New Potential World Record Black Bear Shot in Pennsylvania

You'll have to see this big bear to believe it

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Forget Alaska and put Minnesota out of your mind: the largest black bears in North America are found in Pennsylvania. Just ask Robert Christian. The black bear he took in the Keystone State this November will likely be the new Boone & Crockett record. While the bear is not the heaviest bruin ever taken, he has an enormous skull scoring 23 9/16 inches, making it the biggest black bear ever taken by a hunter. Check out this gallery as we break the story of Christian's hunt and show never-before-seen photos of the potential new world record bear.Courtesy Robert Christian
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Robert Christian has been hunting Pennsylvania for almost 20 years. "I've been hunting since I was 12. Mostly whitetail and small game and most of the time with my father." In all that time Robert's only seen one bear in the wild and it was nothing like the monster he took this year. "I saw a bear cub about ten years ago. It was maybe 75 pounds. Small thing. Nothing anybody'd shoot."Courtesy Robert Christian
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Robert's a deer hunter first and foremost, and that's exactly what he was after on November 30. "It was the third day of deer season. I had to work the first two days of the season so I was ready to hit the woods. I hunt my Uncle John's. He's got a place we call Cherry Valley near Stroud Township (eastern Pennsylvania). My uncle's game camera had snapped a few pictures of a 12-point buck on the place so that's what I was hoping to see." His uncle's trail camera had also captured photos of a very large black bear.Courtesy Robert Christian
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Robert, his father, Uncle John, and two other men took to the woods before dawn. "We decided to hunt separately then meet up again at noon. My dad and I went up this hill together then split up. I went one way, he went the other."Courtesy Robert Christian
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"I was settled in watching this area. At about 8:30 I noticed some movement. A doe came out of the woods. She came to about 20 yards of me. She was injured real bad. Her shoulder was covered in blood. My guess was she got hit by a car or something as there's a road nearby. About a minute after the doe left, I saw some movement right from where the doe came from. I figured it was a buck trailing the doe." It wasn't.Courtesy Robert Christian
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"This huge bear just came out of the woods. Straight at me. Along the same trail as the doe. I didn't let it get near as close to me as the doe! I shot him in the shoulder just as he passed behind a tree." The bear turned and ran. Robert shot at the bear four more times with his Remington .30-06 pump. Robert's taxidermist later confirmed that Robert hit the bear four times.Courtesy Robert Christian
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Was Robert scared when he spotted the huge bear lumbering toward him? "Nah. They're more scared of us than we are of them. I'm sure if he had seen me he'd have run." Robert believes the bear was trailing the injured doe that morning.Courtesy Robert Christian
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He found the bear less than 30 yards from where he shot it. "I stood there staring at this thing. I just couldn't believe I'd shot a bear. It was unreal. I was super excited. Just couldn't believe it. I guessed he weighed about 400, maybe 500 pounds." Robert's guess was off by several hundred pounds.Courtesy Robert Christian
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"I called my dad. He said, 'You shoot a deer?' I said, 'No. I shot a bear and I can't believe how big he is.' The bear was so large that I sat on him and my knees didn't even bend. When we field dressed him his ribcage was so long I couldn't reach all the way up to cut out his heart."Courtesy Robert Christian
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Getting Robert's bear out of the woods proved to be a more than six-hour ordeal that involved chainsaws and upended four-wheelers. "It was six long hours let me tell ya." Robert said. He and the four other men had to clear deadfalls with a chainsaw to drag the bear down the mountain. When the bear was put on a trailer attached to a four-wheeler, the quad lifted off the ground. It took two four-wheelers strapped together to drag the bear from the woods.Courtesy Robert Christian
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"The game officer at the Tobyhanna Weigh Station was like 'Holy cow!' when he saw the bear. No one could believe how big this thing was." The bear's live weight was determined to be an incredible 732.78 pounds. Field dressed, the bear weighed 621 pounds. "And I got more than 200 pounds of bear meat out of him," Robert said.Courtesy Robert Christian
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But it wasn't until Robert took the bear to his taxidermist, Shawn Lamparter's Widlife Design, that talk turned to the possibility of a new record. "My taxidermist was like, 'This is a pretty big bear Robert. We gotta take care of this thing right.' " The bear's skull was sent to Swarthout's Skull Works. Longtime Boone and Crockett measurer Roger Kingsley knew right away that the bear was going to rank high. Roger explains, "They had me measure four bear skulls, one at a time. They bring out the first one, I'm like 'That's a nice bear.' They bring out number two, I'm like 'That's nice.' They bring out number three and I'm like 'Oh my gosh! That is not a black bear skull. That's a brown bear!' "Courtesy Robert Christian
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Roger said he did the math in his head trying to guess what the bear would score. "I misjudged him by 7/16 of an inch, I thought he'd go 24 inches." Robert Christian's bear measured 23 9/16 inches making it the largest black bear ever taken by a hunter. The only black bear that B&C ranks higher was found dead in Utah. It measured 23 10/16 inches. The record is not yet official because the Boone & Crockett Club still has to finish the paper work, but a B&C official said in an interview that if everything clears, the bear will be the new world record.Courtesy Robert Christian
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This may be the highest scoring bear ever taken, but it's certainly not the heaviest. In 2010 we reported a story about an 879-pound bear taken by a crossbow hunter in Pennsylvania. However that hunt was investigated by PA Fish and Game. The bear was allegedly raised as a cub and hung around the neighborhood like a pet.Courtesy Robert Christian
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And last year, two bears that were heavier than Robert's were taken in Pennsylvania. 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. See the full story of those two bears here.Outdoor Life
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But when it comes to B&C scores, it's the skull that counts. Roger, the B&C scorer, said that it takes the right combination of nutrition, age, and genetics for a bear to grow a skull this large. He guessed the bear was probably at least 10 years old. He also said he didn't think this bruin would be knocked out of the number one spot anytime soon.Courtesy Robert Christian
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So what does Robert say to those who regard his taking the B&C number one black bear as beginners luck? "Oh yeah, I got lucky. But then shooting straight's always a plus isn't it?"Courtesy Robert Christian
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Robert's bear is currently at the taxidermist where it will be preserved as a full-body mount. "The plan is to put it down in my man room, but the taxidermist gave me the measurements on it and there's no way it'll fit through the door." What about putting it in the living room instead? "My wife's not real crazy about that idea," Robert said.Courtesy Robert Christian