But a hundred years ago, it was an entirely different story.
On Jan. 6, 1911, The Washington Post regaled its urban audience with an article about Louisiana's hunters. Readers learned that horse-mounted sportsmen in the Bayou State went after bears with nothing more than a pack of dogs, a knife and gritty determination. It also told how hunters in Catahoula Parish had developed a unique way of catching wild hogs. Instead of the dog chasing down and baying the hogs, the dog lured the prey into a pen by allowing the pigs to hunt him.
The newspaper article was titled "Bear Hunting in Louisiana a Novel Sport — Game is Killed with a Knife." If the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries ever reopens a bear season in Louisiana, it will be interesting to see if anyone will have the gumption to hunt them the old-fashioned way.
"A Louisiana bear hunt," said a man whose sporting blood once induced him to get direct information on the subject by personal contact with it, "is conducted on quite different lines from those we follow in hunting the bear up here in the North. It partakes more of the nature of a fox chase, for it is undertaken on horseback, and is a riding to hounds that requires a quick eye, a ready hand and a sure seat.
"The chase is not across open fields or over hills. It is through a tangled maze of drooping vines and mosses and low and thickly growing branches! The dexterity with which horses trained to the Louisiana bear chase make their way at high speed through the dense and treacherous swamps into which the chase leads is simply wonderful. The rider need not guide them. He couldn't if he wanted to.
"The hunter carries in his hand a strong, keen-bladed knife, which he is frequently forced to bring into instant use for severing at a blow some threatening loop of vine or stubborn festoon of moss. The horse will follow the dogs, and when they have brought the quarry to bay soon bears its rider to the spot."
Dogs require special training
"Another peculiarity of the Louisiana bear hunt is that the hunter behind a pack of hounds carries no gun. The bear dogs are valuable, and require special training for their work. The necessary risks of the chase they, of course, must run, and if one or two or half a dozen fall before the savage rushes and deadly hugs of the bear they have harried and forced to turn and defend itself, their loss, while regretted, is accepted as something to be expected. The packs of hounds are always large, as many as 25 dogs being not an uncommon number to take the trial, and while the yelping and snarling pack is surrounding the bear, springing at its throat, tearing at its flank, or leaping up and swarming about the furious beast on all sides, so that it is at times almost hidden by the dogs, if the hunter should send a rifle bullet at some exposed part of the animal, and one of the dogs should receive it instead, that would be the killing of a dog that might have been avoided, and is regarded as a damper on the chase."
Joins fray with his knife
"To prevent the possibility of thus sacrificing a dog, the genuine Louisiana sportsman never lays his dogs open to the risk of it. When the bear is brought to bay, and the hunter arrives at the spot where Bruin has made his stand, he dismounts, and, armed with a long-bladed sharp-pointed knife, promptly joins in the fray. He rushes upon the bear, and with a thrust of the formidable blade finds a vital spot. He may have to make his fatal stab by pushing the knife between the very ears of a dog, but his aim is so true that while he may shave a tuft of hair from a hound with the keen blade, he never wounds the flesh.
"One skillful sinking of the blade into a bear's body is usually enough. The hunter steps aside. The huge brute fights on. Presently it totters and drops. Then with a last savage lunge at some too venturesome or overconfident dog the bear falls like an uprooted tree in the midst of the yelping pack.
"The killing of the wild hog is another Louisiana pastime. It is peculiar to the natives of Catahoula Parish, and the hog of that district is unique in canine facility. The wild hog of Catahoula is pugnacious and fierce, and in order to bag them or get them in shape for the killing the dogs are trained to be hunted by the hogs instead of themselves hunting the hogs. The object of the wild hog hunt in Catahoula is to get the animals in a corral. This it is the business of the Catahoula hog dog to accomplish."
Wild hogs tackle anything
"The wild hogs, roaming through the woods and along the bayous, are ever ready to tackle anything else that happens to come their way, and particularly are they eager for a chance at the Catahoula dog. A dog sent into the woods to excite a drove of wild hogs is never long there before the hogs get wind of him and hunt him up.
"They find him and with fierce snorts rush for him. The dog, keeping in mind the direction of the corral, barks a challenge, so to speak, and the hogs rush on fiercer than ever. The dog, tucking his tail between his legs, runs away, keeping, however, not more than just a safe distance ahead of the raging drove.
"Sometimes the hogs, as if disgusted with the cowardice of the dog, will halt in their pursuit, and grunting and snorting their opinion of him, return to their feeding. Then the dog turns and makes a dash back at the drove. The hogs charge him again, and off he runs as before. In this way the dog lures the hogs on until in their succession of mad chases he has brought them to the gate of the corral. The dog runs into the corral. The hogs follow him, hopefully, as he has slackened his speed. They are almost upon him when his master, in ambush nearby, having hurried up and closed the gate of the pen, the dog agilely leaps the fence. He has done his duty. He has entrapped the wild hogs.
"For this work the dog is invariably rewarded with a feast of pone and bacon, a cut from some wild hog of a former corralling of his perhaps, and the next day there is a great hog-killing time in the corral, which is joined in by all of Catahoula that can conveniently be on hand."