Hunters killed more bears during early archery, muzzleloader and special firearms seasons than in the four-day rifle period that ended Nov. 22.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission’s preliminary report reveals that hunters killed 991 bears in the rifle season and 1,451 in the variety of early seasons. The extended season overlapping with deer season begins Saturday in limited parts of the state.
These are some of the statistics:
- The heaviest kill so far was a 755-pound bear in Monroe County.
- A 747-pound bear was shot in Lycoming County.
- A 705-pound trophy animal was tagged in Monroe County.
- Seven bears from Potter, Bedford, Clearfield, Clinton, Luzerne, Center and Monroe counties were heavier than 600 pounds.
- Tioga County had the most bears at 151, and Lycoming County hunters recorded 119 bear deaths.
Successful bear hunters are required to have the Game Commission check their trophy animals.
To record the kills, the Game Commission pulls one of the bear’s teeth to attain an accurate age, said Mollie Byrne, a wildlife biologist with the Game Commission. The bears are also weighed.
Ken Nichols of Lemont Furnace, Fayette County, killed his first bear — about 50 yards away with two other bears — while hunting Saturday in Forbes State Forest.
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“The snow really helped us out, and I’m really thankful for my harvest,” he said. He plans to have a shoulder mount made from the animal.
Fredrick Smith, 57, of Kennells Mills, Somerset County, got the second bear of his life Saturday afternoon while hunting near his home. He wanted to wait until the weather warmed up before heading out to the woods about noon.
He was only out about two hours when he saw a 300-pounder standing over the side of a hill. Surprised, he said, “Holy heck, there’s a bear.” When he called his wife to tell her, she didn’t believe him because he hadn’t been out that long.
The retrieval took longer than the hunt. With the help of his friends, it took about five hours to move the bear out of the woods.
Doug Pritts, 57, of Champion, Somerset County, shot the third bear of his life during the rifle season. He was hunting Saturday in Stewart Township. “I think I started it,” he said about the close encounter in thick Mountain Laurel and brush.
He said the bear jumped up very close to him, and he was able to quickly dispatch the 399-pound male. The bruin is believed to be 14 years old as the Game Commission captured the bear in 2016 and placed an ear tag on it. It weighed 275 pounds at the time it was caught in August six years ago.
Pritts is looking forward to the meat: “I like it better than beef. It’s more tender.”
While the general firearms season has ended, the extended bear season overlaps with rifle deer hunting in Wildlife Management Units 2B, 5B, 5C and 5D Nov. 26-Dec. 10.
In WMUs, 1B, 2C, 3A, 3B, 3C, 3D, 4A,4B,4C,4D,4E and 5A, bear season runs Nov. 26-Dec. 3.
In addition to the bears harvested by hunters, the Game Commission has received reports that 639 additional black bears were killed this year by motorists.
Last fall, 215,219 hunters bought bear licenses resulting in 3,621 animals being killed in 59 of the state’s 67 counties. The overall total bear population for Pennsylvania is estimated by the Game Commission to be 15,500 bruins.
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Brian Whipkey is the outdoors columnist for USA TODAY Network sites in Pennsylvania. Contact him firstname.lastname@example.org and sign up for our weekly Go Outdoors PA newsletter email on your website’s homepage under your login name. Follow him on Facebook@whipkeyoutdoors.