Most truly huge bears come from the northeastern counties of the state, but Duplin County hunter Cody Brown bagged one near Kenansville that weighed 695-pounds on Nov. 11, 2015. Deanna Noble, the N.C. Wildlife Commission's Technical Assistance Biologist, weighed the bear.
"I was covering Jones, Lenoir and Duplin counties that day," Noble said. I got the call from one of the enforcement officers to meet the hunters at Brown's Service Center in Kenansville. He said it was a big one and that it would go 700 pounds. In my mind, I wondered if it was going to be that big. But, when I pulled up and saw it on the dog box in the back of the truck I thought, wow that is a nice bear."
Noble used two scales to weigh the bear and wondered if her new winch would be capable of lifting it. She doubled the pulleys to create twice the lifting power and had a new electric winch, but said it was all the winch could handle.
Brown was hunting with his boss, Patrick Byrd.
"I didn't even have to call in for time off work," Brown said. "I always hunt with Patrick. We were on his hunting club's land. The dogs ran about 30 minutes and I don't think the bear ever moved. He wasn't scared at all."
Byrd told Brown to head to the dogs with Gene Garris and Justin Byrd, his older brother. Brown followed Garris until they were 50 yards from the bear, and Garris told him to move ahead.
"When I got close enough to see a dog, I knew the bear was close," Brown said. "We had been crawling, I was on my belly and the bear was 10 feet away. I shot it between the eyes with a .45-70-caliber Marlin guide rifle."
The bear fell. However, Brown shot it in the head again to make sure the enormous bear was down for good.
"I didn't get excited until then," he said. "Then the adrenaline rush hit. I was shaking."
It took 90 minutes to drag the bear out of the woods using a gasoline-powered winch. Patrick Byrd called enforcement officer Milton Grady, who contacted Nobles.
"The bear got fat on sweet potatoes," Byrd said. "It's a shame he didn't eat a few more that morning, but we have still been calling him a 700-pound bear. I fed him for four or five years, but he finally slipped up and stayed close enough for the dogs to find. He would hang around during bow season and the beginning of deer season then you wouldn't see him anymore. A game camera showed he came on Sunday, didn't come on Monday and then we got him on Wednesday morning. We checked the game camera after the hunt was over and saw that he had come at 10:30 the night before. We turned out one strike dog on his track at 6:30 then turned out the others. They were Plotts blue-ticks, Walkers and mixed breeds. We hunt bears two or three times a week, but if we don't see a bear track, we don't turn out the dogs."
Byrd joked that if he had known the bear was that big, he might have gone into the cover to shoot the bear himself. However, he was happy for Brown because it was his first bear.
"I took him to Big Al's Taxidermy in Kenansville," Brown said. "He is going to make a full-body mount. He's so big I might have to build a building to put him in."