Retired Marine Tags 717-pound Black Bear While Hunting in North Carolina

Parrot was participating in a hunt organized by a nonprofit called Combat Warriors. Dan Parrot

On December 10, 2022, a retired marine named Daniel Parrot tagged a behemoth of a black bear while hunting over walker hounds with a group of outfitters in eastern North Carolina. He dropped the bear with one well-placed shot from a Marlin .30-30 shortly after first light. When he and his hunting partner and guide, Billy Barber, approached the downed animal, they were astonished by its size. At 717 pounds, the boar black bear was far and away the biggest that either Parrot or Barber had ever laid eyes on.

“I’ve hunted bears a handful of times throughout my life,” Parrot told Field & Stream. “But this was the first time that I’ve gone bear hunting and felt very confident that something was going to happen.” Parrot was invited to attend the hunt as a participant in the Combat Warriors program, a nonprofit with chapters in five different states that provides combat veterans with ready access to hunting opportunities. He said the hunt began around 6:35 a.m. when Phil “Rabbit” Ferguson—the lead guide and owner of Stormy Ridge Outfitters—let his hounds loose on a fresh scent. 

Dan Parrot shot the bear under the guidance of Stormy Ridge Outfitters out of Engelhard, North Carolina. Dan Parrot

“The radios came alive within seconds of the hounds finding the trail,” he said. “I was hunting with Billy and two other guys. When we started hearing the hounds, they moved off to a predetermined spot about 200 yards away. Billy and I moved deeper into the woods, following the edge of a large drainage canal.”

Parrot was hunting in Hyde County, North Carolina, not far from a 46,000-acre chunk of state-owned property known as the Dare Game Lands. The area is renowned among die-hard bear hunters for black bears that reach staggering weights by feeding year-round on a combination of hard mast and readily available agricultural crops like soybeans and peanuts.

The largest bear ever recorded in the Old North State was killed by a hunter in Craven County—just three counties south of the spot where Parrot took his giant bruin in mid-December. That bear was taken with a shotgun slug at close range. It weighed 880 pounds, but—because its skull was severely damaged—it was never entered into the Boone & Crockett record books.

Parrot’s bear weighed in at 717.6 pounds on an official digital scale. Dan Parrot

“This area is full of big hardwood forests with lots of oaks and locusts,” Parrot said. “There’s a healthy bear population, and, at the same time, you have a relatively low population density of people. I’ve been told that the bear population exceeds the human population in some of these counties.” 

It wasn’t long after Parrot and Barber had split up from the other two hunters that Barber spotted movement about 50 yards away in a thick stand of cypress trees and loblolly pines. “The bear was moving at a leisurely pace without any hounds on his immediate trail when he paused to look in our direction for a split second.” Parrot said. “After transitioning from iron sights to my scope, I rested the crosshairs behind his shoulder. The bullet hit slightly forward of my intended point but put the boar down on his right side without another step.”

Parrot and his guide, Billy Barber, posed with the massive bear immediately after the hunt. Dan Parrot

Parrot and Barber quickly closed the distance between themselves and the bear in order “to ensure a clean and respectful end.” At about the same time, the hunting party they’d split off from earlier in the morning got a shot on a bear of their own. “Within 15 minutes, two bears were harvested and all of the hounds were safe and accounted for,” Parrot said. 

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With the big bruin down and the rest of the crew from Stormy Ridge fast approaching, Parrot paused to take stock of the monumental task that now lay before him. “After I got the bear, I just sort of looked at it, and I thought: I’m not even sure where to start with cleaning him,” he said.

Eventually, the other hunters and guides showed up. The crew used ratchet straps to attach the giant bear to a plastic sheet and dragged it out of the woods with a side-by-side to a front end loader on a nearby road. Then, with a heavy-duty strap affixed to one of the bear’s legs, they lifted it up into the bed of a pickup truck.  “There’s no way I could have ever packed that thing out on my own,” Parrot said. “The head and the hide alone weighed close to two hundred pounds.”

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