Reedsville resident Allen Shahan was bowhunting in Preston County when he downed a near-record bruin. Here's his exciting true tale!
While bowhunting in the River Hill area of Preston County, Allen Shahan bagged this 475-pound black bear. It is one of the largest bears ever taken in West Virginia.
Photo by Dale Sparks
Allen Shahan has been actively hunting black bears ever since the first season opened in Preston County over 10 years ago. The Reedsville resident has been a bowhunter for over 20 years. His zeal for this type of hunting took a slightly unexpected turn back in the mid-'90s when the black bear population started to increase in Preston County at a fairly steady clip.
Our bruin population started to take off back in the early 1990s as the bears slowly followed the spine of the Cheat River and worked their way in from Tucker County.
Shahan had initially spotted one particular bear while bowhunting for deer in the fall of 1998. It was in an area known as River Hill, which is just north of Albright. This region is extremely steep, with numerous rock outcroppings. It is relatively inaccessible. In a word, it is excellent bear habitat! When Shahan first saw the bear from his tree stand, he noticed that it was already a good-sized animal in the 275- to 300-pound range.
Over the next couple of gun seasons, he would kill and tag two other decent bears during the short gun season. Shahan and a couple of buddies would utilize a buddy system to hunt these bruins. Following a fresh snowfall when they could cut a fresh set of tracks, they would take turns with one hunter on the track and one or two other hunters flanking one or both sides of the track.
In the interim, Shahan kept hunting the big black bear that he would see from time to time, but never could get close enough for a clean shot.
The last bear they shot using this method led them into a rocky outcropping along the Cheat River where they couldn't get the bear to flush from its protective spot. Shahan ended up crawling in and shooting the bear at point-blank range of 6 to 7 feet! Shahan said that getting the bear out led to some initial moments of heightened anxiety as one might guess in trying to retrieve a 250-pound bear out of rather cramped quarters.
In the interim, Shahan kept hunting the big black bear that he would see from time to time, but never could get close enough for a clean shot. As the seasons rolled past, the bear kept piling on weight. Shahan was starting to wonder whether he would ever get an opportunity at the ever-growing bruin.
In 1999, while walking into his stand late in the afternoon during the second week of the six-week-long season, he spotted the bear within 25 to 30 yards of his stand. At about the same time that Shahan spotted the bear, the bruin winded him and beat a hasty retreat over the ridge. Over the course of the 2000 bow season, he hunted every night but two evenings and only saw the big bear once during that time.
As the 2001 season approached, the sportsman wondered if the big bear had made it through another winter, spring and summer. Just before the opening of the fall bow season, his prayers were answered once again, as he sighted the enormous bruin just a short distance away. The first two days of the season passed with little happening.
Then, on the third evening of the season, Shahan had given some serious thought to possibly climbing out of his stand early because of extremely windy conditions with winds gusting from 30 to 35 mph and the temperature dropping into the low 40s. He decided to try and tough it out till dark, and it was just shortly after committing to staying put that he spotted the big bear about 90 to 100 yards out from his stand and slowly moving in his direction.
The bear was easing its way toward Shahan's position when it stopped behind a treetop, which was 40 yards away from his stand. Allen Shahan realized the wind was in his favor, but he was concerned that the bear had suddenly caught some scent and was testing the thermals. After four or five minutes, the mammoth black bear again started toward him at a deliberate pace.
Shahan picked a spot where he was going to shoot the bear if it continued on its present bearing. As the bear approached, Shahan drew the Easton 2213 back on his Hoyt Extreme to full draw. When the bear reached the spot, Shahan focused on his target spot on the big bruin and released the arrow.
As soon as the Rocky Mountain three-blade broadhead hit the bear, quartering through from in behind the left shoulder, the massive bear let out a deep resonating growl and took off down over the mountainside like a runaway coal truck. Shahan listened intently as the bear went out of sight. After all the initial commotion settled down, he heard something sliding down the hill and then coming to an abrupt stop.
After lowering his bow down from his stand, then climbing down, Shahan nocked another arrow and went to where the bear had been. There wasn't any blood at first, but he could easily make out the bear's escape route. As the hunter broke the crest of the ridge, he could see a log road that cut along the hill below his stand. Dropping down on the skid road, he picked up where the bear had momentarily stopped at the edge of the road.
Shahan picked a spot where he was going to shoot the bear if it continued on its present bearing. As the bear approached, Shahan drew the Easton 2213 back on his Hoyt Extreme to full draw.
Peering over the edge, his concern turned to elation as he spotted the bear piled up on the uphill side of a sugar maple. The bear had come careening down the hillside, crossed the log road and then rolled another 30 yards down the mountain before coming to a final rest against a tree. After reaching the incredibly large animal, Shahan checked to make certain that all vestiges of life were gone before starting to admire the huge bear, which had tested his skill and nerve over the past four seasons.
The huge bruin ended up tipping the scales at a staggering 475 pounds field dressed, which by most accounts would put the live weight of the bear at between 540 to 560 pounds! The bear measures 7 feet long from the tip of his snout to the end of its tail and was almost 7 feet across once skinned out. It was determined that the monstrous bruin was 7 3/4 years old.
After letting the skull dry for several months, Sh
ahan took it to Jim Evans, a wildlife biologist with the state. Biologist Evans scored the skull. The mammoth bruin's skull ended up scoring 20 9/16 inches Pope and Young (P&Y). The largest bear skull ever scored in West Virginia was 22 8/16 inches P&Y, and that bear was killed in Kanawha County in 1991 by George Murphy and C. Ryan. The bear was No. 2 in the Pope and Young book until just recently when a Wisconsin bear bumped it back to No. 3.
Looking back over the previous four to five seasons, Shahan can attest to the old time-honored axiom of "the spoils of success will come to those who are patient and persistent." Over the course of hunting for this one specific magnificent black bear, Shahan could have written off the chances of getting an opportunity on a great bear of this size, especially as the seasons started to roll by. In the end, though, Shahan's perseverance paid off. The reward is one of the largest black bears ever killed in West Virginia with bow or gun!