Hunters need not travel to Canada or Alaska to take a record-sized black bear. Eastern North Carolina's mix of agriculture and rural wilderness is a haven for one of the largest aggregations of black bears in the world – and some of the biggest, as evidenced by an enormous bear killed in Washington County on Dec. 14.

A group of die-hard bear hunters brought a whopping 780-pound bruiser to the scales that day, a boar that, while believed to be the second-heaviest bruin ever killed in North Carolina, remains more than 100 pounds shy of the state record – which is also the world record.

"We knew he was a big bear, but we had no idea it weighed near 800 pounds," said John Bramble of Williamston, part of a group of hunters that chased the bear with hounds. "(We) usually kill 10 to 15 bears per year, but none have ever come close to the size of this one."

Bramble and several of his bear-hunting fanatic buddies, including Jason Price, Gordon Price, and the hunter responsible for the fatal shot, Brandon "Big Red" Barnes, stumbled across the deep impression of this beast shortly after sunrise on the fifth day of the second season in Washington County. 

"Jason spotted the big track in the road at a trail crossing, and he claimed it was at least a 500-pound bear," Bramble says. "We put out two Walkers (hounds) on the trail: one good trail dog named "Rebel" and a good pack dog."

Within 20 minutes, the dogs caught up to the bear downwind of the hunters and had it at bay in the middle of a pine plantation. 

Bramble and a couple of others busted into the woods and got to the bear quickly. The bear was fending off the dogs in the thick briars and reeds just five yards away.  

"I was trying to get one of the other guys to take a shot at him, but they couldn't see him good enough to take a good shot," Bramble said. "So I fired off two shots off." 

Neither of the two .30-06 rounds penetrated the bear's skull, and it took off deeper into the thicket. The group put several more dogs on the trail, bringing to 10 the number of hounds in the chase. 

Finally, Barnes took off into the woods where the dogs had the bear at bay again, nearly 1,000 yards from where it was originally jumped.   

"Big Red took off into the woods and fired off one shot to the head, killing it at five yards," Bramble said. "And he piled up on the ground."  

It took the group just under an hour to move the huge bear 300 yards to the nearest road. When their portable scales showed 790 pounds, the hunters decided to get an official weight from a set of certified scales at a nearby farm. The bear tipped those scales at 780 pounds.  

The hunters extracted a tooth from the bear, as they do with each one they kill, to give to the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission to get an accurate age for the bear. Based on the average size and life span of bears in the eastern third of the state, they expect the big board to be between 10 and 20 years old.