I’ve had the good fortune to be involved in the business side of bear hunting as a writer, editor and product promoter for many years. I’ve been able to go on quite a few bear hunts, from British Columbia to Maine, and a lot of places in between. I’ve enjoyed running my own baits and hunting with outfitters, and I’ve had plenty of successes – and failures – from which to learn.

When I shot a 400-pound B&C bear in Manitoba last fall, I figured my bear hunting might have peaked with that giant bruin. But when I headed back to Grandview Outfitters in the Duck Mountains of western Manitoba for a fall hunt this year in search of my 20th bear with a bow, I had no idea that the bar was about to set even higher.

People talk about 500-pound bears all the time. The weights of bears are so often grossly overestimated that it’s the topic of jokes around the campfires of every veteran bear hunter. The reality is a 300-pound black bear is huge, a 400-pounder is extremely rare, and a 500-pound black bear is one in a million.

(Editor’s note: Want to see a 500-pounder arrowed by the author on video? Check it out below!)

 

For a baseline, look at the real statistics. In most places, such as my home state of Minnesota, the average black bear shot is 120-140 pounds. A lot of so-called 300 pounders have been put on a scale and weighed less than 200.

When my 2015 fall Manitoba bear hung on a scale and moved the needle to 400 pounds, I figured I was topped out. Its skull later measured 21 inches, making Boone and Crockett. So when I went back to Grandview Outfitters for opening day, August 29, 2016, I was looking for a nice, representative bear. In fact, the outfitter had sent me some scouting camera photos of really nice chocolate brown color-phase bears on one of the baits, so I hoped that one of them would be going home with me.

I shot my bear on the first day of my 2015 hunt, and was a bit disappointed my hunt ended so soon. When I climbed into the treestand on opening day 2016, I committed to just watching to see what developed; I was simply not going to shoot a bear on the first day and end my hunt that soon. And that commitment lasted about 4 hours.

Several decent-sized bears came and went over the first few hours. One was a big boar weighing about 300 pounds with a nice white V on his chest. Maybe he would be a target bear if he returned on subsequent nights. The sheer number of bears in this area is staggering. The first 11 bears were all blacks; no sign of any of the many chocolates seen on camera.

Bear number 12 was different – he was a giant. When he got up on the barrel to feed on oats, my heart leapt as I realized I was looking at the biggest bear I’d ever seen in the wild. I sized him up and it was obvious that he was larger than the one I had shot in 2015. But I was steadfastly committed to passing all comers on the day No. 1. He fed for a while and then left.

Immediate and overwhelming remorse overtook my emotions. Was I nuts? I just passed up what was most likely a legitimate 500-pound bear. What am I thinking? I soothed my troubled mind by promising myself if that bear ever came back to this bait during this hunt, I would shoot him at the first opportunity.

Ten minutes later he was back.

The shot looked perfect, and the massive boar exited the area in a rush, then all was quiet. I figured he had gone down 30-40 yards away. In reality, he, like many huge boars are prone to do, just slowed to a walk.

And walk he did. When we found him the following morning, after following a remarkably visible blood trail 400 yards through the thick bush, we were all stunned at how far he had travelled. Despite having an arrow through both lungs and a heart nicked by the broadhead, he had calmly walked through thick willows, swamps and spruce thickets until he just fell over. Tom Ainsworth, owner of Grandview Outfitters, stated simply, “The truly big ones do not want to die. They don’t lie down and give up after a short distance like most bears.”

The mountain of a bear could not be moved and had to be skinned and cut up in the bush in order to get it back out to transportation.
The mountain of a bear could not be moved and had to be skinned and cut up in the bush in order to get it back out to transportation.

We stood over the bear and analyzed him for a while. There was no way we could move him. It took all we could do just to roll him over for photos. The three of us – Tom, an outfitter who has handled hundreds of bears in 30 years of guiding; Jim, who had just shot a 350-pounder the evening before; and me, who had the vision of a 400-pounder fresh in my mind – tried to get a grasp of what we were looking at on the ground. All three of us agreed, without reservation, that this bear weighed at least 500 pounds.

The front pad on the author’s bear is as wide as two rifle shells. He was a once-in-a-lifetime bear in every way.
The front pad on the author’s bear is as wide as two rifle shells. He was a once-in-a-lifetime bear in every way.

That was good enough for me, so we set about cutting him up to hauling him out of the woods. A few hours later, we had the bear’s meat along with the front half of the hide with head attached back at the ATVs for the ride home. The front half of the hide and head weighed nearly 100 pounds.

Next year, there’s no way I am going to shoot a bear on the first evening.

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20 thoughts on “The ‘One in a Million’ Black Bear

  1. Just like shooting “fish in a barrell”.
    I am from Minnesota and have been a hunter for 60 years but still dont understand this type of “hunting”. Bet you don’t eat the meat yourself.

    1. How much would you like to bet? $1 million? I don’t know of any bear hunters who do not relish bear meat like I do. The bear sausage I had with my breakfast this morning was excellent and the summer sausage is fantastic. Grilled steaks and roasts in the crockpot? YUM! I’m from Minnesota too, so if you would like some, let me know, I will show you how wrong you are.

      If you think this is like shooting fish in a barrel, you should try it sometime. Get out of your recliner and put in the hours of hard work choosing a good bait site, hauling bait, and then trying to get a bear to come in during the daylight so you can shoot it. The success rate on bear hunting in Minnesota is about 30% does that sound like shooting fish in a barrel?

      1. You having to go to Canada on a hunt where everything is set up for you is like shooting fish in a barrel. Probably have a recliner too.
        Why do you have to go there? If it is for a big bear, wait until the Bear Center in Ely determines that Ted is getting too old and they may let you take him down.

      2. Guess you still didn’t get what I have said about being a hunter. I am now livng in North Carolina and have hunted here for many years. Also in Canada and Califirnia where I have lived. Venison here is must better tasting than any other place I have been. I can still feel the waxy and bitter taste of Minnesota deer. I remember my mother having to cook with a pork roast of top of the get bear or deer to taste better.
        Just remember if you want a huge bear, Ben at the Ely Bear Center will be available soon.

      3. Don’t let these guys or what ever they are get to you. They have no Idea all that’s involved and how much you still have to do. I get a kick out of people from Minnesota and other places where you see hundreds of deer and game animals a year. I’m in the deep south any deeper you will be swimming. And we might not even see a deer a year hunting due to the thick woods and temperature making game nocturnal. But they want to knock you for making a trip and spending you money and helping the local economy. I wish hunting was as easy for us as it is in Minnesota. We have to make a trip and pay money to hunt those easy pickings in Minnesota get to sit in a heated blind and watch DEER flock in fields like geese scraping for something to eat picking them off like rats I can’t wait till my next trip to the shooting gallery . Nordskog why don’t you come down to mobile county Alabama and take a deer ANY DEER and then You can call yourself a Hunter. See how that works it’s just like shooting fish in a barrel. A Brown DEER against white wide open snow. What a joke and you call yourself a Hunter. It’s not to nice being on that end is it.

      4. sarcasm? I am from Eastern Ont. we may have more game than Alabama, but I think shooting gallery is a little over stated, the bush here is so thick if it’s more than 20 yds away it’s invisible even with the snow, about the only way to find them short of tripping over a dead one is to send in the dogs. and forget blinds, let alone heated, we hit the bush before dawn and are on the move till it’s too dark to see.

      5. Did I say anything about eastern Ontario??? And I’ve hunted in Ontario on a very nice hunt and it was one of the best times Of my life. Lots of good folks we seen lots of game I didn’t pull the trigger but it was not for lack of opportunity I was holding out for a real bruiser that was in the area. My sarcasm was towards the fella from Minnesota for knocking the man about taking a nice bear. I mean who wouldn’t love to go to a camp where someone worked his tail off preparing the spot for you. I know how much work is involved I guide hog hunters 9 months a year. We work many hours a day getting stand up hogs fed and pattern for our hunters. Sure if you took a vid of a hunt it would seem like nothing to it but that’s far from truth. You still have to be totally scent free watch the wind make no noise and be still. Plus make the shot. So it’s not like shooting fish in a barrel. And hunting any place is work I was being a Jack ass to show him what it looks like threw other eyes. But truthfully every hunt is something special no matter how or where it’s done.

      6. the bear hunt was in Canada, I was not sure how much of your comment was directed at him or if some was directed at Canada, a country very important to me, I wasn’t intending to knock you. M.H.A.

      7. I know where the hunt took place it wouldn’t matter if he killed it in Georgia. Some jerk would say you had a guide or they baited it or even they used dogs or blablabla. My point is the man took a great bear. He is a fellow Hunter. Be happy for him. Not try and make yourself look like a better Hunter. Because fact is I’m a professional Hunter I am in the woods 6 days a week 8-12 hrs a day. I kill between 40 hog and 10-15 deer every year myself!. I guide about 80 hunters a year and have a very high success rate.from Hogs to gator to deer and Turkey and sometimes duck. And for any one to down another hunter is disgraceful to us as a whole. I very seldom see a “good” Hunter I see a lot that think they are but they are the first to cry when they don’t Kill out in their FIRST sit because they “Know” more than the guide. If you ask me that guy that took that bear is a SMART Hunter. He knew the bear camp had nice bear he listened to his guide and killed a great blackie. Great job. Congratulations!

      8. I never would have thought that anyone did, but I’ll have to eat my words, to each his own though, I’ll stick with hot, just shot, fresh whitetail sizzling in the cast iron pan over that camp fire.

      9. knowing that a good man with a bow can drop his game within minutes of the hit, how do you feel about that guy that speared the bear in the flank and took 3 days to find and finish it?

  2. I can’t understand the reason people want to shoot a majestic creature like this. I would only drop one in self defense. I get my kicks shooting metal plates, that way nothing dies.

    1. Really ? Keep shooting your metal plates and not standing up for hunting rights. Both will end at the same time. If it wasnt for hunting/fishing dollars from the xtra prices we pay (special tax) then more than likely most those bears would not even exist. Do some research before you make uninformed remarks. I have a degree in Wildlife Biology. More wildlife is protected by hunting/fishing dollars that is not a hunted animal than animals that are hunted. Look at how much Land is protected and not hunted due to those same monies ! Anti-hunters need to start truly learning the facts of what damage they are doing to the wildlife they think their trying to protect and not just the popular hunted species.
      Interesting statistic: at time of this study, more deer were being killed by cars in NY state per year than hunters Nation wide. The population of Black bears has increased in areas that hunting increased, so much that in some areas they are actually becoming a major nuisance. WV has a big problem in its nw areas with over population of bears and that area is not growing with human population. The bears are getting smaller too, due to lack of food. You think the biggest bears are in Canada ? Wrong they are right here where I live NC, try living where the possibility of dealing with a 800lb Black Bear is real ! Multiple records come from NC and 400lb plus bears are becoming common.
      Dont mean to bust on you directly, but to all please do some online research and see whats really happening with wildlife populations due to the steady increases in numbers its bad for the Deer in alot of areas “CWD” look it up…

      1. The record black bear taken in NC was by a guy from a different state. He heard of this huge bear eating hog carcusses on a hog farm. He shot it as it was wallowing away from the carcus pile. Bet he was proud.

      2. I still don’t get what the point of hunting a bear is? do people actually like that? I couldn’t even swallow it was so gross! I had to spit it out! if I had a gun to my head?, maybe, if it was beaver again, just shoot me! and I am referring to the four legged dam builders.

      3. I have had so much delicious bear meat in my lifetime that it is hard for me to understand how anyone could screw it up so bad to the point that you would have to spit it out. True, a lot has to do with what the bear has been eating and also it’s very important to get the bear taken care of right away. A lot of bear hunting takes place in warm weather and bears have a thick layer of fat and thick fur so you must take care of them right away. You can’t hang them for a few days like you would a deer shot in November. Most bears that I have eaten have been fed grains and pastries so they are mouthwatering good. Steaks on the grill, roasts in the slow cooker, breakfast sausage, summer sausage I love it all and so do my friends and family. My friends find out I am butchering bear they show up to help in the hopes I will share some with them. Too bad you had a negative experience but that is not the norm.

  3. Bernie B, you make the best bear hunting videos I have seen. Never been bear hunting, but if I had a choice, you’re the guy I want to go bear hunting with. Congrats on your 500 pounder!

  4. i don’t get this stuff either, I’ve asked a couple time, why guys lose their mind over a B&C whatever, and no one answers, I can’t see what is so special, unless B&C means it field dresses, butchers itself, then jumps in the pan for hunt night fry up why bother? UUUMMM, hunt night fry up, oh to be a kid again, as for bear, I shudder, one bite was enough for me, only the beaver my uncle Clarence made for xmas was worse, so why would this guy go back again and again?

  5. The only men who hunt large game like black bears have micro penises (what the ladies like to call baby dicks).

    I can tell the guy in this photo has a baby dick just from his fat face.

    And I say this as someone who hunts deer to feed his family. There is no legitimate reason to hunt beautiful black bear.

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