In the gathering 9 o'clock dusk one recent evening, Chip Evanoff's ears perked up to the sound of snapping tree limbs. Something big - very, very BIG - was out there.
Evanoff, an avid hunter when not attending to his busy schedule as a Toledo area physician, was alone up a tree deep in the black timber of New Brunswick in the Canadian Maritimes. He was hunting black bear, but was not quite prepared for what he was about to see.
At 9:13 p.m. - it said so on the video camera he had turned on, for the record - a huge boar of a bear stepped into sight 25 yards out. Seconds later, Evanoff's .50 muzzleloader went off, and peering underneath the cloud of smoke the hunter knew his shot was true.
The bear, when he and lodge owner Donald Hebert and guide Serge Allain got to it, proved to be a monster. It later tipped the scales at 650 pounds and was 7 1/2 feet long, nose to tail.
It was so big that New Brunswick game authorities came out to measure and photograph it.
"They had no idea that such a bear existed in New Brunswick," explained Evanoff.
His bruin's size is being verified by the province but is expected to be the largest on record taken there.
"I have been reeling," said an enthused Evanoff. "This is one of those dreams come true."
He said the bear's skull measured 203/16 inches green, or undried, and though it will shrink somewhat it should easily make the 18-inch minimum for the Longhunter records kept by the National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association. If it remains at least 20 inches, it will make Boone & Crockett.
"I passed up a couple of smaller bears," said the hunter, who previously has bagged 10 bears. "We knew this one was out there."
Hebert earlier had confirmed the presence of a huge bear, though no one realized how big till Evanoff's hunt.
"At 9 p.m. I heard this big 'crack' in the woods," he said.
The hunter and guides later determined that the big boar had been breaking down and biting trees to mark his territory.
Evanoff was among a group of nine area hunters to make the 1,400-mile trek to Hebert's camp, and eight came home with bears. Yes, they'll be going back next year.
Mark Lodzinski of Artistic Touch Taxidermy in Oregon is creating a full-body mount of Evanoff's bear.
"The thing's phenomenal. Six-fifty is a true weight. It's all of that."
In the East only Pennsylvania is known to consistently produce large black bears. Among the annual bag of 2,000 to 3,000 bears there, several usually are in the 600 to 800-pound range.
The taxidermist said that New Brunswick is not known to produce such big bears. But he noted that Louie Takacs, a well-known East Toledo butcher, took a fine 350-pounder there last year on his first hunt, and that bear was considered large for the area. Takacs also was one of the successful hunters in this year's Evanoff crew.
Summed Lodzinski: "Chip's bear is the bear of a lifetime. It's the bear of 10 hunters' lifetimes."
Two other Toledo area bear hunters have turned in notable bags in recent hunts.
Mike DeVore Sr. took a 500-pound black bear in Manitoba with a bow and arrow, Lodzinski said. The bear's skull, at 21 3/4 inches, will assure inclusion in the Pope & Young archery-hunting record books.
"It's also a huge bear," the taxidermist said.
Eric Lubinski took a 300-pound bear measuring six feet, six inches nose to tail while on a hunt with Kipawa Outfitters near Lake Dumoine, Quebec, 540 miles northeast of Detroit.
Lubinski took his bear, which is being made into a rug, with a .45/70 rifle. He was the only hunter in a party of four to bag a bruin.
The waters around Ontario's Pelee Island typically are where large Lake Erie walleye head this time of year, and that is where the top teams fished in last week's Michigan Walleye Tour event at Port Clinton.
The team of Chris Morris of Oregon and Craig Nagy of Lapeer, Mich., landed a two-day tournament total of 10 fish weighing 76.51 pounds to lead the 69-team field.
In second place was the team of Matt White and Terry Kerr, both of the Saginaw, Mich., area, with 10 fish weighing 75.99 pounds. Third went to Marc Hudson of Fremont and Travis Hartman of Bellevue at 75.82 pounds.
"At the end of Day One, Morris and Nagy sat in seventh place, trailing the leaders by four pounds," said Duane Myers of the Ottawa County Visitors Bureau. "But with ideal conditions they netted 38 pounds, 1 ounce to secure their win the second day."
In all the field weighed 652 walleyes at 3,670.61 pounds for an average entry-size of 5.63 pounds. Trolling was the name of the game.