Alvarez's record bear

Lawrence Perry with his record skull award and his Plott hounds at his Stow, Maine, home. (JAMIE GEMMITI PHOTO)

By Lawrence Perry

Special to The Conway Daily Sun

This story started in 2014. We bought a house in Stow, Maine, on Union Hill Road. The purpose was to have a place where my Plott hounds could be outside near the White Mountains, where I grew up.

On opening day of the 2014 dog season, I went to a cornfield the bears had been working over. I was trying to get my grandson his first bear.

I saw a big track, so I put Alvarez, my 11-year-old Plott hound (a hunting breed that brings big game to bay or tree), on it, and he cold-tracked out. Then I put down Perry and Takoda, Alvarez’s sister and cousin. It wasn’t long before they jumped the bear. I heard them working and knew it was a big bear by the way the dogs were moving.

I tried to call my grandson but couldn't get hold of him, so I went, and there was a big, beautiful record-book bear. I recognized the bear as the Sucker Brook Bog bear. It had left its home area for the corn. It was his lucky day as all I did was take a picture and pull the dogs back after praising them up.

In the spring of 2015, the Sucker Brook Bog bear was raising havoc with the inhabitants of Union Hill Road. It was a bad fall in 2014, and when the bears came out of their winter den, they were hungry.

My bear dogs were going crazy every night. Neighbors started complaining, so I called the game wardens to see if I could run the bears off. They told me to tell the neighbors to take their garbage to the dump. Needless to say, that didn’t work. Chickens were disappearing, and complaints were pouring in.

The big Sucker Brook Bog bear was not intimidated by the neighborhood dogs. He drove them off and kept on eating their trash.

Well, when training season started and I turned my dogs loose, the swamp bear gave them a hard time, but he found out they weren’t house dogs. I ran him off twice, along with others, and they soon stopped coming by.

Alvarez was a special bear dog. He had hunted all over Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and coastal North Carolina. He was a 75-pound rugged bear hound. His sister, Takoda, and cousins Grizzly and Perry, who were sisters, all were seasoned bear hounds.

I told neighbors I would take the big, old Sucker Brook Bog bear out come kill season. I set bait out and set up a tent I use for turkey hunting and a game camera. I put a local hunter in it and told him to take his time and to call if he had shot the Sucker Brook Bog bear.

I wasn’t home an hour when the phone rang, and the hunter was all excited. I told him to calm down and asked if the the bear was dead. He said he could see the bear’s paw up over a stone wall. I told him to ease on down and put a finishing shot in it and I’d be right down.

Upon arriving, I saw the hunter was still in the tent. I called, “Where is he?” He said right behind the stone wall. I could tell he was very nervous. I went down and looked the area over. No blood. No hair. No bear.

After confirming it was a clean miss, I asked him, why didn’t you shoot him behind the front shoulder like I told you? He said he said he thought the bear might charge him so he tried a head shot. He was shaking and the sweat was running off him. I knew he hadn’t held the gun steady.

I waited for dog season to open. I knew I was going to have to shoot this bear.

Opening morning, me and Alvarez, Perry, Takoda and Grizzly went to where I knew he’d cross the road from making his nightly circle around bear bait, then crossing back down to the bog to lay down for the day.

I dumped Big Al, then Takoda, Perry and Grizzly, four veteran hounds in shape and ready. This day was going to be a day to remember.

I listened to the hounds tracking down to Sucker Brook into the bog. All of a sudden there was sharp heavy barking. My GPS showed them baying then they started moving toward the other side of the bog.

Robert Johnson was with me. I told him, "We’ve got to go around to the other side of the bog." We headed around to where we could go to the dogs. They had been bayed up for 20 minutes, but the dogs bust him out and he’d crossed Sucker Brook onto our side and they were working him towards us.

This bear was huge for a Maine bear, and he was heating up and had to stop. As the dogs were pressuring him, I had to try and get into the bog water, which was knee-deep, so I had to stay on the humps.

As we were getting in close, I told Bob to wait where he was. I was going to get in where I could bust him out because there was no way we could get this bear out if I shot him almost in the middle of the bog.

It was thick with water bushes head-high and ferns 3-4 feet tall. I still couldn’t see dogs or the bear. All of a sudden, it went quiet. Then I heard dogs screaming.

I looked at my GPS, and the dog collars were moving with the bear, so hopefully they weren’t hurt badly.

I told Bobby, "Let’s go, we've got to go back around to the other side." We backtracked out to the truck, got in and headed around by the main road to where the brook crossed the road going down into the bog. That old bear was surely heated up and wouldn’t leave the water.

You could hear the dogs working the bear toward us. We stepped into the woods and waited. He was coming right to us. The dogs were baying him in the thicket in front of us, maybe 25 yards away.

The bear turned back into the dog and scattered them. Bob and I backed out and took an old logging road in and parked the truck. We started walking down the road and could hear the dogs coming. I went another 200 yards and the bear was going to cross Twitch Road. I was ready, but the bear crossed a little lower on the road.

All I could see was the top of his back with two dogs on each side, so I didn’t shoot. The dogs circled and came back in the direction of the bog. He’d made it into the bog about 30 yards. The dogs were baying hard. Alvarez was looking at him face-to-face by the way he was baying.

I stepped off Twitch Road and followed an old game trail down to the dogs. This time, I circled in behind the bear as he was facing the dogs, and the air current was facing him.

I was within 10 feet and I could hear the bear blowing his warning snarl. Alvarez was right in his face. When a bear is bayed up tight and tired, he’ll usually back up against something and face his opponents. This bear was in a waterhole behind an old felled tree.

The bear didn’t know I was there. He was watching my dogs. Grizzly was a gritty bear dog that kept working tight. Alvarez was like a king cobra. The bear would swipe at him, and he’d snap his head back and then get right back in the bear’s face, baying.

Perry and Takoda were side-by-side, baying tight within 2 feet of the bear.

I broke a few more ferns down so I could get a head shot. The bear’s back was to me. Soon, he raised his head and turned in my direction. I had crosshairs on the side of his head. Alvarez was inches from his face when I shot.

Sudden stillness came over the bog.

The bear was dead instantly.

Then the barking started back up, and the dogs piled on the bear, tugging and biting. They deserved this bear’s fur.

As I was pulling the dogs back, Bob came to help tie the dogs up. When I first grabbed hold of Grizzly she looked alright on one side, then as I went to look at her left side, she had three big gashes down her side. I knew I had to get her to the vet quick. It was amazing that she stayed on this bear three hours after she’d been tore up.

Grizzly hates bears. She weighs only 35 pounds but acts like she’s three times that size.

Grizzly ended up having 100 stitches. She came out of it good. She was lucky.

I came back with a tractor, 200-foot chains, a chainsaw and four other men. Three hours later, we had the bear out to the truck. The neighborhood terror was over for now.

We took the bear to the tagging station, and it weighed 575 pounds. It wasn’t the biggest bear that my dogs had ever taken, but it sure was a rough hunt. And, for a Maine bear, it was big. I’ve taken a few big ones in New Hampshire and Maine but never bothered to put them in the (record) book.

We got some huge bears on the coast of North Carolina over the last 20 years.

I’m getting toward the end of my hunting career. The years are catching up with me and the mountains are looking a lot bigger.

Hunting Plotts are hard. When you start getting old, they don’t quit. Even when they get up in years, they keep pushing, and poor Alvarez died in 2016 in training season. He was 11 years old. He’ll be missed. This book bear is the last bear shot over him in Maine.

Lawrence Perry is a native of the Mount Washington Valley. He and his twin sister, Louise Perry, owner of Vintage Frameworks in North Conway, grew up in North Chatham. Lawrence now lives in Stow, Maine, and is a well-respected bear guide and hunter.

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