Share your bear tales with us

For more than 10 years, I’ve been writing about the outdoors for this newspaper. Over that time, some things have become pretty predictable.

Seasons change, and as they do, Mainers participate in different outdoor activities.

Jeff Hilton of Charleston poses with the 520-pound black bear he shot last year. Hilton tends two bait sites of his own and has spent the past three years waiting for a shot at this bear, which he could identify because of past trail camera photos. A change of tactics paid off. (Photo courtesy of Jeff Hilton)

When April rolls around, anglers are looking for open water. Come May and June, fly fishermen are wading into the state’s rivers and streams. In November, many turn their attention to deer hunting. And in late August and early September, some focus on bears.

Despite a decade of listening to hunting and fishing tales, however, I was a bit unprepared for what happened a year ago, when bear hunters took to the woods.

Every day, it seemed, I’d receive another email or two from a hunter or a guide or a proud mom or dad. Attached were photos. And those photos showed bears. Big bears.

Bigger bears than I’d ever seen here in Maine.

As the season went on, the emails continued. One bear weighed 520 pounds. Another weighed 522. Then 600. And eventually, the photo and story of a state record 699-pounder crossed my desk.

You likely saw those photos, and read the stories those hunters shared.

And while some readers might not enjoy the post-hunt “hero” shots that we published on line and in the print edition of the BDN, many others did.

Last September, in fact, more than 71,000 readers visited my “Out There” blog during a month that was dominated by big bear photos and accompanying tales from hunters.

That total nearly doubled the previous high-water mark for the blog.

And here we are again: September looms. Bear hunters are in the woods. And we’re waiting … waiting … waiting.

Last year’s streak of massive bears wasn’t the norm; In previous years, I’d receive perhaps one such story in a given bear season … if I was lucky.

Natural food was not abundant, you see. Bears knew that. And they were tromping all around the state, gobbling up whatever grub they could find, to prepare for an early entry to their dens.

That desperation made some bears a bit more daring than they’d normally be, wildlife biologist Randy Cross told me at the time. Instead of waiting until nighttime to visit bait sites, normally wary older bears — those that had survived a few years and knew how the baiting game works — threw caution to the wind and visited the baits during daylight hours, when hunters were sometimes waiting.

This year, natural foods are much more abundant. Cross expects bears to head to their dens later, and to spend more time foraging on that good natural food in the coming weeks. Hunters will likely see fewer bears at their bait sites.

But some will see plenty of bears. Some will succeed. And some will tag big Maine black bears.

Here’s hoping we hear a few more great bear tales in the weeks ahead. If you’ve got a story and photos to share, you can reach me at

Our readers have proven that they’re standing by, eager to hear your tales.



John Holyoke

About John Holyoke

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. Today, he's the Outdoors editor for the BDN, a job that allows him to meet up with Maine outdoors enthusiasts in their natural habitat. The stories he gathers provide fodder for his columns, and this blog.