WASHINGTON COUNTY — Vilena Hunt had a grizzly encounter with 7-foot-3-inch, 742-pound, black bear during a holiday hunting trip. But no need to worry, the former Robeson County resident came out the victor with enough of the sweet meat to feed her family for a long time and a bear-skin trophy to make the tale taller when she shares it with the boys.
According to an article about the kill on Women Hunters website, the beast would have been a record in any state other than North Carolina and Minnesota. North Carolina currently holds the world record for the largest black bear, an 880-pounder that was harvested in 1998. Minnesota’s record black bear weighed 876 pounds. Also, Ely, Minn., is the current home of a 1,000-pound bear, according to the site.
Led by Washington County hunting guide Justin King, Hunt, a 5-foot-4-inch, eighth-grade science teacher, and her husband, Myran, came upon the beast cornered in its den by King’s dogs. King and Hunt crawled through a dense thicket while Myran Hunt and another man in their party waited in case the bear broke free.
Hunt said that typically the dogs would force a bear into a tree, but because their hunt, which was Dec. 23, was so close to the animal’s winter hibernation period, the bear was too large to climb and it sought shelter in its home.
Hunt and King emerged from the brush just 10 to 15 feet from the beast.
“All I could see was this huge black mass,” Hunt said. “It was kind of rocking back and forth at the dogs.”
At first aim, Hunt said her .35-caliber lever action rifle wasn’t cocked. So she took a breath, cocked the gun and fired one shot that hit the animal below its neck.
It stumbled and fell about 20 yards away. Hunt said she and King shot it twice more to ensure it was dead before approaching.
“I can’t describe it,” Hunt said. “It’s a rush, the whole idea of hunting. It’s kind of empowering.”
It took the group nearly four hours to get the carcass out of the Washington County wood.
They drove the bear to a recycling center that had certified scales. The animal weighed 742 pounds and measured 87 inches from the tip of its nose to the end of its tail.
The trip was an early Christmas present from her husband, an avid hunter.
“I have always liked fishing, but when I married him, he was so into hunting,” Hunt said. “It was something for us to spend time together and something different.”
Hunt, a graduate of Purnell Swett High School and The University of North Carolina at Pembroke, said when she was child living in the Pembroke area, her father hunted to feed the family. But he wouldn’t let her go, Hunt said.
“… I don’t know if he just thought that wasn’t what a women should be doing, or if he didn’t want me around all those men or what,” she said.
The 30-year-old Hunt now calls North Augusta, S.C., home and has four children.
“I have two little girls and I want them to know that they can do what they see everybody else do,” she said.
The Hunts took the animal to Wilson’s Taxidermy in Langley, S.C., to process the meat, which filled two large coolers. Hunt said it would last her family for a year and a half.
The taxidermist still has the bear’s hide and is coming up with ideas of how to preserve it for Hunt. She said he had never dealt with an animal so large.