J. B. Martin with his book bear, he took on September 11, 2023, which was the first day of the second hunt last fall.

The highest-scoring black bear entered in the state records maintained by Commemorative Bucks of Michigan from the 2023 seasons was taken by J. B. Martin from Kimball. It was bagged in the U.P.’s Ontonagon County while hunting over bait. The skull from that bear scored 21 8/16, according to CBM. Bear skulls have to measure a minimum of 18 to qualify for state records. That score is arrived at by adding measurements of the skull’s length and width.

Kimball’s bear also qualified for national records kept by the Boone and Crockett Club. A score of 21 is the minimum for the all-time listing of bears in B&C Records.

The bruin that grew that skull was also one of the oldest taken by hunters in the state during the 2023 seasons. The DNR aged the animal at 21 years old, according to Martin. He said he knew the animal was old based on the condition of its teeth.

“The bear’s teeth were worn down to the gums,” Martin said. “That male was very old.”

A photograph Martin took of the right side of the skull shows that the canine tooth on the upper jaw is broken, with only a stub of the tooth remaining. The canine tooth on the right side of the lower jaw is missing. Canine teeth on the left side are still intact but obviously worn down from years of use.

Due to the bear’s age and worn teeth, he wasn’t in the best physical condition.

“The bear had a field-dressed weight of 385 pounds,” Martin said. “We figured his live weight would have been about 450 pounds. That bear probably weighed more a couple of years ago.”

There’s not always a connection between the weight of bears and the size of their skulls. The heaviest bruins don’t always have the biggest skulls. Terry Grieser from Lakeview, for example, tagged one of the heaviest bears taken in the state in Delta County on October 10, 2023, while hunting with hounds. That bear had a live weight of 655 pounds, and the skull has an official score of 20 14/16. The animal was 12 years old.

Martin’s bear looks old on game camera photos captured of it at the bait it was visiting prior to the opening of bear season. Part of the animal’s right ear is missing. The ear was probably damaged during a fight with another male during the breeding season.

J.B. shot his book bear on September 11, 2023, which was the first day of the second hunt last fall.

“He came into the bait about 8:15 p.m.,” Martin explained. “It was almost dark. I shot him in the right shoulder with my Remington 870 12 gauge, and he went right down.”

J.B.’s shotgun was mounted with a variable Bushnell Scope that he had set at 5X. He shot the bear with a 3-inch Remington solid copper sabot hollow point slug. He was hunting from a pop-up blind about 75 yards from the bait.

“I knew it was a big bear when I shot him, but I didn’t know how big he was until I walked up to him,” Martin commented. “When I saw how big he was, I started freaking out.”

J.B. said he has bagged three or four other bears in Michigan over the years. The biggest one to his credit prior to last fall weighed 300 pounds. He got that one in Marquette County in 2011. The skull from that bear wasn’t measured.

J.B. was hunting with his lifelong hunting partner and cousin Dean Martin. Dean didn’t get a bear.

“A friend of ours set the baits for us that we hunted,” J.B. added.

To enter a bear, deer, turkey or elk into state records, refer to the list of measures on CBM’s website, www.buckfax.com.