Frankie Sanders of Mountain Rest didn’t wait too long after the 2012 gun season for bear opened on Oct. 17 to take one of the first bears taken this year in Oconee County. Sanders’ first bear weighted approximately 250 pounds.
The hunt really started many years ago when Sanders was scouting for deer on public land in Oconee County. He noticed a large pile of droppings but didn’t recognize what animal might have left it. He also noticed the leaves were raked back like something has looking for acorns.
“It looked like somebody had a yard rake in there,” said Sanders, who finally noticed some claw marks on a tree and realized it was a bear.
The next time that Sanders was in the same area, squirrel-hunting with his kids, they saw a bear. A year later, deer hunting in the same area, he saw another bear and decided to get a bear tag and give it a try.
Last year, Sanders got a bear tag and scouted the area several times, finding plenty of sign, but he had no success during the short season.
This year, Sanders’ hunt started around dawn last Wednesday. After he had climbed up in his deer stand and pulled up his rifle, he let his haul rope fall back down, and suddenly, he felt a tug.
“A thought scared me that I was about to fall out of the stand,” Sanders said.
Grabbing the stand, Sanders looked down and saw a bear cub on the ground beside his tree, the haul rope in its mouth.
“He was chewing on it like a puppy,” Sanders said. “I grabbed the rope and started tugging.”
Shortly thereafter, another cub and a sow bear showed up, and the first cub dropped the rope; the three scampered off and went about their business.
Around 8 o’clock, another bear showed up. Sanders guessed its weight about 150 pounds, but he knew that there was a bigger bear to be gotten.
Sitting in his stand, thinking he should have shot that bear when he had the chance, he looked back behind the stand and saw a black object on a ridge, moving his way.
Sanders lost sight of the bear when it came down off the ridge, then, when he saw it again, it was coming toward his stand.
“I let it keep coming and got a good look and knew it was over 200 pounds because it was bigger than me,” Sanders said.
The bear topped the ridge and walked in front of the stand. Then, turning broadside, the bear turned to walk away, which gave Sanders a perfect, quartering-away shot, at 40 yards.
Sanders took the shot, putting a 180-grain bullet from his .308 rifle right under the bear’s shoulder. The animal dropped within 30 yards.