February 01, 2018

Most bear hunters either hunt over bait or with hounds, but the Wilde Family from Howell found out that double teaming bruins by employing both methods can be twice as effective. Jim Wilde and his two sons, Lucius and Dawson, managed to fill their tags by using both methods.

Jim got a monster Charlevoix County bruin that should be the biggest taken in the state this year while hunting over bait. Lucius and Dawson both scored with the help of hounds and the one Dawson tagged is also of trophy proportions.

The black bear that Jim shot on the evening of September 11 had a dressed weight of 565 pounds and would have had a live weight of at least 650 pounds. Dawson’s bear tipped the scales at 354 pounds. The chase for that bear started in Charlevoix County, but ended up in Emmet County where Dawson shot it.

Dawson Wilde with his 354-pounder taken hunting with dogs.

Lucius was the first member of the family to score. He shot his bear in Charlevoix County after dogs treed it. That bruin wasn’t weighed.

“We ran dogs in the mornings and sat baits in the evening,” Wilde said.

He was hunting with his two sons and some friends who all had tribal bear tags for the Red Oak Bear Management Unit. Their hunt started on September 8.

“We didn’t even know the big one was there,” Wilde explained. “We had trail camera photos of smaller bears on that bait, including one with three legs, but not the big one.”

The exceptional bruin approached the bait about 8 p.m. on the 11th.

“That’s a decent bear,” Jim said he thought to himself when he saw the animal. “That’s a nice looking bear. I wonder if it’s the one with three legs?”

Wilde said he thought about raising his binoculars to look at the bear to see if it had three legs.

“A couple of days earlier, a small bear showed up at the bait and I bumped my binoculars against my rifle when trying to get a better look at that bear. He bolted right out of there in response to the sound. I didn’t want to risk having that happen again, so I forgot about the binoculars. I figured it didn’t matter whether it was the 3-legged bear anyway.

“When I looked up again, the bear was gone. I was wondering where he went when he reappeared from behind a couple of trees. Then I got a better look at him and thought, Wow. He looks like a really nice bear.”

Jim was hunting from a treestand 22 yards from the bait the beast was homing in on. The stand was 18 feet from the ground. His perch gave him a good view of the bruin and he decided to take it. He was hunting with a brand new .338 Federal rifle mounted with a Leupold tactical scope, part of which included a red dot sight.

“I put the red dot under his chin on his chest and eased into the trigger. When he started to run, I shot him again in the shoulder.”

The bear barely made it 15 yards before collapsing after being hit with a pair of 200-grain Federal Trophy Copper bullets. Soon afterward, Jim got a text from a friend who was hunting about a mile away confirming his shoot.

Wilde could see the bear was dead and he had to pick up his buddies, so he climbed down from the stand and went to his vehicle without even looking at the bear. When they returned and finally looked at the bear, one of Jim’s buddies commented, “I never seen a bear that big, not even in a zoo!”

With four men pulling at the same time, they could only move the carcass five inches. They eventually employed some ropes and vehicles to move the heavyweight bear.

The big bear’s skull is certain to be large enough to qualify for national big game records maintained by the Boone & Crockett Club. It is only the second bear to Jim’s credit. He shot his first bear in Dickinson County about five years ago that weighed 250 pounds.

Dawson’s bear is sure to have a skull large enough to qualify for state records. Cleaned bear skulls that dry for 60 days only have to score 18 to qualify for state records maintained by Commemorative Bucks of Michigan. The minimum for entry of bear skulls in Boone & Crockett Records is 20. A tally of 21 is required for all-time listing in Boone & Crockett.

Jim wants to thank friend Deny Graham from Boyne Falls for the bear hunting success of he and his sons. Graham maintained the baits they hunted over and owns the dogs that they hunted with.