Hyde County bruin tips scales at 677 1/2 pounds

Black bear is second largest ever taken by female hunter in North Carolina.

Craig Holt

November 29, 2011 at 3:01 pm  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

Wake Forest's Heather Sheperd killed the second largest bear ever taken by a woman during a Nov. 14 dog hunt in Hyde County.
Wake Forest's Heather Sheperd killed the second largest bear ever taken by a woman during a Nov. 14 dog hunt in Hyde County.
Heather Shepherd doesn’t wear ragged hunting clothes, have a face with three days of beard growth or have Red Man or Beechnut stains on her shirt.

Nonetheless, she’s a bear hunter. In fact, the 24-year-old Wake Forest resident and Meredith College grad downed the largest North Carolina black bear ever killed by a female hunter during a Nov. 14 dog hunt. It is the second-largest bear taken with any legal means by a Tarheel woman.

The bear weighed 677 1/2 pounds and ranks as the No. 12 heaviest bruin ever recorded in North Carolina, as well as the largest ever taken at Lux Farms in Hyde County.

Hunting with her father Dicky Jones of Raleigh, Shepherd and several other hunters had been invited to Hyde County by two of the farm’s five co-owners, Phil Barker and Billy Sewell.

“We tried still hunting that morning on the side of a 60-acre corn field and a duck impoundment,” said Shepherd, a human resources assistant at Avutax Labs. “We didn’t see anything, so Phil decided we should run some dogs and see if we could get a bear up.”

Barker had invited Billy Clifton of Greenville and his pack of Walker bear hounds to the 8,200-acre farm.

“(Clifton) let a trail dog out at a (bear) crossing,” Shepherd said. “Then we saw (a bear) as big or bigger than the one we killed, but he was crossing a cut between some trees.”

Then Shepherd, Barker, Jones, Fayetteville’s Greg MacDonald, Clifton and his dogs got on another bear’s trail.

“We probably walked for two hours through (thickets), where the trees were thick as hairs on a dog’s back,” said Shepherd, who was toting Barker’s 45-70 lever-action rifle she’d never shot.

“We got close to the bear and the dogs a couple times, but he’d run when we got near,” Shepherd said. “We were trying to be as quiet as possible because when the bear hears you, he takes off.

“We were trying to get close enough to him (so that) when he stopped to fight the dogs, we could get a shot, but he’d hear us and take off.”

The hunters pushed their way through nearly impenetrable thickets, the briars tearing at them and vines tangling their feet.

“The only thing that I got tore up was my hands when we had to crawl on our hands and knees through the bushes,” Heather said.

Finally, the bear decided to stop and fight the hounds about 11:30 a.m. That’s when the four hunters got close enough for a shot.

“(The bear) was sitting on his butt, fighting the dogs,” Shepherd’s father said. “Then he took off running, and Phil said ‘Shoot!’”

Shepherd, who has hunted doves, wild turkeys, tundra swans and whitetail deer, threw up the gun and fired.

“(The shot) was all instinct,” her father said. “She blew a hole in the bear’s side while he was running, and he hit the ground.”

The bullet passed through a small tree “as big as your thumb and wasn’t deformed, and it still had enough energy to put down the bear,” Dicky Jones said.

Shepherd’s bear is the second-largest — by weight — ever killed in North Carolina by a female hunter. A 14-year-old, Rebecca Harrison, killed a 708-pounder last year in Dare County, according to North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission records.

“I expect Heather’s bear will be a Boone and Crockett book bear,” Jones said.

B&C black bear scores are obtained by measuring the length of the skull longitudinally from back to the tip of the upper jaw and adding those inches to the skull’s greatest width. To earn a B&C award, the tally must total 20 inches. To become an all-time B&C black bear, the measurements must total at least 21 inches.

“It was a lot of fun, a rush,” Shepherd said. “I was trying not to mess up and didn’t want to shoot one of the dogs.”

Shepherd said she will have the bear full-body mounted by her taxidermist, and it’ll be on display in her trophy room with her deer, turkeys and big fish.


View other articles written Craig Holt


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