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Black bear looks to be largest ever taken by a hunter

| Saturday, June 16, 2012, 11:54 p.m.

If you ever learn one thing about Pennsylvania black bears, it should be this: They are whompin' big.

The heaviest taken by a hunter last year weighed 746 pounds, with eight of the top 10 weighing at least 706. A year earlier, a hunter shot an 879-pounder, one of six that's topped 800 over the years.

Those are huge animals.

When it comes to scoring black bears, though, it's not pounds but skull dimensions that count. Skulls are to bear trophies what antlers are to deer.

Pennsylvania bears shine there, too. Three of 10 largest black bears taken anywhere in the world, seven of the top 20 and nine of the top 30 came from Pennsylvania, according to the Boone and Crockett Club, the official keeper of big game records taken with a firearm.

A bear shot here last fall will beat them all.

Robert Christian of East Stroudsburg was hunting in Monroe County during the extended bear season when he shot a 733-pounder. Its skull measured 23 916 inches.

If that holds up as expected, it will rank as the largest black bear ever killed by a hunter anywhere in the world.

There's only ever been one larger black bear recorded. Scoring 23 58 inches, it's considered a “pick-up” animal because it was found dead by hikers in summer of 1975 rather than taken by hunters.

“Pick-ups are included, in order to enhance the scientific value of the records and complete the standard which sportsmen can judge their best trophies,” reads Boone and Crockett's 12th edition of the book “Records of North American Big Game.”

Pennsylvania's biggest bear skull also belonged to a pick-up found in Lycoming County in 1987. It scored 23 716 inches. The biggest hunter-killed bear, by comparison, was taken by Andrew Seman Jr. of Dunbar in Fayette County in 2005 and scored 23 316.

Christian's kill will top both and stand alone among hunter-killed bears anywhere.

Interestingly, it was Christian's first bear and only the second he'd ever seen, according to a quote he gave to Outdoor Life magazine. He was actually hunting deer when he spotted it following a white-tailed doe that was bleeding from what appeared to be a run-in with a vehicle.

“I stood there staring at this thing. I just couldn't believe I'd shot a bear. It was unreal. I was super excited,” Christian said in Outdoor Life. “Just couldn't believe it.”

Believe it. His bear came from right here in Pennsylvania, and the Keystone State grows them big. World-record big.

Bob Frye is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at bfrye@tribweb.com or 724-838-5148.

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