Our New State-Record Archery Black Bear

Our New State-Record Archery Black Bear

Mike Maillet of Sparrowbush is no stranger to bowhunting or bears, but taking the new state-record bruin -- on the ground with one shot -- puts him in a league of his own! (September 2007)

Mike Maillet's 647-pound Catskills black bear scores 22 1/16 Pope and Young points and is bigger than many record-book grizzly bears!
Photo courtesy of Mike Maillet.

New York's black bears are known for their heavyweight potential, but it's not often that a bear is big in body size and skull measurement.

Last year, however, an Orange County bowhunter hit the jackpot when he took the new state-record archery bruin.

Mike Maillet of Sparrowbush, N.Y., downed a huge bear that weighed 647 pounds and had a record-setting skull measurement of 22 1/16-inches. This is a new state-record archery bear, and ties the all-time record for the biggest bear ever taken in New York State, taken by a gun hunter in 1995 in Greene County.

The previous archery record bear, with a skull measurement of 21 12/16 inches, was also taken in Greene County.


All of these huge bears were taken in the Catskill Mountains, where the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has worked to provide a balance between the numbers of bears and available habitat, while keeping nuisance bear complaints to a minimum.

Perhaps as a result, 2005 was a record for bear harvests in the Catskills. For the first time in the history of bear hunting in New York, the Catskills topped the Adirondacks in bear harvest. Of the 1,066 bears taken statewide in 2005, 493 were a product of the Catskill Mountain range.

"Usually when we have a record harvest anywhere -- statewide or in an individual region -- we see a drop-off the following year," said Nathan Champine, a DEC bear technician. "There are always peaks and valleys with bear harvests."


Mike Maillet is a 24-year-old hunter who took up bowhunting seven years ago. As a gun hunter, Millet took several deer and a bear. But once bitten by the bow bug, he hasn't looked back.

Now an accomplished archer, Maillet has taken game with his bow including squirrels, turkeys, coyotes, whitetails including an 8-point buck, and a 300-pound black bear.

The Maillet family is no stranger to bear hunting in the bruin-rich region of the southern Catskills that borders New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Maillet's younger brother has taken three bears, and his father, Anthony Maillet, is an accomplished bear-hunting veteran. In 2003, the elder Maillet took a state record 602-pound archery bear. That bear's skull measured 21 2/16 inches and is still ranked in New York's all-time top 10.


Bowhunting and tree stands seem synonymous. But Maillet doesn't even own a tree stand because the Maillet family traditionally hunts their bears on the ground.

"It's a different experience hunting bears on the ground with a bow," Maillet admits.

His success is no accident. Maillet begins scouting in June, looking for well-worn bear paths and locating primary food sources as the hunting season approaches. Maillet's trail cameras have shown that bears move most often from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m.

As last year's Catskills bow season approached, Maillet had determined that a big bear captured on camera was using two different trails through a heavily forested wetland.

The hunter picked a big white pine along the bear's path. After carefully selecting and discreetly trimming shooting lanes, Maillet used the trimmed branches to surround his position and break up his outline, knowing that bears can smell better than they can see.

"It is imperative to keep the prevailing wind in your face, especially when hunting on the ground," he noted.


October 15, 2006, was a clear day in the 60-degree range as Maillet eased into his ground blind under the boughs of the big white pine.

As the afternoon waned, three does calmly fed over a distant knoll. Suddenly, their heads popped to attention and they bolted down the trail, passing the concealed bow hunter.

A coyote! The canine predator ran up in front of the ground blind and stopped behind a tree, offering no shot. The coyote then bolted, and Maillet let his bow down from full draw. The woods became quiet again.

At 3:30 p.m., Maillet noticed something moving in the distance. He caught glimpses of black passing between the evergreens and alders. It was a bear coming down the trail!

As the black bruin got closer, its size became apparent. The bear was quartering at the hunter, sitting at eyeball level only 15 yards away!

Maillet waited until the bear passed his position and offered a perfect quartering-away bowshot. When the bear walked into a shooting lane, Maillet released his arrow.

Maillet's previous bow-killed bear bolted after a pass-through chest shot, but this bear was bigger.

As the black bruin got closer, its size became apparent. The bear was quartering at the hunter, sitting at eyeball level only 15 yards away!

"It was like my arrow hit a brick wall," Mike explained. "The fletching was still showing, but the big brute walked 12 yards and fell over, dead."

A broadhead through the heart put the massive bear down in a hurry.


Maillet's first thought was that this bear would weigh maybe 450 pounds. He called his brother from another hunting location, plus his father and some friends. His family's method of getting a bear out of inaccessible woods is carrying it on half of an extension ladder. But they couldn't even pick up the ladder after they tied the bear to it, which was a chore in itself.

Finally they all got on one end of the ladder and dragged the bear -- for six hours!

Not until the next morning did they finally get the bear to an access road and out of the woods. By then, they were convinced that this black bear weighed 500 pounds!

They transported the bear to the nearest hunter check station, where DEC biologists took one look and informed the hunter that this was a huge bru


The scales stopped at 647 pounds. Closer inspection revealed an ancient old bear with a scarred face, torn ears, rotted teeth and a healed break in his left hind leg.

The big boar's hide hung loosely on his frame. As one check station official exclaimed, "If this old boy filled out his hide in his prime, he could have easily weighed 750 pounds or more."


The New York State Big Buck Club, the official big-game records keeper for New York State, scores both deer and bear, using the Boone and Crockett scoring system. This scoring procedure uses the combined length and width measurements of the bear's dried skull.

Currently, there are over 300 bears listed in the New York record book in all categories. Eight of the top 10 archery bruins were taken in Catskills counties.


DEC research has shown that black bears are opportunists when it comes to filling their stomachs. When it comes to searching for food, they know no boundaries.

Once a food source is depleted, the bears immediately move to find more. One radio-collared 299-pound adult male was located later in a ripening cornfield, 81 miles away.

The Allegany and Catskill bear-hunting areas were expanded in response to recommendations from stakeholder input groups.

In the Allegheny region, wildlife management units 9J, 9K, 9M, 9N, 9W, 9P and 9S were opened for hunting. In the Catskills region, WMUs 4O and 4P were opened for hunting.

These additional areas were open during the regular bear season in 2004, and during all archery, gun, and muzzleloader seasons in 2005.

These new hunting areas in the Allegheny range contributed 10 additional bears to the total legal harvest, and an impressive 54 more bears in the Catskill range.

"There is a period of peak activity during the weeks prior to hibernation each year," Maillet noted. "At times during the Catskill season, you can see a bear every day."

For more information on New York's black bear hunting opportunities, log onto www.dec.state.ny.us, or call the Region 3 office at (845) 256-3098. For the Allegheny range, call the Region 8 office at (585) 226-5380.

For information on guided bear hunting, contact the New York State Outdoor Guides Association at 1-866- 469-7642, or try the group's Web site at www.nysoga.org/" target="_blank">www.nysoga.org.

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