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7-foot square hide bear – What does this even mean?

I’m getting so many questions from prospective clients about the size of my bears that I have decided to write a blog about it.

There are so many guided bear hunts to pick from, that I do not envy hunters who try to compare, over the phone, the size of the trophy each outfitter has to offer.

Essentially, there are 3 recognized methods used to score a Black Bear:

  • The weight
  • The skull measurement
  • The squaring of the hide

While the skull measurement is the only official scoring method for record-book purposes, the weight and the squaring methods are commonly used. The former is widely used in the eastern States and Provinces of Canada and some western States like Oregon. The latter is commonly used across the middle/western States and Provinces.
Nevertheless, my viewpoint is that each method corresponds to a different hunting style. Purist trophy hunters would only swear by the skull measurement. Average size bear hunters would use the weight method and, to be honest, not even weigh the bear but give it a guess. Hunters who want their name entered in a bear weight measurement contest would obviously consider weighing their harvest. Practical trophy hunters would use the squaring method, sometimes complemented with the skull measurement method.

The region determines the method that is most used; let me pick on Quebec for example. Size of the bears are very average and more commonly spot-and-stalk hunted or hunted with dogs. In these scenarios, the “first seen, first kill” rule applies. Likelihood to kill a trophy bear (in the book-record sense of the term) in these scenarios is rare, therefore the weight measurement is usually used to compare one to another. If an outstanding bear is harvested, then a more official measurement method is used.

Good trophy size bear coastal regions essentially use the skull measurement method as they are the ones contributing the most to the book-record entries.

In Western and Northern Canada, the most commonly used method is the squaring of the hide; the region has a significant contribution to the record book, but it produces even more 7 footers whom might not make a book-record bear. Again, after harvest and squaring the bear, it might be complemented with a skull measurement.

Mature Black Bear boar

The Weight:
In eastern States, like in Pennsylvania, contests are organized every year. It’s all about who got the biggest in terms of weight. As a result, this is the most commonly, not to say the only, means of measurement used. While the method looks very simple on paper (kill a bear, and put it on a scale), it is not as easy to put in practice. Of course, you first need to kill the bear. And then you need to either drag it to a place where you have a scale available or hang it to one of these hanging scales which require;
1. To have the hanging scale with you,
2. To find a way to hang the scale way up in a tree; and,
3. Lift this 700 pounds bear to hook it to the scale.
Now, if your option was to take it back home and you want to keep the meat, you gutted it in the field. The weight back home can only be an estimate based on the field dressed weight.
Because the weighing of the bear is most often an estimate, it is by far the least accurate and official means of scoring a bear. />


The Skull measurement:
This is the only Boone & Crockett recognized scoring method. Therefore, it is the most official method which is also the most accurate. Measurements of the greatest length and greatest width of the skulls are added. That’s it. A Black Bear must score a minimum of 20” to make the Awards Book and 21” to
make the All-Time book. 18” to be recorded with Pope & Young.

The Squaring of a bear:
Some of you have never heard of this term. I know it since everyday I have to educate some of my prospective clients about this measurement method.
First and foremost, we are talking hide square here, meaning the measurement of the hide laying on a flat surface. This has nothing to do with the measurement of the length of a bear hanging, from toe to nose. And I can name many outfitters out there who advertise 7-foot bears (without specifying that they
are talking length only) which only score a 6-foot square hide, leading their customers to confusion and maybe illusion.
The squaring of the hide of a bear starts with 2 measurements: A = tip of nose to tip of tail and B = from front claw tip to claw tip while the hide is laying flat, naturally stretched. The 2 measurements are added
and divided by 2: (A+B)/2. Most of the time A is greater than B but exceptions exist.
This method is not as accurate as the Skull measurement method in the sense that the stretching might impact the result by a couple of inches. But the most common discrepancy comes from the cut on the chest. If a client asks for his hide to be skinned to make a full mount, then I typically do not open cut all
the way to the jaw to minimize the stretches at the taxidermist. As a result, the tip of the nose does not extend as much as if the chest was cut all the way. In this case, an approximation is used that might impact the result by another couple of inches.
The squaring of a bear method is a very practical method which can be used in the field and does not lie on the size of the bear. I think that this is why this has become the outfitters’ most used method of measurement of a bear.

A final comment on these different methods; none of them take into consideration the genetics of the bears. It is known that some areas produce B&C book-record bears that are 6 footers. And some areas producing 7 footers who rarely make it to the B&C book-record. Maybe that an official scoring method that would be a combination of the two would be more universally used.

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