Eastern N.C. bear hunters can only growl about weather

Mike Grigg killed a 550-pound boar that has been green scored 22 3/8 B&C inches. This bear was killed during a spot-and-stalk Nov. 10 from 1.2 miles away with guide Culley Wilson in Tyrrell County.

The first segments of the black bear season at eastern N.C.’s traditional hot spots provided some outstanding results, with the only drawback a mid-week weather system that brought torrential rain, high winds and even a November tornado.

The first three days (Nov. 10-12) of the split season saw dog and still hunters scoring on several ENC bears that weighed more than 500 pounds.

Greg Petersen of Parkersburg and M.G. Futtrell of Goldsboro — hunting with a group of two dozen dog hunters from the mountains, piedmont and coastal regions — hacked their way through a dense thicket near Aurora Nov. 11 to get in front of a big bruin and down a 344-pound male bear.

The bear-dog aficianodoes from Crossnore, Spruce Pine and Asheville to Gibsonville in the Piedmont and Parkersburg in the southeast treed three bears Monday and pulled the dogs away. Stand hunters also saw more than a dozen black bears but never lifted a gun.

“They were all too small,” said Steve Earwood of Spruce Pine. “I had a female with three cubs less than 10 feet from me, but you don’t take females with cubs.”

Earwood saw 11 black bears opening day.

Junior Andrews, a legendary bear hunter from Gibsonville, proudly noted the restraint his dog hunting club employed.

“We have so many bear because we don’t take small bear, and we always try to let the females live so they can raise more bear,” he said. “That’s why we’re having so many races today.

“Bear hunting for us is all about the dogs anyway.”

Meanwhile, about 55 miles to the north, clients of Culley Wilson (Wild Wings Outfitters, 919-349-6381, www.huntwildwing.com) had successful hunts Monday through Wednesday at Tyrrell County. Mike Grigg bagged a 550-pound black bear Nov. 10 at Wilson’s still-hunting lease that borders Pettigrew State Park. The next day Steve Hurd of Burlington downed a 280-pounder and on Wednesday, Tommy Marsh of Ararat shot a 178-pound black bear.

Also on Nov. 10, hunting at Lake Shore Farms in Hyde County, Thomas Webb of Greenville shot a 490-pounder, Thomas Covington of Wilmington bagged a 600-pound black bear, and Rodney Glass of Belhaven’s bear weighed 547 pounds. Moreover, two of these hunters took a bear from the same stand that day.

Bear hunters kept biologists with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission busy across eastern N.C., weighing tagged animals and extracting body parts to check the health of individual animals at the time of harvest.

But a Nov. 13 weather system pushed through the region from the southwest, creating intermittent rain showers driven by gusty wind. By Friday the rain had turned into a “sou’wester,” complete with thunder, lightning, blinding downpours and high winds. Several tornadoes spawned by the front struck the region, destroyed multiple homes and caused two fatalities.

Most bear movement ceased by Thursday noon as the bruins also sought refuge in dense swamps and thickets.

“I don’t think (bears) mind the rain, but I don’t think they like to be out when the wind’s blowing so hard because they can’t hear anything,” Wilson said. “Bear don’t have good eyesight, but their hearing and sense of smell is better than deer. Anything that interferes with that causes them to stop moving. They just get in the swamps and thickets and hole up.”

“At dinner Friday night,  I offerred the hunters an opportunity to come back on the second hunt of the December season for Friday afternoon and all day Saturday in place of sitting another day in the wind and rain. I only had one hunter booked.  Not surprising, everyone accepted even though five  bears were seen Friday.”

The rain also swept away bear scent, so dog hunting black bears was basically a waste of time.

Hunters still have plenty of time to attempt to garner a bear (one bear per hunter is the season bag limit). The first eastern bear seasons (Nov. 8-15, Nov. 10-15) have ended, but the second-season segment dates include (depending upon the county) Dec. 15-Jan.1, 2009; Dec. 15-Dec. 27; Nov. 10-Jan. 1, 2009; Dec. 15-Dec. 17; and Dec. 1-20.

Check page 44 of the 2000-09 N.C. Fishing, Hunting and Trapping Regulations Digest for information about N.C.’s bear seasons.

About Craig Holt 1382 Articles
Craig Holt of Snow Camp has been an outdoor writer for almost 40 years, working for several newspapers, then serving as managing editor for North Carolina Sportsman and South Carolina Sportsman before becoming a full-time free-lancer in 2009.

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