Sometimes it's hard to beat just "plain dumb luck," Dennis Chastain said.

A veteran hunter from Pickens, Chastain admitted he had plenty of that kind of luck during a recent still hunt during which he bagged a 485-pound black bear in South Carolina's Mountain Hunt Unit.

Entering the fourth day of the six-day season, Chastain and hunting partner Gene Kodama hadn't seen a bear, so they decided to focus their efforts in a different area.

"I said, 'If we don't do something different, the season's going to run out on us,'" Chastain said.

The move paid off in a big way.

The two hunters parted ways a little more than halfway up Pinnacle Mountain in northern Pickens County in the early morning darkness. While Kodama worked his way to a spot where Chastain had seen some bear sign before the season, Chastain continued up the mountain another 20 minutes or so to a relatively flat area where he'd also encountered sign.

Before he had time to catch his breath, cover his gray hair with his camouflage head net or remove the Remington Model 7 .380 from his shoulder, Chastain found himself confronted by "the biggest bear I've ever seen in the woods.

"He sees me at about the same time I see him, and he takes two steps behind a cluster of trees, obscuring his whole body," Chastain said.

Chastain quickly made a few steps to his right, perched his rifle against a sapling and took stock of his situation.

"That's when I realized that there was about an 8-inch gap between two trees where I could see his vital area," Chastain said.

It was 7:15 a.m. when Chastain squeezed off a shot, and then watched in amazement as the bear began casually strolling off, still broadside to Chastain about 40 yards away.

So Chastain fired a second shot, then a third, with neither eliciting any response from the bear.

"He's just walking away like nothing has happened, and I'm starting to wonder, 'Am I shooting blanks?'" Chastain said. "But after the third shot, he walked about 4 more feet, then plopped over – stone-cold dead."

When Chastain walked up on his bear, he found his bullet holes clustered in a 2-inch circle.

The bear resembled a black Angus bull.

"It looked too big to be real," Chastain said.

Chastain's bear weighed in at 485 pounds – the largest of 26 bears killed during the still-hunt portion of the season and the third-largest overall during the two-week season that concluded on Oct. 29.

Chastain said he shouldn't have been surprised by the location of his big kill: He shot a 400-pound bear in the vicinity three years earlier.

"It's like the perfect hideout," Chastain said, referring to the safety of nearby Table Rock State Park and the access-restricted Greenville County Watershed.

"That's why people don't put dogs on bears anywhere around Pinnacle," Chastain said. "The minute a bear hears dogs he knows where he needs to be and he's going to start climbing.

"Within minutes he's among the rock cliffs and out of reach of everybody on state park property."

But on this morning, things fell into place perfectly for Chastain, enabling him to claim the biggest bear he's bagged in 25 hunting seasons.

"It really comes down to just pure dumb luck," Chastain said. "The sign I put Gene on was just as good as what I was looking at. The bear just happened to be headed up the mountain instead of across.

"And if I'd gotten there three minutes later, I never would've known he was on that mountain."