Oh my heavens, he was huge
MAITLAND - A normal day for a hunter in Kemptown recently turned in to the type of story from which legends are born.
Maitland resident Randy Clooney never considered himself a trophy hunter, choosing his prey for meat instead of how it would look hanging on a wall.
But on Sept. 21 he bagged one of the biggest male black bears ever to be taken down in the province, weighing in at an enormous 550 pounds field dressed.
"It will be in the record book," he said. "It's unusual to get a bear that size."
Black bear season opened on Sept. 14 for hunters using registered bait sites. Clooney said he had gone to his tree stand every afternoon for six days and hadn't seen any bears but knew they were around because the bait had been hit.
He had been silently waiting for three hours when he first heard a soft rustle of brush come from behind him.
"When he stepped out I knew he was big," said the hunter. "Oh my heavens, he was huge.
"I didn't waste any time. I hit him then and there."
Clooney took aim, hitting the giant bear in the neck with a shotgun slug, killing it instantly.
"You get excited when you first see it but you have to calm yourself down in order to make the right shot to dispatch the animal quickly," he said.
It was a struggle to get the hefty animal loaded onto an all-terrain vehicle to haul it out of the woods and he enlisted the help of three friends to dress it and remove the hide.
He plans on having the large beast's head mounted and has already had a feed of bear steak.
"The meat is excellent," he said.
The experienced hunter said he's heard that stories about the hunt are spreading around the countryside and feels it was more luck than skill that helped him bag the big one that day.
"I'll never shoot another one like this in my lifetime," he said.
Jim MacNaughton, with the Department of Natural Resources in Bible Hill, said in this region the average size black bear ranges between 200 and 300 pounds.
"That's a big bear and no doubt an old one who has been able to avoid hunters all these years," he said of Clooney's prey.
The last big bear MacNaughton can recall in this region was live trapped a few years ago by the department during a spring month and weighed 425 pounds.
He estimates Clooney's bear weighed about 200 pounds more than that before it was field dressed.
A pre-molar tooth will be taken from the bear to determine its age. However, the results won't be known for several months.
With a black bear kill already notched on his belt, Clooney is setting his sights on whitetail deer hunting season that is set to officially open Oct. 31.