Friday, February 3rd, 2023
Friday, February 3rd, 2023

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Frankfort hunter shoots 500-pound bear in U.P.

Jason Ware and a U.S. Forest Service law enforcement officer who checked the hunter after he shot the bear, pose with Ware’s 500-pound bruin.	Contributed photoMarquette, Mich. — Two days after Mark Starr, of Mason, killed a 605-pound black bear in Iron County while hunting with hounds owned by Darrell Jonet, of Iron River, Jason Ware, of Frankfort, connected on a 500-pounder in Gogebic County with the help of hounds owned by Steve Vande Hey, of Iron River.

Like Jonet, Vande Hey uses baits monitored by scouting cameras to locate bears on which to put his dogs. The cameras allow the hunters to target adult males. The camera at the bait where the dogs were released revealed a large bear had been there five hours earlier. Although the hunters knew the bruin was big, the animal proved to be bigger than it appeared in the photos.

One clue that the bear was exceptional in size was the amount of food it ate while at the bait.

“That bear had eaten an entire 221⁄2-pound box of cookie dough,” Vande Hey said. “Because of the big meal, he bedded close to the bait. The dogs only trailed him 500 yards before they jumped him.

“As soon as the bear was jumped, he tried to cross a road, but the noise from the dogs that were still in the trucks on that road turned him back. Otherwise the hunt could have been over in 10 minutes,” he said.

Instead of minutes, the chase lasted hours.

“The first thing in the morning, Steve and I waded across a river, with water up to our chests, to follow the dogs,” Ware said. “The bear was walking and would stop at regular intervals to face the hounds. We followed the chase up some ridges after crossing the river.

“We saw the bear, but dogs were surrounding him. I didn’t want to risk hitting a dog, so I didn’t shoot. Then the bear horseshoed around us and went back toward the road. So we headed for the trucks.

“When we got back to the trucks, we got on his backtrack where he had attempted to cross the road earlier. We set up on a small clearing that was an old skid trail. We picked a good spot because the bear came right to us.

“I could see him coming for 50 yards,” Ware said. “The dogs were tired by then and they were strung out behind him. The bear was not much over 15 feet away when I shot him at the base of the skull, tipping him over.”

Ware shot the trophy bruin with an iron-sighted .450 caliber Marlin lever-action rifle. He dropped the bear 170 yards from the road. The bear was weighed before it was field-dressed on a scale that read 500 pounds. The scale was divided into 20-pound increments, however, and the scale operator said the bear could have weighed between 489 and 509 pounds.

The big bear Ware got in the U.P. is his second 500-pounder. He got another bruin similar in size about 15 years earlier while hunting in Ontario with Vande Hey and Jonet.

“The big Canadian bear was spotted feeding in a field 300 yards away,” Ware said. “A guy took a shot at it and missed. We then put some dogs on its trail and Darrell’s Dagger Dog treed it in a half hour.

“When we got to the tree, everybody picked numbers to see who would get the chance to shoot the bear. I picked seven and the number that had been chosen was eight. Since I was closest to that number, I got to shoot the bear.”

Ware shot the bear in the head with a .30-06, killing it instantly. The bullet also damaged the skull, however, rendering it ineligible for record book entry. Ware had a full mount of that bear done, which is on display at Big Bob’s Up North Outfitters in Frankfort.

Ware plans on having the skull from this year’s U.P. bear measured for record book entry, and it should measure at least 20 and possibly 21. He’s also having a full mount done.

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