Big Bears From 2009…

The heaviest bear known taken in Michigan during the fall of 2009 was clobbered by a vehicle near Bergland on the evening of September 9. The huge bruin with a live weight of 570 pounds was killed hours before the UP bear season began. Conservation officer Grant Emery from Bessemer responded to the scene of the accident with state police.

He reported that the bear struck the front of a small vehicle thought to be a Subaru, on the driver’s side, doing a lot of damage to that side of the vehicle, including breaking the driver’s window. Neither the driver nor the passenger was injured, however, and the vehicle was driveable after the accident.

The driver who killed the bear did not want the carcass, so CO Emery processed the carcass and distributed the meat to three needy families. Since it was warm, he skinned and quartered the carcass as quickly as possible. It took four people besides the officer to load the bear in the back of his truck. It was 5:00 a.m. by the time meat from the bear was in the freezer.

The bear’s head took the brunt of the impact from the car, so was damaged, but CO Emery was able to salvage a tooth, so the animal’s age can be determined. The officer reported that fat was 7.5 inches thick on the bruin’s back and 4 inches thick on the stomach.

Jim Peak from Crystal bagged the heaviest bear known taken by a hunter during the 2009 season near Cadillac while hunting over bait with guide Rob Nixon. Peak’s bruin had a live weight of 534 pounds and the skull had a green score of 21 12/16. It was Jim’s first bear taken during his second hunt.

His first hunt for black bear was in 1997 when he went to Canada. He said he saw a few bears on that trip, but never pulled the trigger. It took him nine years to get a bear license for the Baldwin bear management unit.

Jim’s father, Jerry, hunted with him as a cameraman. The day before the hunt began, their guide spent several hours with them to help educate them about judging the size and sex of bears. Jim hoped to get a bruin weighing at least 300 pounds, and he obviously accomplished that.

The Peaks saw six bears on the evening of the 18th, but none that Jim wanted to shoot. They went to a different spot the next day. The first bruin arrived at 5:00 p.m. It was a 250 pound male.

An hour later, a female showed up that he estimated at 300 pounds, but he wisely decided to continue waiting.

Jim recounts, “At 6:30 dad whispered, ‘here comes another bear.’ When I saw the bear I knew it was a shooter. The bear came in and laid down for a couple of minutes, never offering me a broadside shot. Then it moved to the right, which was even worse for a shot.”

When Jim realized he wasn’t going to get a shot at the new arrival, he looked back toward the bait and the 300 pound female was still there. What was behind the female attracted his attention. An even bigger male than the one he failed to get a shot at was approaching. Several minutes later, Jim took a shot at the monster with his .270 when it walked into an opening.

Although Jim’s shot was perfect, there was no exit wound, so there was no blood trail. But the bear only went 50 yards and Nixon found the trophy animal without much difficulty.

“This year’s bear hunt was special to me,” Jim wrote in an email, “because my whole family was camping with me in the state park in Cadillac while I was hunting. My kids Kayli, Kaden, Blake, Brayden and wife Nichole really wanted me to get a bear on that Saturday night, so they could see it before they had to go home on Sunday. They were very happy when I called them from the woods and told them, ‘Daddy got a big bear!’

“When they were finally able to see the bear, their excitement and joy was something that I will never forget! It is a great thing to share the outdoors with my family. It made this already great experience even greater. My grandparents (Dave & Sue Teed of Alma) were also camping with us. It had been a long time since I saw my grandpa so happy.”

Keith Phelps from Stanton connected on another huge male in the UP’s Gogebic County with an estimated live weight of 525 pounds while hunting over bait with guide Fred Kirchner from Wakefield. The green score on that bruin’s skull is 21. Although the bear Phelps got is plenty big enough, he estimated that it was about 100 pounds lighter than a bigger bruin he saw, but didn’t get, two years earlier when hunting with Kirchner.

Keith was hunting with a muzzleloader that year. As he approached the bait he planned on hunting at 3:15 p.m., a huge bear was already at the bait and it had its back to him. Unfortunately, Phelps did not have a cap on his muzzleloader yet. He planned on waiting until he got in his tree stand before capping the rifle.

Before Keith could cap the front loader, the bear left and he never saw it again. To avoid the same problem during 2009, Phelps hunted with his .300 mm magnum centerfire rifle. He got his trophy bear at 6:15 p.m. Central Time on September 13. It was the first bear he saw.

“I figured the bear was about 300 pounds when I shot him,” Keith said. “I was shocked when we finally got him. He was a lot bigger than I thought.”

Phelps said the bear circled the bait, and then approached the tree his stand was in until only 15 yards away. Then it turned back toward the bait, giving him a shot angling away. When a 180 grain bullet struck the bruin his hind feet came up off the ground and his nose went in the dirt, but the animal still managed to run off before dying.

Mark Feldbauer from Ishpeming got another brute in Marquette County on September 19 that had a dressed weight of 460 pounds. Its live weight would have been over 500 pounds. He said it took him five years to get a permit for the first hunt starting September 10.

Although he hunted seven out of the nine days he could have by the time he scored, the bear he shot was the first one he saw. Hot weather during the first week of the season reduced daytime bear activity. Feldbauer was hunting from a ground blind when the bruin appeared during the last minutes of shooting light.

He shot it between the eyes with a 150 grain bullet from his .308 at a distance of 40 yards as it stood looking in his direction. In spite of the bullet hole, the bear’s skull can still be measured for state records, according to taxidermist Rich Ryberg with Outdoor Ventures Taxidermy. The skull is large enough to also qualify for national records maintained by the Boone and Crockett Club.

Mark said he didn’t realize how big the bear was at the time he shot it. This is his second bear. He shot a 250-pounder years ago while hunting with hounds.

“I haven’t had nothing like that get my heart pumping in 20 years,” he said.

Tom Anderman from Mt. Pleasant came to the Upper Peninsula for a bear hunt with Wild Spirit Guide Service out of Powers, hoping to bag a bruin bigger than he is, and he succeeded. His goal wasn’t really to connect on a big bear. He just didn’t want to shoot a small one, but he did get a big one.

The bear he shot on the evening of September 14 in Menominee County on the last minute of his 5-day hunt with Dan Kirschner had a live weight of 483 pounds and a dressed weight of 412 pounds. The adult male has a big head that is expected to be large enough to qualify for national records maintained by the Boone and Crockett Club in addition to state records.

Not bad for Anderman’s first bear! This was his second bear hunt though. He and his son hunted on their own out of Marquette six years ago and didn’t see a thing. That’s why he decided to try a guided hunt this time.

“This hunt was my gift to myself for spending two years in Iraq,” Anderman said. He spent two years there as a counselor for contractors who had to deal with the stresses of being in a war zone.

Warm weather during the first week of the UP bear season, with temperatures getting into the 80s, did not help Anderman’s quest for a bigger than average bruin. He was hunting over an active bait maintained by Kirschner, but the hunter did not see any bears during his first four days of hunting.

When he arrived at the bait at 2:00 p.m. on the 14th, all of the food had been eaten, which boosted his spirits. He replenished the food, then climbed into a ladder stand 17 yards from the food in the hopes a bear would return. The wind was swirling, but he was wearing a military carbon suit that he had purchased at an army surplus store to reduce his scent. He had also sprayed himself with liquid Scent Killer.

Anderman also brought a predator call with him to his bear stand that evening. He had been hearing coyotes howling from different directions on previous evenings in the stand. He planned on using the call to lure a coyote or bear into view.

“I thought getting a coyote would make the hunt a success,” Tom commented. “And I’ve heard that bears will respond to a predator call. Since I hadn’t seen anything, I didn’t have anything to lose. I squealed three times every half hour.”

At 6:30 p.m. Central Time, Tom saw a small bear approach the bait, but it remained out of sight concealed from view by ferns. A half hour later, there were two loud cracks in front of him as something big broke branches. The small bear ran off after the second crack.

Moments later, the big bear appeared, and Tom could tell it was a big one right away. When it sat down next to the bait, Anderman didn’t waste any time shooting it in the neck with a 180 grain bullet out of his .300 Winchester Magnum rifle.

The bear measured 73 inches from nose to tail and had front foot pads that were more than five inches wide. Its skull should measure between 20 and 21.

Twelve-year-old Brandon Benda from Ishpeming also bagged a trophy black bear during his first big game hunt while hunting with his father in Iron County on the evening of September 19. Richard Nordstrom from Iron River, who is Brandon’s grandfather, made the hunt possible by doing the baiting for the boy. Father and son also hunted from grandpa’s blind.

It took three years of applying for Brandon to get a bear license that was valid starting September 15 in the Amasa Bear Management Unit. Brandon’s parents (Jeff and Tammy) started applying for preference points in his name when he was 10 years old. Those points made it possible for him to be successful in the drawing for a license this year when he was old enough to hunt with a rifle for the first time.

Brandon hunted on the 15th, but all he and his father saw were squirrels, raccoons and a skunk. The 19th was the boy’s second chance to hunt. The bear he shot appeared at 7:10 p.m. Central Time, coming from the right.

When the bruin was broadside at a distance of 20 to 25 yards, Brandon took aim with a scoped .270 caliber rifle and fired. Since the animal turned and ran off, Brandon said he thought he missed. He also said he thought the bear looked small.

But Brandon didn’t miss, nor was the bruin small. After getting help to look for the bear, they found blood confirming a hit and then the bruin. It had only traveled about 50 yards after being struck by a 150 grain bullet.

The bear was so big, it took five adults to lift the field dressed carcass into a vehicle for transport. The animal was weighed the next morning at Outdoor Ventures Taxidermy in Marquette, where it was taken for skinning and mounting. Ice was used to keep the carcass cool to avoid spoilage of the meat before it was taken to the taxidermist.

The bear weighed 400 pounds. It would have had a live weight around 450 pounds. The bruin was 75 inches in length from nose to tail and had a chest girth of 58 inches. A front foot was six inches wide.

The bear’s skull will easily be big enough to qualify for listing in state records and may even be large enough to qualify for national records maintained by the Boone and Crockett Club.

Although this was Brandon’s first big game hunt, he has done some small game hunting. He got his first turkey during the spring of 2008 when he was 11.

Both of Brandon’s parents have also taken trophy black bears from the same Iron County blind where he scored. Jeff got a large female in 2002 that had a dressed weight of 340 pounds. Tammy got a 500 pound male the following year.