Hunters killed more bears during the early archery, muzzleloader, and specialty firearms seasons than in the four-day rifle period that ended Nov. 22.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission’s preliminary report shows hunters killed 991 bears in rifle season and 1,451 in the early seasons. The extended season, which overlaps with deer season, begins Saturday in certain parts of the state.
These are some of the statistics:
- The heaviest kill to date was a 755-pound bear in Monroe County.
- A 747-pound bear was shot dead in Lycoming County.
- A 705-pound trophy animal has been 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 must have their trophy animals inspected by the Game Commission.
To record the kills, the Wildlife Commission pulls one of the bear’s teeth to get an accurate age, said Mollie Byrne, wildlife biologist at the Wildlife 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 the Forbes State Forest.
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“The snow has really helped us 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, gave birth to the second bear of his life while hunting near his home on Saturday afternoon. He wanted to wait until the weather got warmer before heading into the woods around noon.
He was only out about two hours when he saw a 300-pounder parked over a hill. Surprised, he said, “Damn it, there’s a bear.” When he called his wife to tell her, she didn’t believe him because he hadn’t been gone that long.
The recovery took longer than the hunt. With the help of his friends, it takes about five hours to move the bear out of the forest.
Doug Pritts, 57, of Champion, Somerset County, shot the third bear of his life during hunting season. He hunted in Stewart Township on Saturday. “I think I scared it,” he said of the close encounter in thick mountain laurel and bush.
He said the bear jumped very close to him and he was able to quickly finish off the 399-pound male. The bear is believed to be 14 years old as the Wildlife Commission caught the bear in 2016 and ear tagged it. It weighed 275 pounds when it was caught six years ago in August.
Pritts looks forward to the meat: “I like it better than beef. It’s more delicate.”
While general firearms season concludes, extended bear season overlaps with gun deer hunting at Wildlife Management Units 2B, 5B, 5C and 5D from Nov. 26 to Dec. 10.
In WMUs 1B, 2C, 3A, 3B, 3C, 3D, 4A, 4B, 4C, 4D, 4E, and 5A, bear season runs Nov. 26, 3.
In addition to the bears taken by hunters, the Wildlife Commission has received reports that 639 more black bears have been killed by motorists this year.
Last fall, 215,219 hunters bought bear licenses, resulting in 3,621 animals being killed in 59 of the state’s 67 counties. The total bear population for Pennsylvania is estimated by the Game Commission at 15,500 bears.
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Brian Whipkey is the outdoor columnist for USA TODAY Network’s websites in Pennsylvania. Contact him at[email protected] and sign up for our weekly Go Outdoors PA newsletter via email on your website home page using your login name. Follow him on Facebook@whipkeyoutdoors.