Black bear hunting a family affairNovember 10, 2017
By ALLEN LAMAN
HUNTINGBURG — Ten yards in front of Brent Myers and his son, Brent II, a 190-pound black bear let out an aggressive growl.
Just before sunrise one day in late September, the Myers were sitting on a log near their tree stand in a forest in Pigeon Forge outside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park when — BANG.
Brent II pulled the trigger on his rifle, causing the bear to curl into a ball and lifelessly roll toward the hunters.
Brent II then took off in the opposite direction. His father stayed, figuring the bear was dead and gravity was carrying it to the bottom of the hill. When it flipped to about 10 feet away from Brent, however, it stood on all fours and prepared to attack. Brent fired a round at the bear and it fell back to the earth.
“At that point, it’s you or the bear, so you pull a shot,” Brent said.
It was the first of six bears the Huntingburg family — wife, Melody; son Stanton; daughter Suzannah; and daughter Rhoda were there, too — would take down in a three-day span during the eastern Tennessee getaway. Each claimed their own bears during the trip, something that Brent said will probably never happen again.
Shortly after Brent II downed the first bear, Brent shot No. 2 from the tree stand. Melody took down the third near the family’s cabin. Bears four and five belonged to Stanton, 19, and Suzannah, 15, while the sixth bear went to 10-year-old Rhoda.
The Myers are a family of deer and small game hunters, but the first and only time they pursued black bear was on that family trip to the Smoky Mountains in late September.
“Suzannah actually has a six-point buck on the wall,” Melody said while explaining that this wasn’t any of her children’s first rodeo. “And Rhoda has gotten does ... and a 10-point (buck) last year. Rhoda and Suzannah have both been hunting ... five and six years old we had them in the stand with us, so they’ve grown up with it.”
Melody recalled asking the man the family rented its cabin from in the Smoky Mountains how many bears they’d probably claim over the course of the trip, and he told them two was a likely number. Melody said after Rhoda bagged the final bear, the man joked it was the icing on the cake.
“It was amazing,” Melody said. “I know the Lord had to help us because that doesn’t happen.”
Melody acknowledged that hunting bears is more dangerous and challenging than deer or squirrels. She noted the family did take steps to properly prepare and make sure they were safe.
Some of the precautions include doing things like washing clothes with outdoor-scented soap and bathing with earth-scented shampoo and body wash. Each family member also carried two guns in case one would jam and they operated on a buddy system to ensure everyone had a partner for other safety reasons.
According to Outdoor Life magazine, biologists believe there are more black bears now than before European settlement. Conservative estimates put the North American bear population at 800,000, compared to the pre-settlement number of 500,000. According to Tennessee law, hunters are allowed one black bear per license year.
The season is broken into various stretches between the end of September and New Year’s Eve. Killing cubs under 75 pounds is prohibited.
All the bears the family collected on their trip will be full-mounted — except for Rhoda, who opted for a shoulder-mount with a heart pillow made out of the hide — and the family will also use the bearpaws to fashion a gun rack and a lamp. The Myers will also eat all the meat.
“I made some chili the other day (with the meat) and Brent said it was the best he’d ever had,” Melody said with a laugh.
After the big, successful haul, Melody is confident she would like to go bear hunting again someday — she still wants a bear rug. Brent said he wants to hunt more bears in the future as well, adding that the first trip was a lot of fun for the whole family.
“All the kids are still home — it won’t be long before the nest will start breaking up, I’m sure — and it was a good experience as a whole family and a memory that we’ll remember the rest of our lives,” Brent said.
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