Michigan hunter’s first bear is a Booner

Powers, Mich. — Matthew Veeser from Powers shot his first black bear while hunting over bait on Sept. 17 in Menominee County. The bruin was large enough to qualify for national records maintained by the Boone and Crockett Club. Also of interest is the fact that Veeser killed the bear the first day it visited his bait.

The skull size of bears, after the skulls are cleaned and allowed to air dry for 60 days, determines whether or not they will qualify for the record book. The length and width of the skull are added to determine the final score. Skulls that measure a minimum of 21 inches qualify for all-time listing in the Boone and Crockett record book. The skull from Veeser’s bear measured 214⁄16, according to measurer Dave Wellman from Bark River.

Although skull size determines record status, bears with big heads, which are usually adult males, normally also have large bodies and Matthew’s bruin was no exception. He said it had a dressed weight of 515 pounds the day after he shot it. The animal’s live weight would have been at least 570 pounds.

“I originally put a bait out behind the house,” Veeser said. “When it hadn’t been hit the week before my season was supposed to start, I moved the bait to a new location. I moved the bait into a swamp at the base of a hardwood ridge. I had a blind on the ridge about 20 yards from the bait.”

When Veeser checked the bait about noon on Sept. 17, it was obvious it had been visited by a bear. He had a camera monitoring the bait, so Veeser looked at the photos. They showed that a bear had been at the bait from midnight until 6:30 a.m.

“To tell you the truth, I couldn’t tell how big the bear was from the photos,” Veeser said, “but he looked big enough to be a shooter for me since I hadn’t taken a bear before.”

Veeser was in his blind by 3:30 p.m., hoping the bear would return. As it was starting to get dark in the swamp, he hadn’t seen anything. There was still plenty of light on the ridge, but light was fading fast by the bait.

“I was packing my stuff up to leave,” Veeser said, “figuring the bear wasn’t going to show up before dark. Then he appeared on a skid trail by the bait.”

The blind provided Veeser with enough cover that he was able to grab his .300 Winchester Magnum Rifle without being seen. The scope on the rifle enabled him to see well enough to put a 180 grain bullet through the bruin’s chest cavity. It only went about 20 yards before tipping over.

“I was pretty excited about getting my first bear,” Veeser said. He was even more excited when he found out how big the bear was.

Veeser said he was using sticky granola for bait. He added that the bear’s stomach was packed with corn when he gutted the animal. There was a cornfield on the opposite side of the swamp from where he killed the bear, according to Veeser.

Vesser figured the bear must have gorged itself on corn from the field and then went to his bait for dessert.

“I’ve hunted bears other years,” Veeser said, “But I never got anything. I normally only got to sit for a couple of days. I’m a lineman. I would sit for a couple of days and then a storm would come up in Louisiana or something and I would have to leave.”

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