Pennsylvania is in the golden years of its bear hunting history. According to preliminary reports, Keystone State hunters killed 3,968 bears this year, which is the second highest number on record. Of all those bruins, two stand out above the rest: A 767-pound boar (above) killed by a tow truck driver from Monroe County and a 746-pounder (below) killed by an 18-year-old Amish hunter in Potter County. We got photos of both these monster bruins and the story of each hunt to go with.
The Tow Truck Bear
This is the first bear Joe Coyler ever shot, and it is also the biggest bear taken in Pennsylvania in 2011. Coyler shot his bear with a crossbow in the northeastern corner of the state. Here’s how he did it…
Coyler had essentially no bear hunting experience before this year (he is a dedicated whitetail hunter) but decided to buy a tag and give it a try. Earlier in the year he got permission to hunt a small plot of private land that received no hunting pressure. He found a beaten down bear path cutting through the property and decided that’s where he would hunt. He had heard rumors about a huge bear roaming the area but had no idea he’d be dealing with a brute of this size.
On November 15th Coyler snuck into his hunting spot. His strategy was as simple as it gets: he would stand in front of a tree and ambush the bear as it walked down the path. As the sun started coming up he heard rustling in the woods. It wasn’t long before the bear was standing at 28 yards broadside. When Coyler flipped off the safety on his crossbow the old bear snapped to attention and stared right at him. Coyler knew it was now or never, so he steadied his sights behind the bear’s shoulder and squeezed the trigger.
Coyler hit the bruin square, but instead of running, it stood up on its hind legs and and roared. Then it made a death run in Coyler’s direction. In a flash of panic, Coyler threw his crossbow on the ground, closed his eyes and hugged the tree he was standing next to. “When it stood up roaring I thought ‘Did I make a bad shot? What happens now?’ ” Coyler said. “Then he came running. I never realized how fast they are and I could hear him grunting. I was like ‘I’m playing dead.’ He died just 10 yards behind me.”
Coyler didn’t know just how big the bear was until he walked up on him. He called a couple of his buddies, but four guys couldn’t move the bear. They tied a rope to the bear and tried to haul him out with a pickup, but the rope broke.
Finally, Coyler borrowed one of the tow trucks from his work to haul the bear out.
Coyler’s wife brought their kids to see the bear before she dropped them off at school. “My boys want to go bear hunting now,” Coyler says.
The big bruin was in near perfect condition. Its’ hide was thick and his ears weren’t torn up from fighting. “I don’t think there were any other bears willing to mess with him,” Coyler says. He’s going to get a full body mount.
Coyler said there are a lot of nuisance bears in the area (he lives about one mile away from where he shot this bruin). In fact, this bear was notorious for robbing bird feeders and garbages. It also knocked the railing off of a neighbor’s deck as it tried to raid a bird feeder.
The 13-Man Bear
This is the second biggest bear (746 pounds) taken in Pennsylvania in 2011. It was killed by an 18-year-old Amish hunter named Jonathan Byler. Because of Byler’s religious beliefs, he declined to be photographed or interviewed, but he asked his friend and neighbor, a retired forest ranger named Philip Smith, to take these photos and tell the story of his hunt.
Byler was hunting with his family on a drive, pushing woodlots, when they bumped this bear. They had already killed a few bears on previous pushes and Byler had missed a bear earlier in the day, but none of them compared to this giant, says Smith.
When they kicked out this bear Byler got a broadside shot at 75 yards. He hit the big boar high in the shoulder with his .30-30 and it tumbled down a hill. Incredibly, they found him stone dead at the bottom of the hill.
Smith says the Amish have a knack for taking big game because they spend so much time outside tending to their land. They watch bears and deer and essentially spend the whole year patterning animals before hunting season. But even the most experienced hunters were dumbfounded by the size of this boar. “Even a seasoned hunter like me … it just took my breath away. It’s the biggest bear I’ve ever seen in my life,” said Smith, who is 72 years old and has been hunting since he was a kid.
They didn’t take a tape to the bear, but for reference, the wooden cart in the photo is 10 feet long, Smith says. It took 13 Amish men to get him out of the woods. “You just can’t imagine how big the bear is until you see it in person,” he said.
We’ve got the stories and photos of the two biggest bears killed during Pennsylvania’s 2011 season.