USA: Hyde County NC Black Bear Hunt

PHOENIX PHIL

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Well with it seeming like my hunting buddy @AZ KJ and I are destined to never draw another elk tag in Arizona and Covid making travel so tough, we decided to do a bear hunt this year somewhere. We gave thought to Canada, but our friends up north for quite awhile were not welcoming U.S. residents due to Covid.

Long story short, we decided on an outfit in the famed black bear area of northeastern NC, specifically Hyde County. It was in this county that Eva Shockey shot an absolutely huge black bear a few years ago as you may recall. No, we didn't hunt with that outfitter but chose one that was not even half the price. Our outfitter was Lily Pond Creek Outfitters, specifically Dock Boone is the owner. He runs multiple hunts to include deer, turkey, upland birds and of course black bear.

The "lodge" that you stay in is a small home, I believe a manufactured home. It is clean and comfortable enough. You will sleep in a bed and be able to take a shower. Good enough. This home is a place to eat breakfast, make your lunch in the morning if you plan to stay out all day, come back to at night for dinner and then off to bed. Unless your party happens to fill the house up, you're likely going to share it with other hunters as we did. That was fine for us, we met some nice gents from that part of the country and enjoyed the time.

The country you bear hunt is swamp country. As the bird flies, I don't believe you're more than 25 miles west of the Atlantic Ocean. The property he hunts is private and is surrounded by a wildlife refuge. The land in this area is used greatly to grow cotton and peanuts. And bears love peanuts. Due to the temperatures never getting too cold, the bears are active virtually year round and have an ample food supply, thus they get big.

Now not all of the land is suitable for cultivation. The uncultivated land is essentially swamp and is virtually impenetrable. You simply could not walk in that stuff for any appreciable distance. The only way to make headway in that is on your hands and knees. Thus a spot/stalk hunt just isn't an effective way to hunt. As such, on the ground where you bear hunt, Dock has cleared various paths for four wheelers or pickups to travel down and has created numerous spots to setup bait barrels.

The bait barrels are full of peanuts and have holes punched in them every so often up/down and around the barrel. The bears can work those holes with their paws, mouths and/or tip the barrels over and roll them around to get the peanuts out. It is quite comical actually to watch them. After spilling out a bunch of peanuts, they proceed to lay down and enjoy a nice leisurely meal. As the peanut pile directly in front of them gets a little low, they just reach out with their from paws and scoop up a new mound to eat from. One thing that I found quite funny is the bears do not care for the shells. They will bite down on the peanuts, swallow the nut but spit the shells out.

We were to start our hunt on the Sunday prior to Thanksgiving, and it was a 4 day hunt, thus Wednesday was to be our last. KJ used to live here in the Phoenix area and is how we know each other. But a couple few years back he moved to Georgetown, TX. With all things considered, we decided to drive all the way to NC. So I bailed out of Phoenix on the Wednesday before our hunt and made it to his house the same day. We then left Georgetown on Thursday and made it a two day drive, arriving in Greenville, NC on Friday evening. Greenville is about an hour or so from where we'd be hunting.

So on Saturday we made it to Dock's place a little after noon. With nothing else to do, we started our hunt early and hunted that evening. I only saw two bears, but KJ saw on the order of a dozen. My first bear sighting while hunting them ever was certainly exciting. The bear was coming down a path from quite a ways away. My binoculars told me however quite quickly this was not the bear I was looking for. It was either a female or a fairly young male. It wasn't so much small height wise, but it just didn't have the head or belly you'd expect. Oh well, at about 50 yards from the bait, it got bothered by something and turned into the jungle.

I believe what bothered the bear was the next bear I saw. As I kept an eye on the left for the first bear to maybe reappear from the direction it went, I spotted something black on the through some brush on the edge of the jungle. Binos confirmed it was the head of a bear, directly left of the bait barrel. He came out and it was clear this was a bigger bear. Not huge, but bigger than the first. I was tempted, but in the end it was borderline I felt and we weren't even at the official start of our hunt. So I passed. A little while later, Dock arrived in the 4 wheeler and picked me up to go back to the lodge.

We had BBQ chicken, potatoes and I think green beans for dinner that evening. After a little bit of visiting, we were off to bed. 4am would come quickly for our breakfast call. After breakfast, we made our lunches, got our gear together and off for an all day sit at new stands. Dock and his other guide spend a lot of time researching the wind and have specific stands placed for the direction that the wind is supposed to be coming from. This second day however, the wind was being a bit fickle and didn't quite decide until afternoon just where it wanted to come from.

We first dropped off KJ and then myself. My stand was about 90 yards from the bait barrel. Humidity was up with incoming weather and there was a fairly heavy fog. It was a bit of a wait until I could even see the barrel. It had been knocked over on it's side. This would make judging a bear a bit more of a challenge. The idea is that you judge a bear when hunting over a bait barrel by how far up the barrel the back line is in comparison to the upright barrel. If the backline is at the top or above the barrel, that's considered a mature bear.

Just a few minutes after being able to make out the barrel, sure enough a bear shows up. It's like magic. One moment they're not there and the next moment they are. With the fog and still fairly low light I could see it wasn't too bad a bear, but I needed more light. The bear was there to feed and was very comfortable it seemed, so no rush. I actually took pictures of the bear once it was light enough and texted them to Dock. It was a borderline bear from what we could tell.

So what to do? Well we had a couple of complications now. We knew rain was to come in on Monday and that followed by a cold front on Tuesday. Dock's cancer with this was that the bears might not be too active on those two days. We also had some other issues that I'll not bother you with. But that led me to feel like if I had a decent bear in front of me and with it being my first bear ever, I was going to take it.

So that's the decision I made. Now this is where it gets interesting. A bears vitals are actually a bit far back in comparison to a deer or an elk. Furthermore if a bear isn't broadside and is presenting a quartering shot, it can be a bit of challenge determining just where to shoot, at least for a newbie like myself. Thus you want a broadside shot at a standing still bear, particularly in this country where if it gets far into the jungle, you run a high risk of losing the animal.

Now if you've never hunted black bear, you will find out that when they're on the ground, they seem to almost never be standing still and broadside. They just seem to always be at a fairly sever angle and constantly fidgeting if they're up on their feet. At a bait barrel as mentioned above, the bears tend to be sitting or laying down while they feed.

So now the rifle is up and me down on the scope. Then after awhile, I wasn't on the scope. Then after awhile, I'm back on the scope. Repeat this scenario about 100 times. Finally the bear seems like it's going to go back into the jungle from the direction it came, but it stood still broadside for just a moment. I found the spot I wanted to hit him and squeezed off a round. The bear runs away but I'm certain I've hit him. That is right up until about 60 seconds later and the bear comes back, clearly healthy and unwounded, however quite confused. I'm in a complete fluster. I don't miss 90 yard shots typically and the shot felt good. Anyway, I send a text to Dock and he sends out his other guide.

After he gets there we go thru the situation and check where the bear was standing. We find now blood and even after getting into the jungle a bit, we find nothing. Back to the barrel and we find a new hole at the left edge. I'd pulled the shot way left and missed. Dejection.... Now I'm concerned I've got a rifle in need of being sighted in again. We leave and head off to a machine shed that also serves as the skinning shed. Setup a target at 70 yards and I nail the bullseye........it weren't the rifle! I can only surmise that I'd pulled my head at the shot.

Well now we're off again for a different stand. I'm up in the stand and waiting again by 9am. At about 10:30am, the first bear on this stand comes in from the right. He was okay and I gave thought to taking him, but the bear never offered the shot and didn't stay long. At about noon, the second bear on this stand comes in. This one stayed and I would've taken this bear. But as long as it was there, again it never offered me the clean shot.

This is when the stand hunting boredom and the mind games started. I couldn't help but be a bit frustrated at my morning shooting cluster and now I've been sitting and sitting and sitting with no action on the bait. That is until about 4pm. And now the action starts to pick up. I'm glassing the edges of the jungle where I think a bear would come in and just as I swing to the "door" on the right a bear walks in.

Once again I"m going to take this decent bear and once again a shot is not offered even though the barrel is only 60 yards away. This happens a couple more times with one of the bears exiting out the "backdoor". Now this is all exciting but at the same time frustrating. Dock had told us that the bears will sometimes leave but come back. I told myself if this last one comes back I'm going to kill it. Sure enough he returns and finally just to the left of the barrel a shot is presented. I line up the shot and squeeze off the round. This time there is no doubt the bear is hit and the shot makes him jump into a gully in front of him and is flailing about. He then turns and runs down the gully basically straight at me. He disappears but I hear him fall and let out a death moan.

Now, I'd like to tell you I shot a big bear......I didn't. The mind games and the situation we had, well I just should've waited a bit longer.......I mean like 5 minutes longer.......

I can't seem to get a text out to Dock, but for some reason I'm able to call him. I let him know I've got a bear down and where we'd find him and he tells me he's on his way. I unload my rifle and start to glass the spot where I'm certain my bear is. I'm actually able to make out the black hair just a bit thru the brush and I'm sure it's my bear.

That's when it happened. As I'm hanging out waiting for Dock to arrive, my bear's grandpa shows up at the back door entrance to the bait. This is one of those moments in hunting where you do not need binoculars, nor do you need to think about the animal in front of you. You know immediately that this is a much bigger specimen. The bear is relaxed and approaches the bait barrel. His backline is easily above the top of the barrel. I'm beside myself. Had I just waited a little longer, but what can you do? So I just enjoyed watching him, taking a few pics and some video. A moment later, a smaller bear came in and to my surprise the bigger bear didn't run him off.

Some 15 minutes later and I can hear the 4 wheeler coming with the two bears still on the bait. The smaller bear popped his head up and was out of there almost immediately. The bigger bear was at attention and kept his eyes on the incoming noise. But he stayed there until the 4 wheelers actually stopped and the motors were cut off. Dock and his guide had stopped just shy of being able to see the bait barrel and never knew just how close they were to this bear for just a moment.

Well that's probably enough for now, hope you enjoy a few pics.

My smallish but first bear. For those that may be wondering, it was getting late in the day but still light when I shot the bear and by the time we got it loaded and back to the skinning shed it was fully dark. No nighttime hunting whatsoever.

IMG_1800.jpeg



This is a picture of my bear's grandpa.....well at least his dad anyway. Note how high his backline is in respect to the top of the barrel. When he raised his head such that his neckline was level, the neckline was at or even just a little above the top of the barrel.

IMG_4356.jpeg


Another pic of the larger bear. Here you can see him laying down and his backline is still quite high on the barrel.
IMG_4360.jpeg



And finally a link to the video I took. The bear bolts towards the end of the video but was back just seconds later.
 

Randy F

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Congratulations! I hear what you're saying with the "blind boredom"...too much time to think. But when a bear or two are in front of you, the time flies. Well done!
 

Shootist43

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Congrats on your bear. We've all shared your feelings about having an animal down, to have a much larger one show up. But then there is that old adage about not shooting something on the first day of the hunt that you wouldn't pass on the last day of the hunt.
 

Boyd Brooks

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Congratulations on your first black bear. The first one is always special. The best part is they make wonderful table fair, no matter what size they are.
It’s to bad you were not able to hunt in Canada as we have some big bears and great colour phase bears as well. Looks like you found an awesome spot in North Carolina though. Maybe next time.
 

gillettehunter

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Congrats on your hunt. Nice bear especially fpr your first. Did your buddy score as well?
Bruce
 

PHOENIX PHIL

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PHOENIX PHIL

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Congratulations on your first black bear. The first one is always special. The best part is they make wonderful table fair, no matter what size they are.
It’s to bad you were not able to hunt in Canada as we have some big bears and great colour phase bears as well. Looks like you found an awesome spot in North Carolina though. Maybe next time.

Yah, I had a spot up there I was interested in. Fly to Edmonton, get picked up and go get on a float plane to fly out to a spot where there were only hunters, lots of bears and an abundance of fishing for when not bear hunting. Hope to do that too someday.
 

michael458

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I don't know Phil, maybe you just need a bigger gun? LOL
 

Nyati

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Congrats on your bear, Phil :D Cheers:
 

ChrisG

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Congrats on the bear! Black Bear is a worthy adversary. I love hunting black bear and it is probably one of my favorite NA game animals to pursue. I have never hunted them over bait but it looks to be just as thrilling as any other method. My dad always says "if a nut drops in the forest, a hawk sees it, a deer hears it and a bear smells it." They have such exceptional senses that I think that any bear, regardless of the size or weight, is a trophy. Good shooting!
 

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