When New York State’s big game biologists began compiling the black bear hunting data from this past hunting season, they noticed something unique. Nothing about the black bears reported by hunters or checked by taxidermists seemed out of the ordinary, but there was an outlier in the distribution of the ages of successful hunters.
Apparently, a 93-year-old hunter had reported killing a black bear. If confirmed, it would represent the oldest hunter to successfully kill and report a black bear in New York State since DEC started tracking hunter demographic data in 1996. DEC worked to contact the hunter to confirm the record.
In March, DEC made contact with Korean War veteran and lifelong hunter and angler Nelson Austin, age 93, who killed a 180-pound adult male black bear in October 2022 on his St. Lawrence County farm. It was his first bear.
He submitted a tooth from the bear to DEC for age analysis and received DEC’s 2022 Black Bear Management Cooperator patch. His son Paul, also a lifelong sportsman, killed a bear in September on the family farm as well.
Successful hunters are required to report their killing of deer, bear, and turkey within 7 days of take, and DEC requests that bear hunters submit a premolar tooth from any bear they kill for age analysis. This information is considered critical by DEC biologists to monitor bear populations, make management decisions, and evaluate the impacts of bear hunting.
Photo of Nelson Austin courtesy Paul Austin.