Harvesting a record animal was one item on Jean Thomison’s bucket list. But this Copan hunter and angler truly never imagined that she would be checking that item off her list with the first black bear ever recognized in Oklahoma’s Cy Curtis Awards Program.
“I would have been happy with any size bear. God just gave me the chance to harvest a big one,” she said.
Jean used a crossbow to take the bear on private property in southwestern Le Flore County on Oct. 2, 2014, the second day of her first bear hunting trip. Her husband of 38 years, Ralph, was also on the hunt.
Oklahoma’s first state-record bear scored 19 8/16. Skull length was 12 13/16 inches, and width was 6 11/16 inches. Scoring was conducted July 1 by Spencer Grace, game warden based in Kay County. Black bear skulls must score 19 or greater to be eligible for a Cy Curtis listing.
The bear was checked in the field by Jeff Ford, wildlife biologist with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. The 4-year-old male bear measured 77 inches in length and weighed an estimated 275 pounds.
Jean said it was easy for her to try bear hunting for the first time. “I grew up with two older brothers, so I considered myself a tomboy and was always up for challenges.” She took up hunting and fishing when she and Ralph were married. “We both love to hunt and fish. We are both very competitive.”
Ralph had hunted and harvested a bear previously. He said they “put in a lot of effort to hunt that bear.”
Jean said the hunt area is a long drive from her home in north-central Oklahoma. “We went down there several times to fill bait barrels. It’s three hours one way plus two hours on the mountain putting out bait, which makes for a long day.
“I was excited and a little nervous because we had to walk to the stand in the dark, not knowing what we might meet. I was in my stand about 10 hours the first day and didn’t see anything.”
Jean returned to her stand the next morning, and after a while she dozed off for a short nap. When she awoke, she started looking around. “Here came this big bear from behind me, going down the same trail to the bait barrel. The distance was only 14 yards when I took a good shot. My adrenaline was going 90 to nothing!”
She said she was hoping her bear was larger than the one her husband harvested previously, but she “knew that you don’t get the option to choose the size.”
The couple, owners and operators of Lakeside Taxidermy in Copan for 35 years, decided to use the hide of Jean’s trophy bear to make a rug, which now hangs on a wall in their home.
Jean said she is now hoping to harvest a caribou or perhaps travel to Africa.
“Besides, I have one in the record book, and the main thing is that it was bigger than my husband’s!”
Source: Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation