Woman bags ‘huge’ black bear

Published 9:54 pm Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Brittany Epperson, 22, was on a bear hunt last Saturday morning in Suffolk off of Box Elder Road when she shot down an approaching 520-pound black bear that was only two to four yards away.

“That was absolutely the scariest thing that has ever happened to me,” said Epperson, an avid hunter. “The bear was so close when I finally shot that I didn’t really realize how dangerous it was until after it happened.”

Brittany Epperson shot down a 520-pound black bear with assistance from her husband David, left, while hunting off of Box Elder Road near their home last Saturday.

Brittany and her husband David, also an experienced hunter, had been invited by one of her relatives to go bear hunting that morning. They ended up hunting near the Eppersons’ house, which sits on territory hunted by the Box Elder Hunt Club. Approximately 25-30 men from the club were tracking the same bear.

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“They had actually jumped the bear probably not even a few hundred yards, probably half a mile through the woods,” David Epperson said. “But he ended up coming towards our house.”

“We had dogs that we were using and we heard the chase and it went on for a couple of miles or more,” said Dan Holland, a board member of the club.

“We could hear the dogs baying it, so we actually went in the woods to go after it because we knew it wasn’t going to come out,” Brittany Epperson said.

The dogs were not going at the bear, but they did have it surrounded.

“I think it was trying to find an escape route and it just went straight toward my direction,” she said.

She got down on one knee and raised her 12-gauge shotgun. She estimated the bear was two to three yards away when she fired two shots into it.

“She shot it pretty much right in the face, right in the neck area,” David Epperson said. “But after that, the bear didn’t fall automatically and then it actually turned towards me and scared the mess out of me. So I had to actually shoot one time at it, just to keep myself safe.”

“And it still wasn’t completely gone,” Brittany Epperson said. “It was laying there motionless and all it was doing was growling and the dogs were on it right then.”

The dogs began tearing at its fur and a bear guide that was accompanying them at that point gave it a final kill shot to the head to avoid a dog being killed by a last gasp effort from the bear.

The bear was estimated as being 20-25 years old.

“520 pounds is a huge bear,” Holland said. “Most bears run between maybe 350, 400, 450 pounds.”

David Epperson admitted to being nervous for his wife, but had confidence in her abilities.

“I was (worried), but I knew she knew how to hunt, how to protect herself with a gun from animals,” he said. “I think she had the same feeling when it turned (and) started coming towards me.”

Brittany and David, who were married about a month ago, grew up in Suffolk and met while they attended Lakeland High School together. It was David who got her interested in hunting when she was 16.

“He hunted his entire life and then we just started hanging out and he took me along with him and it was a lot of fun, so I just kept going,” she said.

In her experience of hunting for deer, doves, squirrels, turkeys, waterfowl or bear, the appeal is simple.

“It’s the adrenaline when the animals are actually getting close to you, you get really excited,” she said. “The sitting there and waiting isn’t all that fun, but when they’re actually there, it’s pretty awesome.”