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How Much Did That Bear Weigh Again???

How Much Did That Bear Weigh Again???

Contrary to popular belief, the 400-pound black bear does not live on Facebook. There’s no doubt that bears can be one of the toughest animals in all of North America to put a size on. Just telling a boar from a sow alone can be a very difficult task, particularly at a distance through a spotting scope. The actual weight of a bear is another tough measurement to estimate. How many times do you see folks on the Internet or Facebook post up a photo of a young spring bear with a claim it weighed an incredible 400 POUNDS!!! Um, yeah, I’m calling BS on a majority of those claims, and here is why.

First off, spring bears just are not the heavyweights that you see in the fall. A spring bear can increase its size considerably by the time the fall comes around. A good long summer and fall of high protein nutrition can easily increase a bear’s body weight by more than 40% by the time fall rolls around. This means a good heavy 200-pound bear will weigh in at almost 300 pounds or more by the time October hits. And this in turn means, that the mysterious 400-pound spring bear would tip the scale at almost 600 pounds by fall, very unlikely indeed. Only about less than 1% of the boars in North America will EVER tip the scale at anywhere near the 600-pound mark in their lifetimes, and this would only happen at a very old age, probably a 20-year-old bear or better.

Secondly, a bear that weighs in at 400 pounds would have a girth circumference of around 55-inches. That is absolutely huge for a bear. Put it this way, if you saw a photo of a bear with a 55-inch girth it would be hard to see the hunter sitting behind the bear. To put this in perspective, a 55-gallon drum has a circumference of around 70 inches. From the brisket to the top of the back of a bear of that caliber would be around two feet when the bear was propped up on the ground. According to very detailed bear sampling data, bears seem to grow in proportion throughout their lives. This means there is a mathematical formula that will give us a bear’s actual live weight given a single measurement. This critical measurement has been found to be the girth of the bear around his chest. If you take your tape measure and measure the bear’s circumference around his chest, behind his front legs you can easily calculate the bear’s live weight with over 90% accuracy. See the spring 2013 issue of Eastmans’ Bowhunting Journal for the actual formula that will give you this weight calculation.

The spring bear on the left was killed with a bow at 17-yards. It weighed in at 222 pounds with a 42-inch girth and an 18 8/16 ths skull. The boar on the right is the next level up. This bear weighed in at 238 lbs. with a 19 4/16 skull and a 43-inch girth. A very nice spring boar by any measure.

And lastly, most big spring black bear boars are in the 220-260 pound category, with the true monsters usually weighing around the golden 300-pound mark. A good friend of mine, an outfitter did in fact have a hunter kill a bear in BC that tipped the scales at an incredible 394-pounds. It took six guys to get the bear into the back of the truck whole, so it could be taken to camp and weighed on the scale. The bear was a true once-in-a-lifetime type bear with a massive skull that was almost 22-inches B&C. But that bear was an extremely rare case.

This very same friend has kept very detailed records of his hunter’s bears, with this bear being the largest in the sample. His data shows us that most of the biggest of the big spring boars are in the 250-300 pound category. As a general rule of thumb, a 220-pound boar will have a head in the 18-inch category with a six foot square hide, while the 250-pound spring bear will be in the 19-inch class and have a six and half foot square hide, while the 20 and 21-inch bears will be in that massive category at or around the 300 pound mark with a seven to seven and half foot hide on the square. Keep in mind, there are exceptions to almost every rule, and this is no different. There are some bears that have huge heads and malnourished bodies, while some have huge bodies and tiny heads.

As a caveat to this, like I mentioned earlier, the 400-pound spring bear does exist in very, very rare instances. And some of the eastern and midwestern bears can be extremely large because of their diet, but for the most part, don’t let the Internet or Facebook ruin your bear hunting expectations – any boar over that 200-pound mark is a very good bear in any state or province. We will be running a spring bear-hunting article in an upcoming issue of EBJ where we will explore some of the finer details of identifying the sex, and trophy judging spring black bears, as well as the bear girth formula for calculating the live weight of a spring black bear.

Good luck on your bear hunts and let me know if you have any additional questions regarding bear weight and size correlations.

~Guy Eastman

About Guy Eastman, Editor-In-Chief

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Following in the footsteps of his father, Guy has taken up the reins and is now at the helm of the Eastmans’ Hunting Journal and the Eastmans’ Bowhunting Journal. A fine hunter in his own right, Guy has taken several trophy animals and has become an expert in trophy hunting as well.

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  1. Hello Guy,I live 40 miles northwest of Sacramento Ca.The coastal range has some big bears,they never hibernate they just eat and some grow big.1983 I shot a B&C 21 3/16 BOAR he weighed a little over 560 lbs.I have pics if you would like to see.He also squared over 7 ft,bigger than my mountain grizzly. Good luck to you and your Family on this years hunt’s Walt.

  2. Great article about getting bear hunters expectations realistic. I agree for the most part, a 250-300+ lb bear is a big one for a spring weight Canadian bear. Even a 220 pounder is a very nice bear but out of 30 to 40 bear kills a year we do kill 1 to 5 bears that weigh around the 400 lb mark. That is weighed on a scale. Usually the chest girth is 48 to 52 inches. In other regions of Alberta they very rarely kill boars that weigh over 350 lbs, a lot depends on the local food sources. We are in a farmland area and at 5 years old our bears will always weigh over 300 pounds and have a skull over 19 1/2 inches. So I agree and disagree!

  3. Kurt Deutscher

    I agree with Mike. However, over the years of baiting in Alberta, we have found it more difficult to get extra-large bears simply because there are fewer of them. In the first five years of baiting being legalized in Alberta our group of guys killed several 400+ pound bears in the 20 inch or greater category. We now find them fewer and farther between and less patternable. Probably more than one have broadheads in their shoulder blades. My personal biggest bear had a 21 1/2″ skull and a 60 inch chest girth. If I recall he was 84 inches from the flat of his skull to his tail lying down. I think in general the average age of the Bears have gone down in my area. Yet, in one area the Bears rarely get over 20 inches but in a more hilly area 30 miles away some absolute hogs over 21 inches are taken every year. So that speaks of a gene pool issue as well.

  4. Jim Mierzwiak

    Guy, Thanks for finally telling the TRUTH about bears and their true weights! I really get tired of these “OUTDOOR CHANNEL Movie Stars” showing us their 400/500lb Bears! BS, absolutely !!!!!!!!

  5. Brian Corneal

    Spot and stalking bears….wow. That’s got to take some balls to get within 17 yards. Congrats!

  6. I just got back from my 2nd Saskatchewan bear hunt. All the bears that were killed were weighed, and alot of them were filmed prior to the shot. It was surprising how difficult they were to judge. In total there I witnessed 9 bears weighed in, and 7 were plus or minus 15 lbs of the 300 mark. I would say that all of those bears were as tall as the bait barrel, and that was the benchmark we settled on as shootable bears.
    I have to admit it would be very difficult on a spot and stalk to judge a trophy bear. My bear this year was 299 lbs (no skull measurement yet), and I had to really look at him to make a decision. Without that barrel as a guide, I would have passed him up.
    I was fortunate to see a monster bear on my first hunt- I didn’t take him due to poor shot angles, but he was close to 6 inches over the barrel, and his chest seemed as deep as the barrel. I will never know for sure, but I think
    I was looking at a 400 plus bruiser!

  7. A guy I worked with killed a spring bear (black) that field dressed at 419 here in Idaho. The bear had been eating on a horse carcass that a farmer had buried by backhoe. Tracy sat for days waiting for the bear to show itself in daylight before he was able to harvest it. Google Tracy Bennett big buck and you can see some of the other animals he has taken. You should add him to your pro staff.

  8. What would your guess be on a 325 lb. and a 385 lb. dressed bear killed in the fall. That’s what mine and a buddies bears weighed this past fall. Both killed on Sept. 21st in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

  9. I am a Boone and Crockett measurer in Michigan, I had a bear brought in to be scored this winter which scored 20-3/16. the hunter wanted to know what it weighed whole so she got 6 men to bring it out of the woods for her whole. 8 hours later they got it to an official scale where it weighed 715 pounds. Proves the difference between spring and fall bears.

  10. I. Shot. A. Black bear. In. Pa. It. Skull. Was 251/2. %410. It. To. Me. Was. Huge. I. Have. Pics Butt. Not. Sure. How. To. Leave. Them. On. Here. I. Seen. A. Huge. Beat. I. Let Him. Walk. I. Was. Not. Dragi,g. Him. Pa. Got. Some. Huge Bears. Ty. I. Injoy. Reading. All. Ppl. Post. Be safe

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