By Al Raychard
It has been said a trophy game animal is in the eye of the beholder. After more than four decades of hunting black bears, having traveled far and wide to do so and after seeing literally scores of bears taken by hunters in camps from Alaska to Newfoundland I believe that old adage is true. Some of those bears were unique in some way, perhaps with white “Vs” on the chest or were blonde, brown or otherwise off-color. My aging brain can’t recall each and every one, but I remember enough to say although there were some big bears in terms of weight only a small percentage were of such massive body size to be considered truly impressive. A fair number tipped the scales less than 200 pounds and only a faction, including only two of mine, had skull measurements that met record book eligibility. Yet, I can’t recall ever seeing a displeased look on the face on any hunter, and no doubt each bear was considered a trophy. And so they should have been, and should be, because every bear killed is a trophy in some way.
The bottom line is killing a black, grizzly or brown bear that meets any record book minimum isn’t easy. Among other things it requires patience, the ability to recognize a potential record book animal when we see one and a certain amount of luck of being in the right place at the right time. But as winter slowly loses its grip and many of us start planning spring bear hunts, perhaps with trophy heads in mind, it might be helpful to keep in mind what is required to meet the various minimum requirements and how those minimums are achieved.
BEAR MINIMUM SCORE REQUIREMENTS
POPE & YOUNG BOONE & CROCKETT LONGHUNTER
Black Bear 18 20 18
Grizzly Bear 19 23 19
Brown Bear 20 26 21
Measuring bear skulls for these books is relatively easy and straightforward. For official scores all flesh and membrane must be removed and skulls must air dry at room temperature for a minimum period of time, usually 60 days. All three books use the same scoring procedure and on bears only the greatest length and width of skull are measured. Using calipers the greatest length is measured from the base, or back of the skull to tip of nose, minus the lower jaw. The greatest width is measured from cheek-to-cheek. The two measurements are then added together to get the score. It should also be kept in mind since its inception in 1988 muzzleloader trophies for the Longhunter Society accepts scores from certified Boone & Crockett scorers but record book contenders for Pope & Young must be measured by Pope & Young scorers. In many but not all cases scorers are certified for all three record books. All three record books also require a statement of fair chase, available from the various organizations or on their web site, along with a series of photos, generally a frontal photo taken at a 45-degree angle and photos from both the left and right side. A photo taken in the field is also preferred.
For more information and specific details hunters can and should take a gander at www.boone-crockett.org or www.pope-young.org. The Longhunter Society is an arm of the National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association. The web site is www.nmlra.org.
Brown and grizzly bear hunters should also keep in mind each organization has an established geographic line of separation between the larger, coastal-dwelling brown bear and smaller interior grizzly bear. In general bears taken south and west of the line are recorded as brown bears, those taken north and east of the line as grizzly bear. The Boone & Crockett club and Longhunter Society use the same line of geographic separation and it is quite specifically defined and should be reviewed and known while planning a hunt. In general bears taken in Alaska Game Management Units 1-10, 14-18 and part of GMU are considered brown bears. There is no geographic demarcation when it comes to black bears. In other words, potential record book black bears killed in New Brunswick or Newfoundland are considered the same as those killed in British Columbia or Alaska.
In recent years as more jurisdictions have allowed their use hunting bears with crossbows, in particular black bears, has becoming increasing popular. Pope & Young does not accept entries taken with horizontal archery equipment. For those interested in hunting bears with a crossbow the North American Crossbow Federation was created in 2001 and has initiated a Horizontal Big Game Registry, basically a record book for animals taken with an arrow, regardless of the type of equipment used. For more information interested hunters can visit the NACBF web site at www.northamericancrossbowfederation.com.
WHERE ARE THE BIG BEARS
Record book black bears have been taken from just about every jurisdiction that has an open season but certain states top the all-time list according to Boone and Crockett. Keep in mind these are large states in terms of area. Some smaller states also produce their share if considering record book potential by square miles.