The number of black bears taken by bow hunters in Oklahoma’s first black bear hunting season remains at a dozen as of late Wednesday, but the 12th bear checked in was the biggest to date.
Matt Stewart of Prague killed a male bear in Le Flore County that biologists think weighed as much as 400 pounds before it was quartered.
Stewart shot the bear Saturday about 5 p.m., but didn’t find it until Sunday morning. The bear was located about a quarter-mile from where it was arrowed.
“It was down a super steep mountain and into a creek,” Stewart said. “There was no way to get a four-wheeler in there.”
So Stewart quartered the bear and carried it out with the help of his father and brother-in-law. The bear weighed 345 pounds quartered and it took six hours to pack it out.
Stewart, who works at Surgeon Rifles between Prague and Shawnee, was hunting on land that he owns.
He was baiting with corn and grease. Like many hunters in southeastern Oklahoma, Stewart had been seeing several bears on his trail camera before the season opened Oct. 1.
But they quit coming to bait when the acorns started falling and the wild berries began to ripen. Stewart said one of the bears on the trail camera even appeared to be much bigger than the one that he killed.
Stewart hunted Thursday and Friday from a tree stand without seeing a bear. Finally, a bear showed up at about 5 p.m. Saturday, he said.
“He came into the bait and smelled me and turned around to leave,” Stewart said. “He walked out where he could smell me, stopped and turned back around, then came straight into the bait head on.”
Stewart didn’t have a good shot so he watched the bear for 10 minutes. Then the bear located Stewart.
“He looked up right at me and turned to run,” he said. “I had about four seconds to take the shot.”
Of the 12 bears killed by Oklahoma hunters, five have been in Le Flore County, three each in Pushmataha and McCurtain counties and one in Latimer County.
Those four counties are the only counties where black bear season is open. State wildlife officials are only allowing a total of 20 bears to be taken by hunters.
The season closes once that limit has been reached. If 20 bears haven’t been killed by bow hunters by Oct. 24, then a bear muzzleloader season will open.
The muzzleloader season will remain open until Nov. 1, or until the combined total of 20 bears have been killed.