Morrill man bags 543-pound bear in northern Maine
Belfast — The brush is so thick the two hunters are forced to crawl on their bellies, as the two hounds with them continue tracking the scent of a bear. Both men emerge onto a slight trail to discover a nearly 550-pound bear is only 10 feet in front of them and it’s ready to charge.
That’s the scenario Morrill resident Warren Heath IV faced when he and a friend were helping run a group of hounds from West Virginia-based Family Tradition Hound Hunting. The group was hoping to cross paths with a bear, but Heath never expected to come so close to one that was so large.
“He was going to charge in a few seconds. That’s a pretty big adrenaline rush,” Heath said during a telephone interview Tuesday, Sept. 25.
Heath said his first shot entered the bear’s nose just below his eyes; however, the shot failed to kill the animal, which then turned and ran for about 300-400 yards before stopping again.
“He took a slug in the head and kept going,” Heath said.
The two hounds with Heath continued to pursue the bear and were able to keep it engaged while Heath and his friend crawled through even more thick brush. Heath said he was especially impressed with the hounds because neither one was hurt despite facing off against such a large injured bear.
After eventually felling the brute, Heath said it took more than six hours to drag the animal out of the woods. The bear weighed in at 543 pounds and marked only the second bear Heath has shot since beginning to hunt them four years ago.
Besides being a Maine Registered Guide, Heath also works as a Knox County Corrections Officer. Heath said he became interested in guiding because he was introduced to hunting, fishing and trapping by his father and grandfather and discovered how much fun he had engaging in outdoor activities.
Before taking his bear, Heath was helping Gordon Foster, owner of Three River Guides Service, fill the bear tags for three of Foster’s clients. Heath guided one of the clients while Foster took the other two, and both guides were able to fill the hunters’ tags fairly quickly.
“There are a lot of big bears and the bears are really fat,” Heath said. “It’s been a phenomenal season."
Heath’s assessment of the season is articulated in several reports from the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, which reported a 699-pound bear that was harvested this year and set a new state record.
The previous record was set in 1993 when a 680-pound bear was killed.
Heath said he plans to have the bear full-body mounted.
With the end of bear hunting season with dogs less than a month away, Heath is more than satisfied with how well this season has turned out.
“To shoot one that size, I don’t think I’ll do it again,” he said. “It made my year.”
Republican Journal reporter Ben Holbrook can be reached at 338-3333 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.