On opening day of archery season 12-year-old Laura Cloud of Jasper may have become the youngest hunter in Georgia to kill a bear with a crossbow.
Laura and her dad, Raymond, were hunting on a Pickens County club.
“I had found a few white-oak and red-oak acorns right together that were falling,” said Raymond. “I hung a 20-foot ladder stand there a week before the season for Laura. I was in my climber in another tree beside her stand.”
Raymond said he started taking Laura deer hunting with him when she was seven or eight.
“Last year, when she was 10 was the first time she actually hunted with a rifle,” he said. “She killed a huge 8-point. It had 11-inch G-2s on it, the biggest buck that was killed on the club last year.”
On opening day of archery season Laura and her dad watched as a bear approach their stands.
“I looked at her and gave her the thumbs up to let her know that it was big enough to shoot if she wanted to shoot it,” said Raymond.
The bear was quartering toward her, and Laura aimed her crossbow and shot.
“When she shot. The bear just barely even flinched,” said Raymond. “I thought she had missed. The bear just started walking off down the hill. So I thought I’d try my luck. I drew back with my compound and took a shot at him, and my arrow hit some limbs. He just walked off a ways, and then all of a sudden he broke off into a run, and I thought I could hear him gasping.
“We sat there for about five minutes, and Laura finally looked at me and said, ‘Daddy, no offense, but you missed.’ ”
“I looked at her and said, ‘Well I’m not too sure you hit it either.’”
Raymond climbed down to look, and after about a 10-minute search, he found the crossbow-bolt buried up in the ground, and it was covered in blood.
“I just gave her the thumbs up, and she said, ‘Do you mean I hit it?’ She was jumping up and down —I was glad she had her safety harness on. She was tickled.”
The bear ran downhill a long ways — 350 yards. Raymond called a friend to help track, and they found the bear right at dark. The bolt had passed through one lung and the liver.
The Georgia Wildlife Resources Division (WRD) doesn’t track the ages of hunters who kill bears, but Laura may well be the youngest Georgia hunter to take a bear with archery equipment.
Laura Cloud’s 200-lb. bear was one of about 55 bears killed during archery season, which ended October 13.
Nathan Ferguson of Blue Ridge was among the lucky bowhunters. He killed a 250-lb. dressed- weight bear just before dark on September 17.
“I had a deer come in on me, and I stood up and drew,” said Nathan. “Then the deer blew and ran. I knew it couldn’t have seen me. Then out of the corner of my eye I saw something, and it was the bear coming in at about 30 yards. I was at full draw, so I just turned around and shot him.”
The bear ran off, and Nathan went to get help. He returned with Frank Taylor of Suches. They trailed the deer 50 or 60 yards in the dark, then could hear the bear ahead of them.
“When we heard the bear, we pulled back to wait until morning,” said Nathan. “That turned out to be the smart thing to do.”
The next morning they found the dead bear in the same area where they had heard it the night before.
“You can’t beat the feeling,” said Nathan, who is getting the bear mounted. “That was a once-in-a-lifetime thing.”
In northwest Georgia, the preliminary bear harvest during archery season was 20 bears.
In northeast Georgia, the preliminary number — as reports were still coming in — was 35 bears. A total of 55 bears would be just under the 2005 season harvest by archers of 58 bears. The record bear harvest by bowhunters took place during the 2000 season when 75 bears were killed.
Scott Frazier, the WRD bear biologist, said a 470-lb., dressed-weight bear killed in Union County was the biggest bear of the season to date.
While the acorn crop in the mountains is good to excellent, the average weight seemed to be down.
In south Georgia, the last of the three, three-day gun bear hunts ended October 14. According to WRD Biologist Greg Nelms, the preliminary harvest was 41 or 42 bears — just under the long-term south Georgia average of 45 bears annually.
“The first weekend hunt went pretty well, and 22 bears were killed,” said Greg. “But it sort of dwindled down after that.”
The heaviest bear weighed 450 pounds, live weight.
One bear hunt remains for south Georgia hunters, a three-day, November 9-11, check-in hunt on Dixon Memorial WMA.