BETHEL — Eleven-year-old Steven Myers Jr. of New Jersey has advice for anyone taking a shot at a 502-pound black bear.
“Practice,” the young hunter said.
On Monday, Myers shot and killed a 502-pound bruin, one of the largest bagged in Maine in the past two years, a state bear biologist said.
Bruce Myers, the boy’s grandfather and a registered Maine Guide with 35 years of bear hunting under his belt, said the family was hunting along Rabbit Road when the tracking hounds alerted them to the smell of a bear in the woods.
After tracking it a mile or so into the woods, the dogs forced the bear up a tree. The boy, armed with a 35mm Remington rifle he’d been practicing with for the past year, took aim and fired a single shot that hit the bear in the chest.
“It was very exciting. I’ve been bear hunting for the past 35 years and this was the most exciting day of my life,” Bruce Myers said.
Along for the hunt was Maine Registered Guide James Osgood — “one of the best I’ve ever seen with kids” — Steven Myers Sr., the boy’s father, said. He joined the hunt along with a small group of children.
Steven Myers Sr. said he has helped teach his son every aspect of hunting, including training the hounds.
The bear was so large they called Bethel Bait and Tackle to get the bear out of the woods on a flatbed. Nearly 200 pounds of bear meat was processed. The animal will be mounted by a taxidermist.
Steven Myers Sr. spoke calmly to his son moments before he pulled the trigger, reminding him of his training hunting raccoons in New Jersey.
“I was very proud of the way he handled himself. All the practice paid off. For an 11-year-old boy, I was amazed and proud of him,” Myers Sr. said.
“A bear is an awesome animal. He’ll strike fear in your heart,” Bruce Myers said.
Female adult black bears weigh 200 pounds on average, while males will push 300, according to Jennifer Vashon, the state’s bear biologist.
Vashon said biologists determine a bear’s age by collecting a small, unused tooth behind its canine. Black bears can live up to 30 years and weigh up to 800 pounds.
The bear shot by Myers is one of the largest, especially by an 11-year-old, in recent memory, she said.
After hunters submit the tooth to the state’s lab, scientists cut the tooth apart to count its rings.
“He was a monster,” Myers Sr. said. “I’ve known people who have been bear hunting their whole lives and never seen anything close to that.”
Bruce Meyers said his entire family grew up hunting.
He weighed in on the Nov. 4 referendum which could see voters ban bear baiting. Myers said passage of the measure would end an ethical practice that drives that state’s rural tourism economy.
“Bear hunting is a traditional way of life,” he said. “I truly believe that the people who would vote yes on this would have no idea of the consequences of their vote.”