East Tennessee Outdoors: Tennessee black bear hunting part 2

Published 12:11 am Thursday, January 2, 2020




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 I found myself being a little lazy one day this summer as I reclined in front of our television. My wife was next to me and all was well with the world.

Suddenly, I saw a movement past my living room window and immediately I knew what it was. I jumped up and looked out the window just in time to see one of the largest black bears I have ever seen walk through my back yard.

My wife and I watched this beast for the next several minutes and my wife even went on our front porch to get a better look. The bear had to weigh at least 450 pounds if not more and as we watched him he paid us little attention.

He was the king of this mountain and he had come into our yard to eat our blueberries and blackberries. As far as I was concerned, he could have them.

This was not the only bear I watched in my yard last summer but he was the largest.

Every year for the last several years I have watched bears around my house. Admittedly, I live next to a national forest but the populations are soaring everywhere and the bears are showing themselves in cities, in housing developments, and along busy roads.

One lady I know had a bear sleep on her front porch until he had eaten the apples from her apple trees. Another neighbor of mine had to go out the back door of his house to get to his car for a couple of days because a bear was sleeping next to his front door.

He did everything he could to get rid of the bear, including shooting a gun in the air, but the bear would not leave until he was ready.

The positive impact of this bear population increase has been an increase in the number of bears harvested in Tennessee.

Tennessee estimated it had a black bear population of over 7000 animals in 2018 and that same year a record was set for the number of bears harvested at 759 bears.

This shattered the previous record established in 2011 at 589 bears.

The black bear hunting season for Tennessee ended on December 29, 2019, and it looks like the harvest will be down from last year.

The 2019 unofficial total for bears harvested at the time of this printing is 495 bears. Monroe County had the highest harvest last year with 69 bears. Cocke County had 66 bears harvested, and Polk County had 65 bears harvested.

In northeast Tennessee, Carter County had the fourth-highest harvest in the state with a total of 61 bears taken. Of these, 11 were killed with a bow or crossbow.

Other Northeast Tennessee counties that had bears harvested were Greene County (34), Hawkins County (6), Johnson County (32), Sullivan County (43), Unicoi County (33) and Washington County (13).

Some of the largest bears ever taken in Tennessee in the last thirty years have been taken in Carter and Johnson Counties. A few years ago, a state record bear was taken in Carter County that weighed over 600 pounds.

Also, I spoke with a group of hunters a few years ago who killed a bear in the Butler area they estimated weighed at least 625 pounds. It was so big they could not get it out of the mountains and only brought out the head, hide and reproductive organs to prove what they had killed.

Many other giants of the forest have been killed but to my knowledge, the bear that ate my berries this summer was not killed during the season.

I am glad he is still in the mountains behind my house. Even though I don’t bear hunt much, I am glad I can take a walk in our mountains and know it is truly a wild place and that I am not always the apex predator of the mountains.