Hunting at Long Bluff Hunting Club on Dec. 12, 2015, Salemburg resident Ken Spell took a 720-pound black bear. Spell said it is the biggest bear ever reported from Pender County.
An avid bear hunter for 15 years, Spell was hunting with other members and their guests. He said he had taken several other bears in the past that weighed more than 500 pounds.
The club hunts on about 10,000 acres of Carolina bays, cornfields and forestlands along the Black River. Agriculture is the key to producing super-sized bears, therefore, the state’s heavyweights typically come from northeastern counties that have more acreage devoted to row crops, rather than southeastern counties like Pender.
“I knew a big bear was in the area and we were trying to figure out his feeding pattern,” Spell said. “We had seen his tracks and had a photo of him on a trail camera. We had been scoping the area out and saw where he was crossing a ditch. We found the tracks about 9 a.m.”
The hunters turned two dogs loose. When the hounds crossed the ditch and headed into the woods, they were not barking much.
“They probably didn’t go 100 yards when they found the bear, lying down,” he said. “That’s when they really started up. We turned loose more dogs until there were eight blue-ticks, Walkers and Plotts. The Plotts were mine. The others belonged to Justin and Stevie Barefoot. He kept moving and they kept baying him. My son, Blake Spell, and his friend, Cullen Cottle, got to the bear first. I was on a skidder path in the bay, waiting for them to shoot.”
Blake Spell, a 19-year-old Pitt Community College student, said the biggest bear he had taken weighed 450 pounds. However, he has seen many large bears.
“I figured it was just a regular, 500-pound bear,” he said. “We heard the dogs baying and trailing so we went in and saw the bushes shaking 30-yards away. The bear was bouncing up and down, trying to scare the dogs. I crawled within 10-feet and was pulling the hammer back on my rifle and trying to get him in the sights when a dog jumped in the way. He looked at the dog, saw me behind it, and took off running. Thirty seconds later, my Dad shot.”
Ken Spell said while bears can run through the woods without making much sound, this bear sounded like a horse running through the woods, tearing down the bay bushes.
“The bear came out in the path five yards from me, moving fast,” Ken Spell said. “When he came out, one of the other hunters shot at him with a .30-30, but it did not phase him. I gave it a spilt-second to see if the bear was going to fall then shot the bear in the chest with a 12-gauge slug. He stopped dead in his tracks.”
The hunters used an ATV to drag the bear out of the bay. That’s when Spell realized how heavy it was because the ATV could barely budge it. As participants in the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission’s Bear Cooperator program, the hunters weighed the bear on certified scales at Newton Grove, took measurements, and removed the premolar teeth for age analysis. It takes a 725-pound bear to make it into the state’s top ten, but around 20 bears have weighed more than 700 pounds.
“I am going to have the entire bear mounted,” Spell said. “I never thought I would kill one that big, but the Lord blessed me with a big one to take.”
Mike Marsh is a writer for North Carolina Sportsman magazine.