Wisconsinite Bill Foster arrowed a huge black bear in September 2022 that officially ties the state record for the largest black bear ever taken with a bow. It also ties the No. 4 all-time black bear in the Pope & Young record book. A group of big game scorers from several record-keeping agencies met multiple times over the winter to confirm the new record.

A panel of local scorers with the Wisconsin Buck and Bear Club first measured the bear’s skull in November and gave it a score of 22 11/16 inches. This matched the standing state record for a bow-killed black bear, which was taken from Chippewa County in 2003 by Duane Helland. It also made Foster’s bear an all-time top five animal in the P&Y book, which required him to send the skull to the organization in January and again in February to be panel scored at the Reno convention.

“They have confirmed the score, and I can officially say I have a trophy that sits at No. 4 all time in the Pope & Yound record books,” Foster wrote in an April Facebook post. “It’s also the largest black bear at the convention and the largest taken since I believe 2015.”

Foster, 45, harvested his bear on Sept. 8 during the third day of the state’s fall black bear season. He used bait to draw the bear into bow range and killed it on private land in northwestern Burnett County near the Minnesota state line.

“I had a trail camera out over a bait pile, which is legal in Wisconsin, and first got pictures of him on Sept. 6,” Foster tells Outdoor Life. “A visiting friend of mine, Scottie Layman from Tennessee, sat in that stand on opening evening, and he shot a 250-pound bear that may be large enough for Pope & Young.”

The 250-pounder was a great bear, but it wasn’t nearly as big as the one Foster had seen in the trail camera photos. He hunted over the same bait pile from the same stand the following morning and saw nothing. But when he returned to the stand that evening, the huge bear finally showed itself.

wisconsin black bear ties record
Foster’s black bear weighed more than 500 pounds. Courtesy of Bill Foster

“I spotted the bear beyond my bait pile, and he was nervous because he was coming in downwind,” says Foster, who was shooting an Obsession Turmoil bow with a 62-pound draw. “I knew I had to take the first good shot I had because I sensed he was going to wind me and spook. He offered a perfect shot at 28 yards, and I took it.”

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Foster’s arrow, tipped with a Slick Trick fixed broadhead, hit the bear behind the shoulder and made a complete pass through. He found the bear dead only 45 yards away from where he’d shot it.

The bear weighed 478 pounds dressed (with an estimated live weight of 552 pounds), and Foster says he’s having a full-body mount done. When asked what kind of bait he used to bring the bear into range, he chuckles.

“I crushed a bunch of Jolly Rancher candies,” Foster says. “Bears just love ‘em.”