Hunters in Maryland have only a short window to hunt black bears, but the five-day season has been a hit ever since it was reintroduced eight years ago. Out of the 4,027 hunters that applied for a permit this year, only 693 were randomly chosen to be awarded a license through a lottery drawing. That’s 693 hunters of all ages and sizes with a plethora of different methods for harvesting a black bear.
Ninety-two bears were successfully harvested by the time the season ended on October 26. The youngest hunter to take a bear was a second-grader who will celebrate her eighth birthday next month. Aurora Wilhelm is the youngest hunter in Maryland history to harvest a bear since the season was brought back in 2004.
This year is one that set multiple records. Wilhelm took part in a hunting season with one of the highest quotas (80 to 110) set by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR), a testament to the rising bear population in Maryland. Last year, the quota was between 55 and 80 bears with a total of 68 harvested.
This was the first time Wilhelm went bear hunting, much to her 9-year-old sister’s envy. Both girls entered their names into the lottery drawing for a bear tag. “When Aurora got her tag for the bear hunt, her sister wouldn’t talk to her for about a week, but they worked it [out],” their mother, Jessica Wilhelm, told The Toronto Star.
Wilhelm shot the bear using a rifle with a shortened stock that her father modified so she would be able to hold it up to her shoulder. She, her father and sister were hunting bear from a deer blind with Wilhelm standing on a chair. They were just about to call it a day after not spotting anything. Just when Wilhelm’s father was closing the windows of the blind, a bear appeared in sight about 60 yards away coming toward the blind. When it came within 25 yards, Wilhelm took her shot. The bear ran about 60 yards before it fell just before a few trees that had fallen down.
Wilhelm was the first proud member of the family to harvest a bear, which weighed in at 232 pounds. No one else in her immediate family has taken a shot at a bear yet.
The Maryland DNR reports that the average weight of all the bears taken this year was 160 pounds.