Charlotte County Yields Possible Virginia State Record Black Bear

Charlotte County Yields Possible Virginia State Record Black Bear
Tyler Napier's 728-pound black bear he shot in December 2013 may tape out as the top Virginia bruin. Photo courtesy Tyler Napier.

As a financial planner and asset manager for Moore-Huebsch & Associates of Richmond, Va., 25-year-old Tyler Napier of Keysville knows the advantages of long-range money strategies.

The Charlotte County native also was right on the money December 7, 2013, when a six-year plan allowed him to drop a 728-pound male black bear that may be the Old Dominion's all-time bruin.

"I saw the bear for the first time on a trail camera six years ago when I was a freshman at Hampden-Sydney College," Napier said. "I didn't know we had a bear on (the family) farm. Later I went to a tree stand and heard something tearing up a corn field and saw him the first time."

In 2008 Napier hunted only this bear during archery and muzzle-loader seasons. Later his trail cameras sporadically picked up images of the bear, and Napier saw where the animal had visited cornfields or feasted on acorns. On December 7, he decided to look for bear sign that morning, then rather than bear hunting, he would choose deer if he didn't find any tracks.

"My dad dropped me off, and I walked down to a creek and saw a track sunk three inches in the ground," Napier said. "I thought maybe a cow had gotten out. Then I saw his claw marks where he'd gone up the [creek] bank."

He followed the tracks to a 15-year-old cutover replanted in pines with a 20-yard square tangle of down trees from an ice storm that formed a semi-protected canopy.

"I was looking at bear scat on the ground when I saw something move," he said. "I said, 'Hey, that's the bear.' "

The monster bruin was lying down, Napier estimated, "about 15 feet from me." Then it moved its head to get a better look at Napier as the wind direction luckily was toward the hunter.

"That's when I saw his head and neck," Napier said. He shot at the bear's neck three times with his .30-06 rifle, then he ran around the other side of the pile and fired twice, emptying his magazine.

"The bear kind of rolled over and groaned and that was it," Napier said.

Napier, his dad and three friends spent two hours cutting a path and dragging the huge bear 60 yards to a corn field where they tied its body to a four-wheeler and pulled it to a pickup truck. Napier weighed the animal with certified scales at a Lunenburg County meat processor's business. The only larger recorded Virginia black bear was a 740-pounder killed in the Dismal Swamp area of Suffolk County in 2000.

But weight actually won't determine if it's a state record. Virginia uses a formula that includes skull length, height, width and distance between the top two canine teeth.

The bear measured 103 inches (8 feet, 7 inches) from nose to its feet when stretched out.

It's the only black bear Napier has killed.

Not only are black bears overpopulated in many states, they are also known to attack humans on occasion. Last month, a black bear attacked a Florida woman walking her dogs in her neighborhood.

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