11/20/09 — Hunter's first bear is state's second heaviest

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Hunter's first bear is state's second heaviest

By Mike Marsh
Published in Sports on November 20, 2009 1:47 PM

Dr. Noel Harvey hunted during his youth. But a busy life kept the 46-year-old Ph.D. scientist from Efland from hunting until he decided to go again five years ago.

Harvey hunted wild hogs and deer in a quest for all North Carolina's big game. Trying for a black bear, he booked a hunt with Conman's Hunting Guide Service and Vacation Rentals. He was in Hyde County when the coastal black bear season opened Nov. 9.

"We left some standing crops in the field," said Mike Noles of Conman's. "Someone killed a bear at 8:30 a.m. We were tracking it when we heard more shots. Dr. Harvey called on the radio and asked us to get to where he was quickly because he shot a really big bear."

Noles had taken Harvey to a tower stand overlooking a lane through a pocosin -- an upland swamp with thick vegetation. Harvey experienced an abbreviated bear hunt the previous year.

"Last year, my next door neighbor passed away so I had to go home the second day of the hunt," said Harvey. "I saw a bear that morning, but was so surprised I didn't shoot. It was 10 a.m. when he jumped out of the pocosin and into the shooting lane.

"If I had my wits about me I could have gotten a shot."

Harvey came to camp alone this year, but many of the same hunters were there he had seen the previous year. He said all four hunters in his cabin got shots at bears.

Two missed.

Harvey didn't.

"I got in the stand before 5:30. It was so foggy I didn't think I would see anything. But it burned off about 7:30 and I could see 100 yards down the lane. About 8 a.m. I could smell a cow that had been eating corn, but with no cows around it had to be a bear," said Harvey. "About 8:30, I heard a twig snap. A big bear stepped into the shooting lane behind me. I tried to turn around to shoot and he heard me and hopped back into the pocosin.

"Then he crossed the shooting lane."

The same scenario was playing out as the previous year. Harvey heard two shots from the direction the bear was heading. He thought someone else killed the bear.

"I was hoping to see another hunter with the big bear on the ground," Harvey said. "But around 9 a.m., I heard something splashing through the water on the same side where the bear had gone into the pocosin. I focused my attention on the lane. All of a sudden the birds in the pocosin just took off.

"I figured something would come out of there. The bear stepped into the shooting lane and began digging."

It was still foggy, but the huge bear was still visible. Harvey shot the bear with a .270 WSM-caliber Benelli semi-automatic rifle.

"I heard the bullet strike and saw mist go up behind him so I knew I hit him behind the shoulder," he said. "But the bear shook his head and just stood there, looking in my direction. I shot again and he took a step toward the pocosin. I tried to shoot him in shoulder, but hit his leg. I shot a fourth time and he rolled on his back.

"I loaded another round. He stood again, I shot again and he rolled to the left hand side of the lane. I shot again, trying to hit his head, but cracked his lower jaw. I had shot six times in 20 seconds, had one bullet left and couldn't see him any longer."

Noles said it took seven men to load the bear into a truck. He weighed the bear on agricultural scales and the weight was certified at 760 pounds. The heaviest North Carolina hunter-harvested bear on record weighed 880 pounds.

"Colleen Olfenbuttel, the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission's Bear Biologist and Dale Davis, the Commission's Northern Coastal Management Biologist came to take measurements and tooth samples," said Noles. "Colleen said it was the second-heaviest bear ever taken by a hunter in North Carolina. It looks like the bear's skull will also score high, making it our fourth Boone and Crockett bear."