New Jersey has a new record black bear, but the hunter wasn't out looking for big bruins.
According to the (Parsippany, N.J.) Daily Record, Bruce Headley, 62, of Milton, N.J., shot the the 829-pound live weight bruin while deer hunting in the woods about a half-mile from a nearby high school.
It's surely a record to be proud of, but Headley still would rather have those big bucks he'd seen earlier.
"I would have traded getting two bucks instead of the bear," Headley said, adding that he and his family prefer venison to a good bear burger. Headley missed his opportunity at a deer on the opening day of bear and deer season, but had seen the big bear raiding an apple tree in his backyard since September.
Like 7,294 other hunters in New Jersey, Headley had purchased a $2 bear permit. While deer hunting on Dec. 9, Headley sat patiently waiting for a big buck, hearing from a neighbor that several does had just passed through the area. No buck, but the bear made an appearance. From 45 yards out, Headley took his shots, telling reporters he hit the bear at least three times before it dropped in a ravine about 50 yards away.
Headley's 21-year-old son Adam, as well as neighbors John Pessagno and Gordon Galfo, were soon on the scene on four-wheelers, using a come-along to pull the bear out and load it onto a rescue sled. They then used a front-end loader into Headley's pickup truck and took the carcass to a nearby bear-checking station in Franklin, N.J.
Headley told reporters it took three hours to unload the bear from the truck. "It took longer to get organized than to get it out," Headley said.
So what's happened to the bear now? Headley donated the big bruin to the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife, which hopes to have the bear mounted and put on display at the Pequest Natural Resource Education Center.
The kill is a testament to the black bear's resurgence in the Garden State, according to Fish and Wildlife director David Chanda.
"It would be a nice compliment to our conservation education programs," Chanda told reporters. "After all, the black bear represents a truly remarkable success story. Especially when you consider that they were all but wiped out by the industrial revolution in the early 1900s, and now as a result of tremendous habitat and management programs developed by professional wildlife biologists, black bears have been sighted in all 21 counties and will forever remain a part of New Jersey's landscape."