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Little boy shoots a big black bear

Posted: Thursday, June 20, 2002

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) -- Mason Evans was sitting in a tree stand playing a game on his father's cell phone when the bear showed up.

Action had been slow since the two set up their bait stand three weeks earlier in the woods north of Fairbanks. While mosquitoes were plentiful, they had yet to see a bear, though there were signs that at least one good-sized bear had visited the site.

After an hour of sitting in the tree late Friday night, Mason began growing restless.

''He was a like a maggot on a hot rock; he wouldn't sit still,'' said his dad, Morgan Evans. ''So I gave him my cell phone to play with.''

As 9-year-old Mason concentrated on his game of ''Snake,'' Morgan kept his eye on the bait stand, hoping a small bear would show up to give Mason an opportunity to take his first bear.

Sure enough, a bear showed up, but it wasn't small. It turned out to be one of the biggest black bears shot in the Interior this spring.

''My dad nudged me on the shoulder and said, 'Bear!''' Mason said.

At first, the boy didn't understand him. ''I thought he said hare.'' Morgan repeated himself and pointed to the bait stand about 60 yards away.

''There was a big bear standing there,'' Mason said.

Morgan quickly chambered a 170-grain bullet into the boy's 30.30-caliber rifle and handed the gun to his son. Mason took aim through the scope and fired.

''As soon as I pulled the trigger he was flapping and rolling for about 30 yards and then he took off,'' Mason said of the bear.

The boy's reaction after shooting his first bear surprised both father and son.

''I started shaking and crying,'' Mason said. ''I've never even seen a bear before, except in the zoo.''

Morgan was quick to remind his son that the hunt wasn't over. ''You haven't got it yet,'' he told Mason. To which an excited Mason replied, ''I don't care, I hit it.''

Father and son waited for about 10 minutes before pursuing the bear. Mason found some blood on a tree and then noticed a tree shaking nearby. They found the bear at the base of the tree, still rolling around.

''He tracked it and found the blood trail,'' said Morgan proudly.

It wasn't until he got a good look at the bear that Morgan realized how big the bear was. ''I could see that his neck was bigger than his head, like you see on big bears,'' he said. The father instructed Mason to take a second shot, but to avoid hitting the bear in the head.

Mason took aim and fired a second round from about 20 yards, hitting the bear in front of the right shoulder. This time, it was the bear's reaction that took both Morgan and Mason by surprise.

''That bear came alive,'' a wide-eyed Mason said, retelling the story four days after the kill. ''He started snapping his jaws and waving his claws. My eyes got 10 feet wide. I threw my dad the gun and started to run.''

Even Morgan was a bit startled by the bear's burst of aggression. ''It wanted to get up and come after us,'' he said.

But the bear's outburst was short-lived. It laid back down a second or two later and Mason regained his composure. Morgan handed him the gun and Mason fired a third shot into the bear to finish it off.

''I shot the tip of its heart and lungs off,'' Mason said.

It was about 11:30 p.m. when Mason shot the bear and it took them about four hours to skin and butcher the animal. They arrived home in Fairbanks at 7 a.m. Saturday.

Wildlife technician Lauri Stack at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game measured the bear's skull at 19 1/16 inches. The hide measured 6 feet, 11 inches from nose to tail and 7 feet, 5 inches from front paw to front paw, according to Morgan. Mason, meanwhile, stands 5-foot-2 and weighs 109 pounds.

Morgan figures the bear weighed in the neighborhood of 350 pounds. ''We got about 150 pounds of meat off him,'' the father said.

While it wasn't the biggest bear sealed at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game this spring, it was an impressive trophy as Interior black bears go. Of the approximately 60 bears sealed by Fish and Game this spring, only three have had skulls that measure 20 inches or more, said wildlife technician Tony Hollis, who does most of the sealing.

''We rarely get black bears with over 20-inch skulls,'' said Hollis.

Though he is only 9, Morgan said Mason has paid his dues. ''He's been packing (bear) bait in since he was 5,'' the father said.

Even though he has decades of hunting ahead of him, Mason realizes he may never bag a bigger black bear than the one he shot last Friday.

''That's what everybody tells me,'' he said.

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