An 11-year-old boy from New Jersey shot and killed a 502-pound black bear in Bethel on Monday, one of the largest bears bagged in Maine in two years.

Steven Myers Jr., a sixth-grader from Steelmantown, New Jersey, was hunting early in the morning with his father, brother, grandfather and others when the family’s team of hounds treed the gigantic male bear off Rabbit Road.

Mark Latti, a spokesman for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, said the state does not keep records, but the unofficial record was set on Sept. 12, 2012, when Matt Knox of Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, shot and killed a black bear in Greenville that weighed 699 pounds.

On Monday, the 11-year-old’s grandfather, Bruce Myers, who is a registered Maine Guide, and another guide tied the dogs off once they were certain the bear was not getting out of the tree – black bears are adept at climbing trees and coming back down.

The boy, who was armed with a 35 mm Remington rifle, said he fired one shot that hit the bear in the chest, killing it.

“I’ve been doing this (bear hunting) for 35 years and this has got to be one of the most exciting days of my life,” said Bruce Myers, 63. “To kill a bear that weighs 502 pounds, that’s pretty special.”

Steven Myers Sr. said he was proud of his son.

“At first I think he was stunned, but when the adrenaline finally wore off he couldn’t wipe the smile off his face,” Myers said in a telephone interview Monday night.

The family will likely get about 150 pounds of bear meat from the kill, and the animal’s hide will be turned over to a taxidermist.

A team of five men used a sled to haul the dead bear out of the woods onto a tote road, where the animal was placed in the flatbed of a pickup truck and driven to Bethel.

Sarah Lane and Jeremy Fredette, co-owners of Bethel Bait Tackle & More, tagged the bear. They determined that it weighed 502 pounds.

“The record is 699 pounds, but 502 pounds is very respectable,” said Jennifer Vashon, the state’s bear biologist. “It sounds like the experience of a lifetime for the boy.”

Vashon said the average weight for a female black bear is 200 pounds. Males typically weigh around 300 pounds. She guessed that the bear killed Monday by Myers was about 5 years old. Black bears can live as long as 30 years because they have no natural predators other than people.

Vashon should be able to identify the bear’s age after the weigh station staff removes a tiny premolar tooth from behind the animal’s canine. Similar to how scientists count rings on a tree to determine its age, Vashon will be able to cut the tooth open and count rings on the tooth.

The hunting party did not use bait to lure the bear because the baiting season ended Sept. 20.

Vashon said Maine’s bear hunting season is divided into categories. People can use bait from Aug. 25 through Sept. 20, and can use dogs from Sept. 8 through Oct. 31. Bears can be trapped from Sept. 1 through Oct. 31, but the actual bear hunting season doesn’t end until Nov. 29.

The fisheries and wildlife department has come out in opposition to the statewide referendum question that would make it illegal to use bait, dogs or traps to hunt bear. Outdoorsmen could still track and hunt bears with guns, but Vashon said that method has proven to be ineffective in controlling the bear population – only 200 bears a year are harvested that way.

The current hunting system, which relies on all four methods, results in about 3,000 bears a year being killed. Vashon said the state is concerned because if baiting and other methods are outlawed, Maine’s bear population will grow and intrude into heavily populated areas.

The Myers family said it would be a mistake to place restrictions on bear hunting. Not only is it a tradition for many families, but restrictions would harm local economies. They say hunters buy gas, spend money in hotels and dine at restaurants.

“I’m a pretty happy guy right now,” said Bruce Myers. “I can’t believe people want to stop this. People will suffer financially if this referendum passes.”

“I think it’s terrible,” said Steven Myers Sr. “Bear hunting has been a way of life for many people up here.”

Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting is the group attempting to ban bear hunting with hounds, bait and traps. It gathered more than 78,000 signatures to ensure that the referendum question was placed on the Nov. 4 ballot. The group, on its website, says that “these are cruel and unsporting practices that do not reflect Maine values.”

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

[email protected]