By: Shayla Pukas
Some people say hunting with hounds is unfair or cruel but the thing about hound hunting is that it is a totally ethical way to maintain predator populations easily. Hound hunters see firsthand the populations of bobcats, lynx, cougars, bears and even wolves and coyotes. We as houndsmen and houndswomen are also conservationists. We live to maintain a healthy predator population for our ungulate populations to thrive.
When I go out hunting with my hounds, whether it is for a big bruin or a small spotted bobcat, I don’t go with intensions of killing every animal my dogs put in a tree for me. I do, however, shoot every animal, with my camera. To me it is the thrill of having the chance to see such a majestic creature with so much power towering above me. I take pictures to remember the experience and respect such a significant animal. Also being out in the wilderness and being able to share such an incredible encounter with the best hunting partners in the world, a hound dog!
Hunting with dogs has been around for more than 20,000 years. When people became more advanced and started to domesticate livestock they turned their hunting dogs into herding dogs, and dog hunting became more of a sport then a necessity. Carrying on this amazing way to hunt is something we need to do or else it will become a fading pastime.
To me hound hunting is more than just a sport. It is an amazing way to interact with the outdoors and all its astonishing creatures. Learning to harvest the appropriate animal is always a tough decision. When hunting cougars, you only want to take the toms, the male cats and with bears, the boars. Because most predators don’t have any distinct, easy-to-read, way to determine their sex from a distance, you need to do your research and learn what to look for. Having hounds gives you the ability to take the time to examine the quarry the dogs and you are hunting, to make the correct judgement and actions. Cougars can usually be determined by track size, facial colour and body size. Bears are usually determined by the face. Sows have longer skinnier sloped noses and boars more of a stout nose and broad defined face.
Without hounds it would be next to impossible to do studies on population counts. After studying the areas, wildlife managers then put a quota on how many cougars can be harvested in order to maintain a healthy and suitable population for an area. Without knowing these populations, our predators would become either too abundant or too few. This puts our ungulate populations at risk along with many other animals in the food chain.
Today many outfitters give hunters the opportunity to experience hunting with hounds for bears and cats. There are also many different organizations you can join to learn more about hounds and this incredible sport. Check out your local hound club. A few clubs in western Canada are Alberta Treehound Association and East Kootenay Trail Hound Association.