15-Year Old Takes Potential State Record Black Bear!

Trophy Black bears weighing between 500 and 600 pounds were bagged in both the Upper Peninsula and northern Lower Peninsula during 2011 seasons, one of which will most likely be a state record. The potential state record bruin was taken by 15-year-old Mike Klein from Alpena while hunting over a bait in Montmorency County with his father, Denver. Although Klein’s bear was smaller, weight wise, than a number of other bears bagged this fall, what the bruin was taken with is what qualifies it as a possible state record.

Mike may have been the first person in the state to bag a bear with a crossbow that has a skull large enough to qualify for state records. No bruins that met those criteria had been entered in state records maintained by Commemorative Bucks of Michigan (CBM) through 2010. Black bear skulls only have to measure 18 to qualify for CBM records. The skull of Klein’s bear has a green score around 20, according to his father, who is a taxidermist.

The crossbow bear had a dressed weight of 440 pounds and would have had a live weight close to 500 pounds. Mike scored on the evening of September 17, which was the second day of bear season in the Red Oak Bear Management Unit. He couldn’t hunt on the 16th because he played in a high school football game.

“We hunted a bait on private land that my father had been baiting for a month in a big, thick cedar swamp,” Denver added. “It’s a prime area for bear.

“Based on trail camera photos, I identified 19 different bears that hit that bait. A lot of them only came in one time and when there was no food left, they didn’t return. The bears that were coming to that bait regularly included two females that each had two cubs and another female had three cubs.

“We have photos of three different males of the caliber my son shot that had been at the bait and one of them was a little larger than the one Mike got.”

Due to the fact trail camera photos of bears visiting the bait at various times of day had been recorded, the Kleins got in position in a ground blind 27 yards from the bait at 10:00 a.m. on September 17. They saw two small males and a female with twin cubs before the big boy made an appearance late in the day. Mike made a heart shot with a 185 pound pull Ten Point crossbow and the bruin only made it 30 yards before expiring. The Easton aluminum arrow Mike fired from the crossbow was tipped with a 100 grain G5 broadhead.

Videographer Jordan Browne with Michigan Out-of-Doors TV was in the blind with the Kleins and he filmed the hunt for an episode of the program that aired September 29. To view the show online go to michiganoutofdoorstv.com.

The big bear is the third bruin to Mike’s credit. He bagged one that had a dressed weight of 180 pounds in Ontario with a compound bow during August of 2009. In 2007, Mike connected on his first Michigan bruin, which had a dressed weight of 140 pounds, with a .45/70 after his father transferred his drawing success in the bear license lottery to his son.

“We were only in the blind four minutes when he got his first Michigan bear,” Denver explained. “That was a short hunt. He got that one in Presque Isle County.

“Over the last 10 years, bear’s numbers have really exploded in this area. We used to only get two to four bears on a bait and we were happy with that. Now it’s not unusual to have 10, 12 or 15 different bears hitting a bait. It’s almost like the DNR isn’t issuing enough permits, but it’s good for those who get bear licenses.”

During his most recent hunt, Mike would have been happy to score on a bear bigger than his previous two. Denver was hoping his son would shoot one in the 300 pound class. The bruin he got exceeded both of their aspirations and then some.

“I’m very proud of my son,” Denver said. “When that male walked in, I knew it was a bear of a lifetime. It’s enjoyable to watch your son or daughter get a bear like that.

“When he was 13, he drew a Michigan elk tag and shot a bull with 5X6 antlers. He’s also taken some nice deer and a turkey with a long beard.”

Two of the heaviest bears reported so far were bagged in Menominee County. Glenn Rivard from Wallace connected on a monster that had a dressed weight of 513 pounds on the evening of September 21 while hunting over bait. That bruin would have been close to 600 pounds when alive.

Chris Groty from St. Ignace shot another giant near Wallace on September 13 that bottomed out a 550 pound scale before being field dressed and then weighed 493 pounds after its innards were removed. That bruin could have had a live weight of as much as 575 pounds.

Rivard didn’t use a trail camera to monitor bear activity on his bait, but he knew there was a big bear in the vicinity. He had seen its tracks.

“I knew he was big when I saw him,” Rivard said. “I saw him for the first time a couple of days before I shot him. He went and laid down behind the bait stump that time. I could have taken a shot, but it wouldn’t have been a very good one. I wanted a broadside shot on that bear. I snuck out of there and hoped he would come back.”

Glenn obviously did the right thing. He was hunting from a blind about 100 yards from the bait, making it easier for him to sneak out of the blind without spooking the bear at dark than if he had been hunting closer.

When the bear returned at 6:45 p.m. Central Time on the 21st, Glenn got the broadside shot he wanted. Rivard aimed for the bear’s shoulder with his .30-06, hoping to try to drop the bruin in its tracks with the 180 grain Nosler partition bullet he had handloaded for the occasion. The bullet hit behind the shoulder instead, taking out both lungs, but the bruin managed to run 100 yards before dying.

“I used a chainsaw to make a road close to where the bear was, so I could get my tractor in there,” Rivard said. “Otherwise it would have been tough to get that bear out of there. There was already a skid trail present. I just had to clear some fallen trees out of the way.”

Glenn said the green score of the skull from his bear was just under 21. Rivard shot another bear weighing about 250 pounds in 1995.

The bear Chris Groty shot in Menominee County was his third bruin. He’s been successful each time he’s drawn a tag. The other bears he shot weighed 175 and 190 pounds.

He said he would have been happy to take another bear similar in size to those he got previously, but isn’t complaining about scoring on a whopper. Chris hunts out of a camp with a group of friends. Those who have licenses, draw cards to determine which baited stand they will hunt.

“I saw a bear on opening day (Saturday, Sept.. 10),” Groty said. “It was at the base of the tree stand I was in. It bolted when I turned around to look at it. It was another big bear.”

Chris moved to a different tree stand on Tuesday, the 13th. Another member of the party had seen a bear at that spot the evening before, but it left without presenting a shot. A little after 7:00 p.m. Central Time, Groty heard something coming.

“I heard it come crashing out of the swamp behind me and to the left,” Chris said. “Bears normally don’t make any noise when they approach. This one was snapping twigs and making noise.”

When the bruin worked its way out in front of Groty, he dropped it in its tracks with a neck shot from his .300 short mag rifle, firing a 180 grain Accubond bullet.

“Until I walked up on the bear, I had no idea how big he was,” Groty said. “I was in shock when I saw how big he was. We had trail camera photos of a big bear that we thought would have weighed 300 to 350 pounds. We obviously underestimated his size based on the photos.”

The skull from Groty’s bear has a green score of 20 14/16. Also of interest is the fact the bruin’s left front leg had been broken in six places and healed. It had probably been hit by a vehicle when crossing a road.

Anthony Peters from Petoskey bagged a bruin that had a live weight of 510 pounds in Presque Isle County near Posen on September 17 while also hunting over bait. It was his second bear after drawing three tags. During his first attempt at bear hunting in 2000, he only saw a sow with cubs. In 2005, he bagged a 200-pounder.

He said he had trail camera photos of three different bears visiting his bait prior to the beginning of the 2011 season. He was hunting from a ground blind 30 yards from the bait when the big one appeared at 7:20 p.m. on the 17th.

“When this one came in I knew he was a good bear, but had no idea how good until I started to get him out of the woods,” Peters commented in an email. “I had a bunch of family and friends with me to help.”

Anthony shot the bruin with a 180 grain bullet from a .300 Winchester magnum rifle and it dropped on the spot, but he wisely put another round in the chamber as he approached the animal. The bear started to get up when he was 15 yards from it, so he was able to quickly shoot it in the neck to put it down for good.

“The size of the animal did not really sink in with me until I started to process the meat,” Anthony stated. “I have been enjoying the meals he provided every day and will for some time to come.”

Seventeen-year-old Alyssa Tarnowski from Manistee bagged a trophy bear, too, on September 17 while bait hunting with her father, Rich, in west Marquette County. The bruin she shot with a 180 grain bullet from a .30-06 had a live weight of 417 pounds and dressed weight of 357 pounds. She dropped the bear in its tracks at 7:15 p.m., but wisely put a fresh round in the chamber, so she was ready for a follow-up shot when the bear stood up. The second bullet put him down for good.