Bear - Modern Firearm Record

1. Fred Simmons 22-3/16 2000

Story by Steve Galea

Originally Published in the Minden Times

I’m not sure what’s the bigger story here: a new provincial record-book black bear or a new provincial record for remaining humble. Then again, I guess it doesn’t matter since Fred Simmons has just set them both.

The 58 year-old Minden resident recently found out that a black bear he shot during the 2000 moose season is the new Ontario record in the firearms category according to record keepers at FROW. In hunting, this sort of accomplishment ranks right up there with a gold medal. It’s a once in a lifetime achievement that most of us never even consider within the realm of possibility. And the humble Mr. Simmons is taking it all in stride.

“I’m happy that it’s a record but it’s the good memories of that hunt that really matter,” he said. “If it hadn’t been for Terry and Liz Cowen, I don’t think I would have even had it scored. Liz thought it might be up there in the records.”

When he first saw it amble over the rise on the fine autumn day in mid-October of 2000, he was actually hoping to see a moose. Instead, what filled his sight was the massive silhouette of a bear that he conservatively estimates at around 600lbs in weight. The key word here is conservative.

His first concern, when he shot the animal, was that his aim was true. As it ran off a short distance to die, he was hoping he didn’t miss. The penalty for poor marksmanship, in his hunt camp, is a photo taken of the hunter sitting down with an empty chamber pot on his head.

“Actually, that’s what I was most relieved about (no pun intended) when we walked up to the dead bear.”

Haliburton-based taxidermist Terry Cowen, who has seen his share of big bears, says, “It was never weighed but the rug took up two full four by eight foot panels. I had a 571 pound bear in the shop last year and it was a baby compared to the Simmons bear. This was huge, from the tip of its nose to the base of its tail was 8 feet when stretched. It looked like a grizzly bear…”

Reluctantly, Simmons acknowledged the bear’s size too. “There’s big bears and then there was this one. I don’t think I’ll see another like it again.”

Though massive in size, heavier bears may have been shot. But that doesn’t affect record book standing. Record book keepers actually measure bear skulls, much as deer are ranked by their antlers. And here’s where the Simmons bear was the undisputed champ. Terry Cowen, also an official FROW scorer, measured the bear’s skull at 22-3/16 inches, relegating Paul Zuch’s 21-12/16 Parry Sound bear to second place and Ron Sullivan’s 21-10/16 bear to third. It’s interesting to note that both the Simmons and Sullivan bears were taken in Haliburton County.

Though he knew it was big, he didn’t know that he had taken the largest Ontario black bear in the modern firearms category until the Sullivan bear appeared in the December-January issue of Ontario Out of Doors magazine. Then Liz Cowen, an avid outdoorsperson in her own right, contacted the magazine and said that she had a higher scored bear skull in her shop.

As a Field Editor for Ontario Out of Doors, I was then assigned to investigate the story for the magazine’s News section. It didn’t take more than a couple of calls to determine that the skull and bear rug that Simmons possessed were from the new Ontario record. Although the bear was scored in 2001, it will be featured in an upcoming edition of the FROW record book.

You’d think with such a trophy, Simmons would possess a dearth of photos including wallet-sized glossies and a couple transferred onto T-shirts. (Not that I’ve given it much thought.) Lesser men have made careers out of lesser things. When Milo Hansen of Saskatchewan shot his world record buck he, literally, went on tour. Yet Simmons, in the midst of a move, had a hard time finding even one photo and only gave an aw-shucks type of reaction when I pointed out that his bear was the new provincial record. Minden Times News Editor Jerry Grozelle actually had to go out and take photos. I’m thinking that this sort of humility in the face of out and out success just might get Fred Simmons drummed out of the hunting fraternity. I’m hoping not though. Mild-mannered, gentlemanly and humble, that’s Fred Simmons – and we could use more good people just like him.

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