The biggest sow black bear ever killed in North Carolina was tagged in mid-November by one of the state's smallest bear hunters.

Thomas Story, an 11-year-old sixth-grader at Perquimans Middle School, was hunting with his father, Paul Story, on Nov. 13, when he killed a huge bear that other hunters originally thought was a boar.

"The bear was so big, we were certain it was a male," said Paul Story, 30. "But when the other guys looked at it, they saw it had small feet and wondered why. When they flipped it over, they saw it was a female."

The Storys were hunting in Chowan County at the Swampy Bottom Bear Hunting Club. Paul Story had killed a 265-pound sow on Nov. 12, a Friday, and the next day, the Storys found themselves standing on a trail winding through the woods.

"We were on the back side of the block where they had turned the dogs out," Paul Story said. "The dogs crossed the path we were on and jumped a bear about 10 yards behind us. We ran around the path to get in front of the bear. Thomas saw the bear and shot it with a 20-gauge Remington 870 slug gun. The bear was about 35 yards away."

The bear moved through a cutover and into some tall timber, where the dogs brought it to bay in a hole beneath the root ball of a downed tree. The hunters knew the bear was in the hole because the blood trail led into the hole and the dogs were howling around it.

"We couldn't see the bear, and Thomas was all excited and didn't know what to do," Paul Story said. "Then the bear charged the dogs. All we could see was its head when it popped out to back the dogs off." Paul Story said it was pitch-black inside the hole. He and Thomas eased closer until they could see brown under the bear's muzzle.

"When the bear went in the hole, we couldn't see it," Thomas Story said. "We looked until we saw a little bit of brown, and Dad said to aim a little above it. When I shot, it was quiet for a few seconds. Then the bear exploded out the back of the hole like dynamite. 

The bear had been struck between the eyes but was still very much alive. It ran about 40 yards before the dogs brought it to bay against another root ball. The hunters moved around the root ball, looking for an opening to make another shot. When the bear's shoulder was exposed, Thomas Story fired, dropping the bear for good.

"The first shot hit the bear in the stomach," Thomas Story said. "I don't know why the shot between the eyes didn't kill the bear. I must have hit at an angle."

David Turner, the Williamston Crew Leader for the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, examined and weighed the bear.

"The first time he checked the weight, the scales said 445 pounds," Paul said. "He bounced the bear one time, and the scales said 450 pounds. When he weighed her on a second set of scales and she still weighed 450 pounds, he said it was a new state record for a female bear."

The former state record female killed by Bonnie Dee Leeds in Hyde County in 2007. "My dad said there are two rules," Thomas Story said. "I gotta keep up and I gotta listen. I got the bear because I did just what he said."