As a reporter, you never know what stories you will be asked to cover on a daily basis.  Today I had the opportunity to head to the Pequest Wildlife Management Area in Oxford, Warren County, to see first-hand the state’s black bear hunt.

I admit, I had my reservations. I mean seeing a dead bear three feet in front of you can make even the toughest person squeamish.

Still, I put on my bravest face and sat with the other members of the media as we awaited the first hunters to return to the bear check station in the dense fog.

Then, around 11:30 am, a man backed his pickup truck into the garage and we were summoned to the rear of his vehicle.  Robert Melber, an Arizona native, currently staying with friends in Pennsylvania had killed the first bear of the day, a 166-pound female he shot near the Delaware Water Gap.

Wildlife officials lifted the bear out to check it in, weigh it and take teeth and blood samples.

Melbur, admittedly shy with the press, told us it was the first bear he ever shot and he got it about a half hour into the hunt.

I took a close look at it and snapped some pictures, it wasn’t so scary after all.

The second bear shocked many of us waiting around the station.  Around noon, two boys, 15 and 18 years old brought in a 205 pound male they shot in Warren County.  The bear was at least twice the size of both of them put together. The two are best friends and have been hunting for years with their fathers.  They told us it was a moment they would never forget for the rest of their lives.

After the second bear, there was a line of hunters waiting to get their bears checked, tagged and home. I realized I had been there long enough and began to head home.

As I drove out of the center, I saw a few hunters walking on the side of the road shotguns in arm, some heading into the woods to shoot bears, other deer. 

I realized this was going to be a long week – this was only day one of the hunt and animal rights activists are planning to demonstrate every day. There were no protesters at the Warren County station, but one person was arrested at a check station in Sussex County. 

Over 200 bears were killed on the first day of New Jersey’s six day black bear hunt – and we still have 5 days to go.