LITTLE ROCK This has been a big year for bear hunting and crappie fishing in Arkansas. So big, in fact, that we have a new state record bear, and a near miss for white crappie.
On Sept. 15, Don Barnett of Bryant used a longbow to kill a massive black bear in Saline County that scored 21 7/16. It weighed about 508 pounds and measured more than 7 feet from nose to rump. It eclipsed a 1997 bear killed by Dillard Graves in Perry County that scored 21 2/16. Graves killed that bear with a modern firearm. The previous state record for a bear killed with archery equipment was 21 1/16, taken in 1996 by Donald Cost in Polk County. Eric Duncan previously held the record for a bear killed with traditional archery equipment with a 19 4/16 bear he killed in 1996.
In addition to being the largest bear ever killed in Arkansas, Barnett's bear is world-class, too. Todd Sharp, of Little Rock, officially scored Barnett's bear for the Boone and Crockett Club. When he submits the paperwork to recognize the bear in Boone and Crockett's all-time awards program, Barnett's bear will rank 417th overall, said Jack Reneau, director of big-game records for the Boone and Crockett Club. It will rank 50th among the 319 bears killed from 2007 to present, Reneau said.
Barnett said he also will register the bear with Pope and Young, which recognizes animals killed with archery equipment. It will tie for 64th place all-time, out of a total of about 6,200 bears registered with the organization. P&Y does not distinguish between bears killed with modern and traditional archery equipment. However, according to the book, A Traditional Journey, published by Pope and Young, Barnett's bear will tie for seventh place for largest black bear killed with traditional archery equipment.
Sharp said Barnett's bear would have scored even higher had it not been missing its two front teeth.
"If he'd have had those two front teeth, he probably would have scored 21 9/16 or 21 10/16," Sharp said. "That affected his skull size. In the perpendicular measurement, those two front teeth always stick out the furthest. Since he didn't have them, it cost him."
Sharp estimated the bear's age at about 20 years.
"His teeth were worn down to a nub," he added. "He was quite a bit smaller than he was the previous year in body weight, so he was on the downhill slide."
It's an honor for Arkansas to produce such a high-quality bear, but it's even more phenomenal that Barnett killed it within 40 minutes of downtown Little Rock.
James Weeks of Glendale celebrated Thanksgiving by catching a white crappie at Cane Creek Lake that measured 17 inches long, with a girth of 3 inches. An article in the Lincoln Ledger cited its unofficial weight as 5 pounds, which, if certified, would crush the 32-year old record of 4.09 pounds.
Having caught the fish on Thanksgiving, however, Weeks was unable to find a set of certified scales. He said it weighed 5 pounds on a bathroom scale. Weeks kept the fish alive until the next morning. Its official weight was 3.71 pounds.
"If we'd have known, we could have got it weighed at the Piggly Wiggly, but we messed around until after it closed, and we couldn't get anyone to open up and weigh it," Weeks said.
State record or not, that's a whale of a crappie.
I spent all day Monday in a stand overlooking two cutovers, with a clear view that extended nearly half a mile. I didn't see a hint of a deer.
At about 4:20 p.m., disgusted over blowing a day so fruitlessly, I watched the grass and thighhigh pines sway and bend in a stiffening wind. About then, a dog arrived from some neighboring property and tore like a little rocket into the cutover directly in front of me. I could only see its tail and the top of its back. When it reached the center of the cutover, deer boiled out of the grass and burst away like Olympic hurdlers.
They'd been within 150 yards of me all day. Worst of all, there wasn't a buck in the bunch.
A friend has been scouting for late-season bucks in Monroe County, and he found some giant rubs on a couple of thin ridges in a swamp. The deer are actually bedding in the water, he discovered. He took me for a walk in that area recently, and the swamp reeks with rut musk. These bucks stay out of trouble by traveling through the swamp and hitting the area food plots at night.
Next spring, he said he'll hang a stand on a cypress tree in the swamp at a height of 30 feet. Next season, he'll be waiting for them.
Sports, Pages 22 on 12/11/2008