The Pope and Young Club announced on Monday that a grizzly bear taken in 2009 may be the new world record for the largest grizzly ever harvested by bow and arrow. That bear was killed by Rodney Debias near Unalakleet, Alaska and earned an initial entry score of 27 and 3/16, a full inch larger than the current record, which is held by OutdoorHub contributor Dennis Dunn of BAREBOW! fame.
“I’ve known about this bear for years,” Dunn told OutdoorHub. “In fact, once I heard about the big grizzly that Rod Debias from Pennsylvania took back in the spring of 2009, I also heard that he was hunting with the same outfitter, Hunt Alaska, that I used back in 2004.”
Through the outfitter, Dunn was able to contact Debais to congratulate him.
“Records are meant to be broken,” Dunn added. “I made a prediction after I took my bear in 2004 that if any bear was going to beat mine; it would be in that same stretch of Alaska.”
Sure enough, Debias bagged his bear not too far from where Dunn took his grizzly roughly a decade ago in the tundra near Unalakleet. Resting near the Bering Sea, the town of about 700 is emblematic of the Alaskan wilderness and is well-known for its salmon fishing and large population of caribou. The area is also known for hosting the most powerful predators of the Alaskan interior: grizzly bears. Debias later wrote that he came within 10 yards of the bear without being detected, although the bear finally figured out that it was being pursued when it was already too late.
“Suddenly he stopped, nose in the air, nostrils flared,” Debias wrote on bowhunter.com regarding the large chocolate bear. “I could hear him draw a deep breath. He exhaled. I could smell him. He drew another breath, this time curling his lips outward. I was amazed at his size. He exhaled again. He knew something was up.”
The bear knew that the hunters were there, but not their precise location. It actually walked past Debias before the hunter found a suitable broadside, and he arrowed the bear at 30 yards. The bruin jumped and fled, but the shot had been an accurate one. The animal dropped at 60 yards from where Debias waited in the snow.
Now the behemoth bear’s skull will be reviewed by a panel of Pope and Young judges. If the skull is confirmed, Debias’s bear will take its place as the new Pope and Young world record.
“At the close of every two-year biennial recording period, numerical awards and honorable mentions are awarded to the most outstanding bow-harvested animals in each species category that have been entered during that recording period,” stated Pope and Young in a press release. “New world’s records are verified and proclaimed, and awards are presented to these outstanding animals during the Pope and Young Club’s biennial convention and awards banquet.”
Dunn added that there are still plenty of record-sized bears near Unalakleet, and recounted a story of how he and his guide Eric Umphenour encountered a massive grizzly in 2003. Based on sheer body size, Dunn estimated that the bear he saw that year was even more massive than his record bruin.
“I had a close encounter of the furry kind with a bear that my guide swore was bigger than the one I killed a year later,” the hunter recalled. “He ran just about over the top of me. In fact, he was running down the trail I was on and there were no rocks or cover I could dive behind. So all I could do was kneel down, put an arrow on the string, and wait for him to come to me.”
In the frantic seconds that followed, Dunn managed to get off a shot straight at the bear’s lungs—but shooting a grizzly at full sprint is no easy matter. The bear blocked the arrow with one of its limbs and Dunn later found the projectile broken in half. There was no blood trail at all, so the hunter suspected that that arrow had actually hit one of the large bones in the bear’s leg and was more or less shrugged off.
Dunn and his guide agreed that the grizzly came in at about nine feet, and if not for a hyper-extended elbow, it could have been his. Somewhere in Alaska, it now waits.
Image courtesy Pope and Young Club