MI: A pair of 500-pounders killed during bear hunt

Marquette, Mich. – Black bears weighing more than 500 pounds were killed in both the Upper Peninsula and northern Lower Peninsula during the first days of this year's bear season.

Chris Groty, of St. Ignace, shot a big bruin near Wallace in Menominee County on Sept. 13 that bottomed out a 550-pound scale before being field dressed. Dressed, the bear weighed 493 pounds.

Anthony Peters, of Petoskey, shot a bruin in Presque Isle County near Posen on Sept. 17 that had a live weight of 510 pounds.

The bear Groty shot would have had a live weight of as much as 575 pounds. It was his third bruin. He's been successful each time he's drawn a tag. The other bears he shot weighed 175 and 190 pounds.

He said he would've been happy to take another bear similar in size to those he previously killed, but he isn't complaining about scoring on a whopper. Groty hunts out of a camp with a group of friends. Those who have licenses draw cards to determine which baited stand they'll hunt.

"I saw a bear on opening day (Saturday, Sept. 10)," Groty said. "It was at the base of the treestand I was in. It bolted when I turned around to look at it. It was another big bear."

He moved to a different treestand on Tuesday, the 13th. Another member of the party had seen a bear at that spot the previous evening , but it left without presenting a shot. A little after 7 p.m., Groty heard something coming.

"I heard it come crashing out of the swamp behind me and to the left," he said. "Bears normally don't make any noise when they approach. This one was snapping twigs and making noise."

When the bruin worked its way out in front of Groty, he dropped it in its tracks with a neck shot from his .300 short mag rifle.

"Until I walked up on the bear, I had no idea how big he was," Groty said. "I was in shock when I saw how big he was. We had trail camera photos of a big bear that we thought would have weighed 300 to 350 pounds. We obviously underestimated his size based on the photos."

The skull from Groty's bear has a green score of 2014⁄16. Also of interest is the fact the bruin's left front leg had been broken in six places and healed. Groty thinks it probably had been hit by a vehicle.

Peters also was hunting over bait when he connected on his Presque Isle County bear. It was his second bear after drawing three tags. During his first attempt at bear hunting in 2000, he only saw a sow with cubs. In 2005, he tagged a 200-pounder.

Peters said he had trail camera photos of three different bears visiting his bait prior to the beginning of the 2011 season. He was hunting from a ground blind 30 yards from the bait when the big one appeared at 7:20 p.m. on Sept. 17.

"When this one came in I knew he was a good bear, but had no idea how good until I started to get him out of the woods," Peters said in an email. "I had a bunch of family and friends with me to help."

Peters shot the bruin with a 180-grain bullet from a .300 magnum rifle and it dropped on the spot, but he wisely put another round in the chamber as he approached the animal. The bear started to get up when he was 15 yards from it, so he was able to quickly shoot it in the neck to put it down for good.

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