A Greene County man was honored last month by the state for tagging the largest bear in Virginia during the 2018 hunting season.
Tony Shifflett, owner of Rangeland in Ruckersville, wasted no time earning this honor, killing the bear in Albemarle County on Oct. 7—the second day of bow season.
“Before I even got to my deer stand, I heard this pop and cracking noise,” Shifflett said. “I sneaked into the woods and I saw a bear about 100 yards away. I just kept easing, sneaking, sneaking, easing and got to within 28 yards and I shot my crossbow. I knew he was in the area but I was not bear hunting really. It was the first bear I’d killed in several years. It’s a pretty simple story, really.”
Shifflett had been asked by the property owner in that area to shoot the bear if found as it had attacked her dog and was tearing down bird feeders.
The bear was a 484 pound male.
Virginia measures the length, width and height of the skull and the distance between the canines to determine size. Shifflett’s bear was 30 inches and the nearest other record bear had been 28 10/16.
Before he had entered the bear into the state competition, Shifflett entered him in the Boone and Crockett Club.
“The Boone and Crockett Club is even more prestigious than the state. The Boone and Crockett Club was inspired by Theodore Roosevelt because he was such a great outdoorsman,” Shifflett said. “My bear made the Boone and Crockett record book too at 21 6/16.”
The Boone and Crockett Club measures the animals differently by removing the lower jaw and measuring length and width only.
Shifflett said his bear was quite lean, and a game warden told him if it was full weight it would have been closer to 600 pounds. When the bear was taken to a processor he learned it was nine feet tall.
“There were other bears hanging in his cooler that were 400 pounds and he dwarfed them,” he said. “I expected him to come in the top three easily because the guy announced at the awards that were only the nine bears that have hit the 30-inch mark in Virginia since 1940. I’m not saying it couldn’t have been beat, but it would have been a really good year.”
Before winning the state competition, Shifflett was awarded the Eastern Regional Award for his bear.
He said his wife had encouraged him to mount the bear, but a life-size mount is between $5-7,000 and he already had one, as well as a bear rug—among other big game mounts in his home.
“This is the only Boone and Crockett animal I’ve ever killed and I’ve hunted a lot of big animals,” he said.
Shifflett has been hunting for a living for 35 years, but sporting longer than that.
“When I got married it was on Oct. 22 and I wouldn’t do that anymore,” Shifflett laughed. “That’s right in the middle of the season. Back then you got two deer tags and that’s all you got. We didn’t have very many deer; we had some bears but not like now.”
He said the bear population in Virginia has exploded. In the 1970s, there were about 600 bear check-ins annually, but now it’s up to 2,800.
“Back then it was rare to see a deer in Greene County,” he said. “In the late 1960s they were almost non-existent in Greene. You had to go up by the park land to see them. When I was archery hunting back then, if you killed a deer with a bow people would come to look at it.”
Virginia hunting season began last weekend with youth day and Monday - Wednesday was the start of early bear season in Greene, Albemarle and Madison counties. Regular bow and crossbow season for deer and bear begins this Saturday, which extends six weeks before switching to muzzleloader. Visit https://www.dgif.virginia.gov/hunting/regulations/ for information on hunting seasons.