Lily Curry of Searsport talks about her success as a black bear hunter matter-of-factly.
Her quiet confidence is well earned, as the 14-year-old has achieved tremendous success in the woods.
Last Saturday, Curry cashed in by harvesting her fourth bear since she started hunting them in 2017. She was among more than 51 successful hunters on youth day.
“We’ve just had a lot of luck,” Curry said while talking about her most recent bear, a 140-pound boar she shot while hunting with her father, Jesse Curry.
The Currys credit Lily’s bear hunting prowess to a variety of factors, not the least of which is having a good site that they work hard to set up and maintain.
“This particular site, we call it Lily’s site, because she’s the only one who shoots bears on it,” said Jesse Curry, who credits a generous landowner with providing them access to the site in Hancock County.
It’s the same location where Lily has now shot four bears, all with a crossbow.
“It’s 2 miles off the beaten path, right where they live, and when there’s food there in that barrel, they’ll spend all day long there,” Jesse said.
One important element of bear hunting is having patience, and on this particular morning Lily had to wait to be able to get the shot she wanted.
One of the bears was laying down, but she also had to let her target animal provide an ethical shot.
“I had to wait a minute because the other bear was behind him and I didn’t want to accidentally shoot him,” Lily said.
The majority of bear hunters pursue their quarry with firearms, although some do select the additional challenge of using a compound bow. In selecting a crossbow, a small bow-like device that launches a bolt with a tip like an arrow, Lily is continuing a tradition.
“Dad has hunted with a crossbow for most of his life and I thought that was really cool and I wanted to try that,” she said.
Lily explained that her decision to use a crossbow also stems from a sense of nervousness about handling a rifle. And although her crossbow has a more limited range of 20-30 yards, she prefers it.
“As soon as I shot it, I felt really excited about it. I ended up really loving it,” she said. “It’s a lot more quiet, too.”
Even after shooting her bear on Saturday, the second bear that was at the site was only spooked off after sniffing the bolt. It returned only a few minutes later.
Lily also uses the crossbow to hunt wild turkeys and deer. And in October, when she heads to northern Maine on a moose hunt, she also hopes to use a crossbow.
In that case, a family friend has offered to let her use a high-powered crossbow that should have significantly more shooting range. She also will practice with a rifle, just in case.
Jesse Curry is a lifelong hunter who has introduced Lily to hunting in the hope she can derive some of the same joy from the experience. He said tagging along with her is special and takes him back to his days as a young hunter.
“I’d much rather be watching her than hunting myself,” Jesse said. “I’m super proud. I see how excited she gets out of it and how much enjoyment she’s getting out of it.”
Among the key benefits of hunting is being able to put food on the table for the family. In addition to steaks and roasts, they make sausage with cheese and burgers with bacon bits.
“It’s very tender. It’s really, really good,” Lily said. “My favorite part of the bear to eat is the heart.”
In terms of the hunting experience, Lily said the lead-up to taking the shot provides her with some special moments. On Saturday, she and her dad spent 20 minutes observing the bears before a shot presented itself.
“It’s just so exciting watching the bears, how they live, how they will walk in and what they’re like,” she said. “It’s the biggest adrenaline rush, too.”
Lily, a Hampden Academy freshman who really enjoys art, is willing to share some advice with other youth hunters who decide to get into bear hunting. Setting up the bait site with stinky things such as raw fish or crabs and providing some tasty treats is a key.
“Really sweet treats, they love that kind of stuff,” she said. “It will attract them a lot easier. It is a lot of work.”
Given her early hunting success, Lily has many more years of being in the woods. She is even considering becoming a Registered Maine Guide.
In the short term, the focus will be on pursuing her Maine “grand slam,” which is shooting a deer, a bear, a moose and a wild turkey all in the same calendar year. She is already halfway there and has previously harvested three deer.
The Currys have been working on a food plot that has been attracting does, so the regular archery/crossbow season in October looks promising. Her moose hunting week is Oct. 24-29.
“She wants to get the whole grand slam with a crossbow, so we’re going to do our absolute best to make it happen,” Jesse said.