Last September, John Koon from Manistee bagged a black bear with a skull large enough to qualify for national records maintained by the Boone and Crockett Club in Manistee County, according to Commemorative Bucks of Michigan. CBM measurers came up with an official score of 21 2/16 for the skull and 21 is the minimum for entry in all-time Boone and Crockett Records. Bear skulls only have to measure 18 to make it into state records.
Manistee County is in the Baldwin Bear Management Unit (BMU). The bear John shot was smaller than the one he was after, but it still proved to be big enough.
“I had trail camera pictures of a bear that had a blemish on his back,” Koon said. “It was actually a big brown spot. That was the bear I was after. It was the biggest bear that I had photos of.
“I think the one with the brown spot was a little bigger than the one I shot. I didn’t have any photos of the one I ended up shooting.”
John said he passed up two or three bears on the first day of his hunt as well as others on subsequent days, but he wasn’t sure if the ones he saw each day were different animals or the same ones.
“I didn’t want to shoot a yearling that only weighed 100 pounds,” he said. “I’m not sure how many different bears I passed up, but I saw bears every day. There were quite a few of them in the area.”
John was hunting from a tree stand about 40 yards from a bait. His grandson, Jacob, was hunting with him. John said Jacob has applied for a state-issued bear license in the Baldwin Unit for a number of years without success. As a member of the Little River Band of Indians, John drew a tribal bear license two years in a row.
Koon shot his first bear during 2017 that weighed approximately 300 pounds. He was hunting the same bait when he bagged his Booner. It was the evening of September 13 or 14 when John scored.
“We saw what looked like a shooter back in the swamp, but it disappeared,” John remembered. “The one I shot came to the bait a little later. There was still plenty of light left, and it was obvious he was a shooter. I watched him for about 15 minutes until he turned broadside.”
Then John put a bullet from his .30-06 through the bear’s chest.
“He took off when I shot,” Koon stated. “He ran right underneath the treestand I was in.”
The bruin had a dressed weight of 435 pounds. Its live weight would have been close to 500 pounds.
“It took four guys and myself to get that bear out of the woods,” John said. “The bear’s ears, nose and face were scarred up from fighting.”