A change in regulations allowing still-hunters in Game Zone 1 to target both whitetail deer and black bear paid off big for Heath Smith of Easley on Monday. That’s when he killed a huge Greenville County bear that is the biggest ever taken on record in South Carolina.
Smith was hunting a private 360-acre tract he leases near Gowensville when the monster bear walked within gun range of his deer stand. Smith took the animal with a single shot from his .30-06 rifle.
“I was in my stand when four does entered a food plot and began acting very nervous,” said Smith. “A little while later, the deer eased off and I saw this bear crossing a shooting lane about 170 yards from me. It was almost dark, but I picked him up in the scope and managed to get a good shot on him right in the lungs. We found him within 40 yards. There was no blood trail at all, and the bullet never exited the bear.”
Smith and a couple of buddies have leased the land for four years, and while he describes it as a prime piece of property, has yet to kill a shooter buck on the lease. While the group manages the property for trophy bucks, they had seen 10 different bears on trail cameras, including the bear that Smith killed – several times.
“One of my buddies, Haden Holcombe, killed a 250-pound bear here over the week-end,” said Smith, “and we’ve got some nice deer on camera, but to be honest, I was getting a little frustrated because we never see the big bucks during daylight.”
After his kill, Smith contacted the S.C. Department of Natural Resources in accordance with regulations on his bear tag, and he had the bear certified by biologists. The bear was officially weighed at 609 pounds and eclipses the previous state record, a 594- pound animal killed in Oconee County in 2007.
“A bear that weighs 500 pounds in South Carolina is a big bear,” said biologist Richard Morton of SCDNR, who verified the information collected by his staff. “We did not kill a 500-pound bear last year, but had three killed the year before. At 609 pounds, this animal is truly a big bear for this part of the country.”
Smith plans to have the animal mounted and have the skull scored for the Boone and Crockett record book after a 60-day drying period.
“We score both deer and bear by Boone and Crockett standards,” said Morton. “If this one makes the official Boone and Crockett record book of 21 inches, it will be one of the few, if not the only one, to ever qualify from South Carolina.”