. When the tone of their barks changed a third time, he says Cole knew they had treed the bear.
Rhodes says his jet-black-colored bear weighed about 200 pounds. He........(continued)