I had just wrapped up a Colorado high country archery elk hunt with a friend and headed to North-Central New Mexico for a black bear hunt over hounds. I arrived in the early afternoon, settled in, and prepared for an early morning.
I hopped out of bed at 3:15 am and drove to the meeting place in town to get with the guides and other hunters. We had five packs of dogs, five hunters, and seven trucks and headed out at about 4:30 am into the mountains where we were hunting that day.
I rode with the outfitter and our dog handler, Camry. We ended up treeing a sow with two cubs in a canyon, and I got a few pictures. We also rigged another track and turned out, and the dog pack split. One bear was a small chocolate phase bear in the same canyon. The other chase was another small chocolate phase bear, which treed in a different part of the same canyon. So, I walked down into and up out of the canyon three times today after small bears, but it was fun other than the last time. We had a difficult time getting the dogs back. Camry and I had to climb down and help the dogs scramble back up the cliff. When we had all but two dogs up top, the rest bailed back to the bear in the tree. Eventually, we got a few more hands to help out, got all the dogs up the canyon, and returned to the truck at 12:30 pm. It was a productive morning with lots of action!
Five hunters today harvested three bears – one big chocolate sow and two beautiful color phase boars. I filmed one of the hunters taking his bear – a beautiful chocolate 300-pound boar.
We wrapped up at about 2:30 pm and rode back to town. It rained on the way out, unusual for this time of year, and the arroyos were running hard. We got to the taxidermy shop at about 4:00 pm to drop off the hides. I walked about 7 miles today with several thousand feet of elevation gain from hiking into and out of the canyon three times. I went to bed early and it should be a great day tomorrow with five packs of dogs and two hunters, so we should get a couple more nice bears on the ground.
It was another lovely day weather-wise, with a cool morning and warming up with some sun later on. Early on, we got on a decent track and ultimately treed about a 200-pound chocolate boar. I got some excellent videos but decided to pass on the bear as I was looking for something exceptional. While walking in, we found an elk shed. And while walking out, we found a dead-head 5 x 6 elk rack. There are many elk in this country. With the rain from yesterday, the roads today were extraordinarily muddy and rutty, and it was slow going. We got the truck stuck a few times. One of the hunters took a great 400-pound chocolate boar, an absolute giant. Overall, it was a fun day. I’ve had the opportunity to harvest six bears in two days of hunting, not too shabby! Hopefully, tomorrow will be the day to find a giant.
Last day of the hunt, and I had four packs working for me to try to take a bear. We did pretty well in the morning – we ended up having a chase where we thought we were on a great big bear track, but the dogs split, and each ended up treeing younger bears that I passed on. Then, while one of the guides was down in the canyon, he walked the dogs into a new area, and they treed another small bear. Then we rigged another track, turned out the dogs, and after a long chase, they had a bear treed.
We drove in a stunning canyon with walls on both sides and lots of rock formations – sandstone-type stuff with holes and washouts carved in the rock and beautiful.
It was a long drive there, but we got up to the bear, only 50 yards from where we could drive the truck. The boar was way up in a mature conifer tree, and we kept looking to see how I could get an arrow through the branches and into the vitals. Finally, we whacked the tree with some sticks, which made the bear scramble up a bit higher, and it exposed about an 8-inch window I could get an arrow through.
As I prepared for the archery shot, I had to be on the uphill side of the tree which put the sun shining directly in my eyes. The outfitter had to hold his hat up to block the sun so that I could see my pins. I had to look several times and readjust to ensure my pin was in the right opening, but I finally found the correct sight picture and let the arrow fly at about a 60° angle up the tree toward the bear. It seemed to hit perfectly, and the bear held on to the trunk, and we could see blood running down onto the ground, and after maybe 30 seconds, the bear came impressively crashing down to the ground. He expired literally 10 yards from the truck. We got the whole thing on video. He was a nice, mature, big black-colored boar with huge mitts, probably in the 300-pound class. He was a Pope and Young animal, for sure. We got lots of pictures and then went to work on skinning him.
We got the bear skinned, and the meat boned out and were on the way out at 1:00 pm. I delivered my cape and skull to the taxidermist, got the meat in the freezer, showered, had a lovely dinner, and prepared to fly home the following day.
I had an incredible time on this hunt. With five packs of hounds, we treed 17 bears in three days for six hunters! For the three days I hunted, I treed and filmed seven bears; it would have been ten if I had walked into all of them. The outfitter shot four more bears in the next three-day hunt after I left for a perfect 10 for 10 success rate – with 8 of the bears being color phase (that’s pretty typical for this area – both the success rate and percentage of color phase bears). The bears were feeding on acorns from the scrub oak, and when we walked the canyons, we saw bear scat everywhere. We think some of the oldest mature bears were not traveling much, so walking down into the canyons with the dogs was productive, as was rigging off the road. It’s a great crew of guides and houndsmen and a fun hunt.
The bears mostly eat acorns in this area, so the meat is incredible. I like to can my bear meat, and it honestly puts canned elk and deer meat to shame. I also do some slow-cook roasts. And I grind some burger, mix it 50/50 with deer or elk, and make some tasty Italian sausages. The primary key to good bear meat is trimming as much external fat as possible. I’ve always had great comments from friends on my bear meat recipes, so be sure you recover your meat.
The New Mexico black bear hunt you just learned about is one of many we offer. We work with several quality black bear outfitters throughout the US and Canada and can recommend the proper hunt for you after a quick discussion.