In what will probably be remembered as one of the more dismal bear seasons in recent memory, Dale Samples of Greenville can hold his head high after taking a 160-pound bruin by bow on Sunday, Oct. 19.
Samples, a dedicated bowhunter, said he’s been trying to take a bear with a bow for the past three years, but his work schedule kept getting in the way.
The still-hunt season for bears in the Mountain Region of Game Zone 1 ran for one week on private lands from Oct. 17-23. Planning ahead, Samples scheduled time a week off from work and entered the woods on a private tract of land he leases with friends in Oconee County, just north of Salem.
Having hunted on Sunday morning, Samples returned to a hardwood area about 3 p.m. and began his evening hunt.
“About 6:30, a bear came in from over the ridge,” said Samples. “It was exciting just to see a bear since the forecast has been so bad this year. He was pretty decent size, a little over 160 pounds and he fed around and gave me a shot at about 20 yards,”
Fearing he had hit the bear too far back, Samples called a couple of buddies to help him track the bear, which he said went nearly straight down through the mountain laurel toward a creek.
“It was a pretty good blood trail, but trailing a bear isn’t like trailing a deer,” he said. “We had pistols drawn the whole time, and at one point, something crashed through the woods ahead of us, and we didn’t know what to expect.”
Finally finding the bear, Samples and his friends used a variety of pushing, pulling and floating the animal down the creek to get it back to the truck. All things considered, it was an exciting bear hunt during an off year.
SCDNR officials pointed out that the bear population in the mountains is as strong as ever, and a poor season is being blamed on an abundance of acorn production in the higher elevations with fewer or spotty production.
“It was bound to happen,” said Richard Morton, an SCDNR biologist based in Clemson. “We’ve had several extremely good hunt seasons back-to-back, and this year, the bears just followed the food and for the most part, went the other way.”