Tom’s Tracks

By Tom Austin
Enterprise Press, November 16, 2008

Lee Mensinger, Houck Hollow Road, Bloomsburg, wasn’t certain he had made the right choice when he booked an October bear hunt in Maine. In fact, he called me just before the hunt seeking assurance that other local hunters have had good trips when traveling to Maine for bear. I told him everything I have heard Maine is an excellent fall bear location. They have many quality outfitters and a large number of bear. The only problem I have heard is the bear are very difficult to hunt due to the dense forest lands where they live. Lee then shared one other piece of information. His bear hunt was going to be with dogs. This, I told him, would make all the difference in the world as bear hunting with dogs is not only highly productive but also, based on everything I heard, one great hunt.

I asked Lee to call me and tell me about the hunt when he returned home.

It wasn’t long after the hunt an excited Mensinger shared some of the details about his great Maine bear hunt. He had selected Spruce Mountain Guide Service out of Forest City, Maine. The business is owned by Steve and Brenda Cole with the Keay brothers, Kirk and Lee serving as additional licensed bear guides.

The local man was met in camp by several other hunters, two from New York state, one from Mississippi and one hunter from Lancaster . The plan called for the group to pair off with a guide and team of dogs. A flip of the coin decided who would shoot first once the dogs had done their job and a bruin was treed. Lee told me he won the toss.

An hour and a half ride took them to a large area of land where the Cole’s had secured hunting rights. Lee explained that the first dog released was a “cold track” dog. It didn’t take the hound long to find a bear track resulting in three other dogs being released. The chase lasted over three hours taking the dogs, the bear and the hunters through the type of rugged terrain synonymous with the state of Maine.

The barking of the dogs in one place was an audio conformation that the bear was up a tree. However, when the hunters arrived the bear ran down the tree and was off again. Fifteen minutes later the bear found another tree. This time the bear stayed long enough to give Mensinger a good shot with his 45-70 caliber rifle.

Almost as soon as he shot his bear the dogs were following another track and before long Lee’s hunting companion for the day, Kris Miller, Mississippi, had his black bear on the ground.

The next couple of days found that all the hunters in camp were successful. The final tally was five bear in 3 days.

If there was anything that was slightly disappointing about the hunt it was the size of the bear. All the bear were mature adult bear but lacked the mass and weight usually associated with Pennsylvania bear, generally regarded as home of the largest black bear in the world.

Mensinger had nothing but high praise for the hunt he booked, He told me everyone works together to make certain the client has a very good hunt. He also gave the Cole’s pack of 19 dogs very high marks for their abilities in tracking and treeing bear.

Hunting big game animals, be it a bear or a mountain lion, with dogs is considered by many as the ultimate hunt. Even if the result in not a success, just following the hound “music” is something very special.

Maine bear hunting does not resemble Pennsylvania bear hunting. The areas hunted are so dense that it would be almost impossible to use the same bear hunting methods used in this state to take a bear in Maine . This is probably the reason almost all bear in Maine are taken by using dogs or by hunting over a bait.

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Article by Permission of Tom Austin and Press Enterprise.

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