(MCT) — BALTIMORE — Nearly seven decades separate the youngest and oldest hunters who killed black bears in this year’s Maryland-state-controlled hunt, which ended Friday night. A record number of bears — 92 — were killed during the five-day hunt, according to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
A quota of between 80 and 110 bears had been set, a dramatic increase from last year’s quota of between 55 and 80, which corresponds with the growth of the bear population in Maryland. A total of 68 bears were killed a year ago.
Aurora Wilhelm, who won’t turn 8 until next month, became the youngest hunter ever to take down a bear since the annual event was revived in 2004. She shot a 232-pound male while out with her father, Chad, and 9-year-old sister, Eliza, on family property in Lonaconing on Tuesday night.
Arthur Scarpelli, who turned 76 last month, became the second-oldest hunter to kill a bear when he shot a 117-pound female on Friday morning after four days without seeing any on his nearly 300-acre property on Dan’s Mountain.
It was the first time bear hunting for the second-grader Wilhelm — as well as for the retired federal mental health facility director Scarpelli. Not that Scarpelli hadn’t felt the urge before, given the havoc bears have wreaked on his property.
“When I moved back up there from Montgomery County, I took a 250-pound feeder that we used to have to feed all the animals,” said Scarpelli, who returned to his hometown of Frostburg in 2006 after retiring. “Right after we moved back, I went out one morning and a bear had pulled down the feeder and was sitting in 250 pounds of bird seed.”
Scarpelli also recalled the time that a bear stalked state workers thinning trees on the property after being shooed away from their truck one morning. He called the Department of Natural Resources, but it never found the bear.
Having hunted since he was 13, Scarpelli said he plans to make a rug out of the bear he killed.
“The grandkids will get a kick out of that,” he said.
Chad Wilhelm said he plans to get the bear Aurora shot mounted. It still amazes Wilhelm that the middle of his three daughters took down the bear, given that the sun had faded and she did it standing on a chair in what is normally a blind used for deer hunting.
“I was closing the windows of the blind, and we were ready to go back to our house when my older daughter said, ‘Don’t move, there’s a bear,’” Chad Wilhelm recalled. “It was about 60 yards away, but it was coming toward the blind. It got to about 25 yards away when she shot.”
Using a rifle with a stock that Wilhelm had shortened so his daughters could steady it on their shoulders, Aurora shot the bear, which her father said ran about 60 yards back toward the woods before falling between a couple of downed trees on a hill.
“It probably would have gone another 60 or 70 yards if not for those trees stopping it,” Wilhelm said.
Wilhelm said he had never been bear hunting before and had wanted his daughter, who had won a place in the lottery for the event, to take the shot.
“I’ve never even shot at a bear,” he said.
There’s now also a bit of sibling rivalry between Aurora and her older sister, both of whom got their hunting licenses after taking a hunter’s safety course last year. Eliza Wilhelm, now 9, killed a 6-point buck shortly after getting her license.
“When Aurora got her tag for the bear hunt, her sister wouldn’t talk to her for about a week, but they worked it,” their mother, Jessica Wilhelm, said Friday.
After seeing her sister take down a bear, 5-year-old Jorja Wilhelm is “biting at the bit” to get her hunting license as well, Jessica said. Jessica grew up in a family that hunted, but her father wouldn’t let her go out.
“With Chad, it’s all about the kids,” she said.