Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY — Dave Rizkallah couldn’t get comfortable in the tree stand.
It wasn’t the weather, or the amount of time he’d been up there — his back just ached a little, and he needed to move around.
Adrenaline has a way of preparing you for whatever might happen next. Rizkallah didn’t know what it was going to be, but he was ready.
|David Rizkallah and the 600+pound black he killed with a bow and arrow in Maine/AP|
“I’m waiting for official word on that. They say it might even be the biggest — nobody trusts the math formulas used to calculate weight, but that’s what I heard from them yesterday,” said Rizkallah, an unemployed electrician.
It was his first bear hunt, and he knew enough to know that invisible is the way to be when you’re alone in a tree, bow in hand, waiting for a hungry black bear to find you.
“All of a sudden I see this bear coming toward me, so big his front legs are bowed in by his weight. I see this monster head coming toward me, and right then everything and anything goes through your mind — is he going to walk away? Is he going to climb the tree? I tried to stay focused,” said Rizkallah.
The bear sniffed around for food, but the bait barrel filled a day earlier by the hunting guides at the Danforth, Maine, wilderness retreat was empty.
That’s when Rizkallah knew his vow of silence had to be broken. The 600-pound bear was lumbering away.
“So I grunted at him, just to get him to look at me, and that’s when he turned around. We were eye to eye when I let go of my bow. He was like a bull in a china shop, knocking over trees and bashing into things. At that point, I didn’t know if I’d hit him or scared him ...,” said Rizkallah, 31.
Unsure of what to do next, Rizkallah climbed out of the tree and went to a clearing. He had been instructed to wait until 5 p.m., when his guide, Jeff Leach, would return. Rizkallah walked in circles, the rush of the encounter coursing through his veins.
Finally his guide returned and Rizkallah told him that he thought he’d “hit a monster.” By 8 p.m., the owner of Wilderness Escape Outfitters Randy Flannery had joined the group of eight hunters that had also been rounded up, and they located Rizkallah’s bear. It took them eight hours to drag the bear from the woods.
“I got him right in the jugu-lar, behind his ear. He went about 180 yards before he laid down in a swampy area and died,” said Rizkallah.
After field dressing, the bear was weighed on three different scales, registering 490, 497 and 497.5. Rizkallah said the formula for estimating the weight of the entrails — heart, liver, guts — is between 22 and 25 percent of an animals gross weight.
“Right now we’re waiting for the skull to get cleaned and measured. I paid extra to have some beetles do the cleaning,” Rizkallah said.
Currently, the largest bow kill on record in Maine is 612 pounds.
His plans for the bear is a full-body mount, with the animal down on all fours and looking over its shoulder, just like he did before Rizkallah shot him.
“I don’t reject those who hunt with rifles, but I prefer the challenge of a bow. It’s something about respect for the animal; something about being within 12 yards of such an amazing animal,” Rizkallah said. “I knew from the size of this one he’d been around a long time, and wasn’t afraid of much.”
Rizkallah had signed up for the trip in March, before he became an unemployed union electrician. While he’s anxious to get back to work, he’d like nothing more than to find a way to hunt for a living. He figures if he can work a few more years, he’ll have enough money to move his family to Tennessee, buy a log cabin and become a taxidermist.
“I’d like to go up to Alaska and get a grizzly. I want to go elk hunting, too. For me, the ultimate kill would be a mountain lion,” Rizkallah said. “It’s not a matter of having no fear — maybe more like no common sense. But ever since I was about 15 or 16, I’ve loved the idea of hunting as a food source — it’s a renewable source. If God wanted us to eat leaves, he wouldn’t have made the animals.”