David Barker of Semora, N.C. had seen one black bear over the past three years while deer hunting in Caswell County, and it was only a trail-camera photo.
“A trail camera took a picture of one at night the second week of November,” said Barker, a 33-year-old forester for Gregory Pallet Company. “It wasn’t a really good picture, just a big black blob. It was hard to tell what it was, but I figured it was a bear.”
He got a better look Nov. 18, when he shot the 402-pound male bear that is the biggest on record killed in Caswell County since the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission opened North Carolina’s Piedmont counties to bear hunting in 2013-14.
“I hadn’t been able to hunt much at this farm, maybe four times all season,” Barker said. “I hadn’t put any corn out in two or three weeks, but I checked out a clover field joining a big cutover, and one side had a bunch of over-hanging white oak limbs, and they hadn’t touched the corn too much. Deer and something else were eating acorns.”
When Barker walked into the field where he’d dumped the corn, the other signs quickly drew his attention.
“There was a lot of bear poop in the field and under the white oak limbs,” he said.
A few minutes after sunup, a 6-point buck and a doe cavorted about 30 yards from Barker’s tree stand near the field edge.
“I was trying to hide in the stand, so they wouldn’t see me, and just as it got good light, they ran off,” he said. “I looked into the field and the black bear was standing 150 yards from me.”
The big bruin “walked into the field and kind of sat down,” Barker said. “He was facing me and had been watching the buck and doe, I guess.”
Barker, who shoots competitively, raised his Remington 700 with a hand-loaded 130-grain, .270 Accubond bullet in the pipe and centered a round into the bear’s chest.
“He rolled over, grunted, then ran about 30 yards and fell,” Barker said. “I was glad he didn’t get in the cutover; it’s 300 acres.”
Barker drove to a shed, started a tractor and returned to pick up the bear with its front scoop and dropped it into his truck’s bed.
“I drove to my taxidermist, Eric Knowles (Broken Arrow Taxidermy in Reidsville),” he said. “Eric and I cleaned and skinned the bear.
“I was gonna use the meat to make some summer sausage, but I cooked some after adding some beef fat to it, and it tasted good. I’m gonna make hamburger of most of that bear.”
According to the Commission, during the 2017-18 season, hunters downed two males and two female black bears in Caswell County. In the 2016-17 season, they tagged five males and two female bears. In 2015-16, hunters shot two males and one female bear.
Colleen Olfenbuttel, the Commission’s furbearer/black bear biologist, requests bear hunters submit reports on line to the wildlife agency.
“Our submission rates from hunters is low in this region, and we need improvement in submission rates overall in North Carolina, especially from still hunters, who only submit teeth from 30 percent of the bears they harvest,” she said. “Our data on bear ages and weights is only as good as what is submitted to us by hunters at ncwildlife.org/bearcooperator.”