Full Article - http://www.pgc.state.pa.us/pgc/cwp/view.asp?a=11&Q=167590
ANOTHER RECORD-BOOK BLACK BEAR TAKEN IN PENNSYLVANIA
New state record black bear taken in Fayette County
By Joe Kosack, Wildlife Conservation Education Specialist
Pennsylvania Game Commission
HARRISBURG - At more than 700 pounds, it moved across the leaf litter of a regenerating mountaintop clear-cut as quiet as a rabbit running across a lawn. The huge black bear had been stirred by one of three brothers working the Chestnut Ridge for bears.
Andrew Seman Jr. of Dunbar took this 733-pound male in Dunbar Township, Fayette County, at 3 p.m. on Nov. 22. This was the largest bear taken during the 2005 bear seasons.
In fact, Andrew "A.J." Seman, 40, of Dunbar, never knew what was coming until this incredibly large black bear barreled into view. Two shots rang out and his brother, Brian, who coaxed the bear Seman's way while still hunting the thickets and laurel patches near the summit, smiled. He knew his brother had action.
"Brian never saw or heard the bear," Seman said. "But we're sure he chased it my way. We were sort of still hunting and driving the ridge 50 to 100 yards apart and heading around my other brother, Jim, who was on stand.
"I stopped by design to wait for Brian, looking his way to catch his movement. Then I heard something crack, like a branch, and it was close. Suddenly, I noticed this big black bear loping through the thicket and coming my way at about 25 yards. I knew immediately that I wouldn't have a very big window of opportunity."
Seman, who has been hunting for more than 25 years, was on State Game Lands 51 in Fayette County's Dunbar Township on the second day of the three-day season. In his 15 years of bear hunting, he had gotten a glimpse of a black bear just one time during bear season. He knew his luck had changed as he leveled his Sako model 75 Hunter rifle on the approaching bear.
From the time he took his Hunter-Trapper Education class at age 12, Seman and his brothers have hunted together and especially on and around SGL 51, a more than 16,500-acre chunk of the Chestnut Ridge in the Allegheny Mountains.
"We've been on the ridge most of our lives," reminisced Seman. "Whether we were hunting, hiking, fishing or crawling over the rocks. We knew there were bears there and over the past few years we've seen plenty of bear sign. But we didn't know this big bear was out there. We didn't hear stories, and we didn't see big bear tracks."
Seman readily admits he was initially drawn to bear hunting because it provided a chance to scout for deer, which he quickly concluded were easier to find in bear season. And for a long, long time that's pretty much all bear hunting provided him. But he also recognizes that hunting can be that way.
"Many a day I sat from dawn to dusk and didn't see a thing," Seman noted. "It didn't discourage me, because I've learned that in hunting you never know what's going to happen. That's why I go. The day I took the bear, I believed change was in the air. It always seemed like the wind was in our faces on drives. We were hunting in areas we felt had potential. In fact, the bear was shot in an area my brother Jim recommended we try while we were eating lunch that day."
The first day and a half of the 2005 bear season were like all the others to Seman and his brothers. But after lunch on the second day, they took a long hike to an area where they'd seen bear sign in the past. It was clear-cut about 15 to 20 years ago and was a rugged mix of saplings, and laurel and rock patches. A great place for a big black bear to hide.
That Tuesday - Nov. 22 - this bear, which had an estimated live weight of 733 pounds, likely sat tight as Brian Seman moved toward it. The bear probably didn't hear the hunter immediately because the leaves on the forest floor, dampened by an earlier rain, were quiet that day. But at the right time, the bear bolted, unbeknownst to Seman's brother, and headed right for A.J. Seman. Eluding one hunter, the bear rushed right into another.
"I raised the rifle and shot, but the bear seemed unfazed," Seman recalled. "It kept moving, angling along the ridge away from me. I didn't know it then, but I had missed with the first shot. I discovered later that it had hit a tree. I continued to follow the bear with the rifle and aimed for the shoulders. It dropped to the ground as I squeezed the trigger on the second shot."
Seman's black bear apparently had great success avoiding hunters over the years, given its tremendous size. But the bear also had a routine in recent years that kept its hulking form out of sight on the Chestnut Ridge. The Pennsylvania Game Commission captured the bear in October of 1997, while handling a cornfield damage complaint in Wharton Township, Fayette County - south of Dunbar. He was tagged and relocated to SGL 111 in Somerset County and, at some point, apparently returned to Fayette County. When relocated, the bear weighed 605 pounds and was estimated to be seven years old based on examination. That would make it 15 years old when Seman shot it, a long time for a bear to live in Pennsylvania.
"There's not a lot of 15-year-old black bears out there," explained Mark Ternent, Game Commission bear biologist. "In fact, 15-year-olds make up less than one percent of the state's bear population. Over the past 25 years, only 63 fifteen-year-old or older male bears have been examined at check stations during the hunting seasons. Equally interesting is that Seman's bear outweighs most 15-year-old male bears, which, according to check station data, typically weigh between 400 and 600 pounds."
Since it was Seman's first bear, he said he really didn't know how to gauge how heavy it was.
"When I tried to pick up the bear's head, I realized just how big it was," he said. "I thought it might weigh 300 or 400 pounds, maybe even 500. Then I thought maybe I was getting a little carried away. So when I got to the check station I asked one of the girls weighing bears what was the biggest bear they got so far. She looked at me like I was kidding. I said, 'No seriously,' and she immediately told me, 'Yours!'"
At the check station, the field-dressed bear tipped the scales at 621 pounds, which puts the estimated live-weight at 733 pounds. However, for official international, national and state big game record keeping, a bear's skull measurement - not its weight - is what matters. Seman's bear ranks number eight on the Game Commission's list of all-time heaviest bears.
"While a bear's weight may fluctuate from one year to the next based on availability of foods and time of year, the size of its skull is a much more consistent means of determining a bear's true size in comparison to another bear," said J. Carl Graybill Jr., Game Commission Bureau of Information and Education director and a certified official measurer for both Boone & Crockett and Pope & Young. "An official score for a bear's skull is determined by adding total length and width together."
The bear was officially scored at the Game Commission Southwest Region Office at Ligonier in early February by Michael J. Hardison, of Uniontown, after the mandatory 60-day drying period for Boone & Crockett Club scoring. It's skull measured 23 and 3/16 inches, which officially places it as the largest black bear ever taken legally by a hunter in Pennsylvania. It also preliminarily ties with a bear taken in California as the largest ever taken legally by a hunter in the world.
The Seman bear's score must be corroborated by a panel of Boone & Crockett Club judges during the organization's next Awards Program in 2007.
Currently, only two other black bears in the world have higher scores. One is a skull that was found in Utah that scored 23 and 10/16 inches, and the other is the skull from a Pennsylvania bear that was killed illegally in 1987 in Lycoming County. It scored 23 and 7/16 inches, and is on display in the lobby of the Game Commission's Harrisburg headquarters.
Although Seman's bear had the largest skull of a bear taken legally by a hunter, it was not the heaviest bear ever taken in Pennsylvania. That record is still held by a 864-pound male - with a skull measurement of 22 and 12/16 inches - taken in Pike County's Dingman Township in 2003 by Doug Kristiansen of Milford. Six other bears also have exceeded the weight of Seman's bear. All were taken after 1991.
The previous state record was a black bear that scored 22 and 14/16 inches and weighed 739 pounds. It was taken, in 2003, by Brian Coxe, Weatherly, in Carbon County's Weatherly Borough.