A 28-year-old Iraq War vet set a state record on his first ever bear hunt-with the first bear that walked by.
U.S. Army Capt. Matt Knox, a North Carolina native stationed at Fort Meade, Maryland, made good on a promise to his guides, Steve Monroe and Jim Webber of Grand Slam Guide Service. "I told them I was going to shoot the first bear I saw, as long as it wasn't a cub or a sow with cubs," Knox said after downing the 699-pound black bear near Greenville, Maine, on Sept. 7. "Fortunately, this was the first bear I saw."
The big bruin topped the old record by 19 pounds, almost 19 years to the day after it was set.
Knox, who lives in Waynesboro, Pa., served in Iraq and Kuwait with the Army signal corps. Injured in a training accident, he is now awaiting discharge. He booked the weeklong bear hunt at the urging of Steve Monroe's son, Zachary Monroe. After four uneventful days, he admits, his optimism was beginning to wane.
"On Monday there was a 15-year-old kid who'd seen seven bears in one day, so we were all pretty pumped," Knox says. "By Thursday, when I hadn't seen anything, I started to get down. The bait sites were hit, but the bears were coming at night. I was afraid I wasn't going to see anything."
Guide Steve Monroe knew he had Knox on a good bear; it was just a matter of getting the timing right.
"We caught a big bear on camera the first week of baiting," Monroe says, "but he was coming in at one or two o'clock in the morning, like most big bears do." The Maine season for hunting with bait runs Aug. 27 through Sept. 22, but hunters were allowed to begin placing bait on July 28.
"We knew he was big-maybe 600 pounds-but we didn't know how big. I kept on working the bear with baits, trying to change him up so we could get him coming in during legal hunting time."
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