For Michael Taylor of Raleigh, N.C., a routine bear hunt on Dec. 17 in an Edgecombe County swamp thicket turned into a monumental experience when a 640-pound male black bear stepped out 15 feet from him along the trail without any dogs or any other hunters in sight. 

“I was all alone in the woods after the dogs left the county chasing a sow and her three cubs. Everybody else left to catch the dogs and I was left in the woods without a ride. But, then I heard something coming through the woods,” Taylor said. “After all of the commotion going on, I figured any of the bears had scattered and it must be a big buck slipping through. And since it was deer season, I was getting ready to get myself a big buck.”

Or so he thought. A few minutes later, the largest creature he has ever seen walked out of the thick brush just a few feet away from Taylor. He was taken by surprise, but it took only a brief moment to shoulder his 30-30 rifle and prepare to make the shot of his life.    

 “His head was the size of my Yeti cooler. It was the biggest bear I had ever seen in my life,” he said.

With the bear only 15 feet away, he didn’t waste any time and shot the bear right behind the ear. 

“He hit the ground so fast, his fat jiggled,” he said. 

Not only was this the biggest bear he had ever seen, it was Taylor’s first bear harvest ever and is one of the largest black bears to ever come from Edgecombe County. 

Taylor was hunting with bear hunting extraordinaire, Ashley Wishall of Adventures Plus Outfitters (252-809-2939), who books bear hunts years in advance. Wishall runs bears with his long-legged hounds down east typically on his 10,000-acre leases nestled in Bertie and Beaufort Counties. But, trail camera images of a 500-plus pound bear on this 1500-acre block of woods in Edgecombe County convinced him to try this tract instead. 

Taylor was sure glad they did. The massive bear really caused some excitement in the local hunting community where a bear of this size is considered extremely uncommon. 

“His paws were the size of basketballs. It took eight grown men to get him in the back of the truck and if he would have weighed five more pounds, we would have needed to get a tractor to load him,” he said. 

Greg Batts, the District 2 Wildlife Biologist for the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission retrieved the molars from Taylor’s bear to properly age it, which he estimated at over 12-years-old. 

“It was not how we expected the day to end, but lo and behold, we killed the biggest bear on the property and probably in the entire area. It was a good day and I am glad that I was standing there when he decided to walk across that trail,” Taylor said.