The Pennsylvania Game Commission has released the final tally for the 2017 bear harvest, showing it was the ninth-best-of-all-time bear take. And this, despite having one of the worst opening days due to rain and in some areas sleet and fog which drove hunters out of the woods and into their vehicles.
According to the PGC, hunters took 3,438 bears in the 2017 hunting seasons. Within that, there were 493 in archery season and 1,083 during the extended season. All setting records for those seasons. The all-time bear harvest of 4,350 bears occurred in 2011.
Of these totals, there were 48 bears weighing 500 pounds or more and two tipped the scales at 700 pounds or more.
Interestingly, only 694 hunters were successful on opening day compared to the usual 1,500 hunters, said PGC bear biologist Mark Tenant. He went on to say that 1982 was the last time the bear harvest dipped below 700 on opening day, and that was when the season was only two days and the statewide harvest was less than 5,000 bears.
The largest bear harvested in 2017, said the PGC, weighed an estimated 707 pounds and was taken in Middle Smithfield Township, Monroe County during the extended season in WMU 3D by Holly F. Scott of Steelton, Pa. Chad A. Wagner, of Titusville, took a bear estimated at 700 pounds in Oil Creek Township, Venango County during the firearms season. Other large bears included a 691-pounder taken in the firearms season in Cherry Grove Township, Warren County by James M. Landgdon, of Wattsburg; a 661-pounder taken during the extended season in Ekland Township, Sullivan County, by Tim M. Smith of New Albany; a 648-pounder taken during the firearms season by Joe S. Simon of Newfoundland in Dreher Township, Wayne County; a 648-pound bear taken by Jared R. Kipp of Bethlehem during the extended season in Lehman Township, Pike County; a 638-pounder taken during the archery season season in Tamaqua Township, Schuylkill County by Jason Strohl, of Nesquehoning; a 632-pounder during the extended season in Zerbe Township, Northumberland County by Tim I. Lenig Jr. of Shamokin; a 625-pounder in the extended season in Harrison Township, Bedford County, by Mark C. Kunkle, of Sinking Spring; and a 616-pound bear taken in the extended season in Tremont Township, Schuylkill County, by Paul H. Neidlinger of Pine Grove.
Interestingly, many of these big bruins were taken during the extended season, so bear hunters may want to keep that in mind for next season.
Here are the harvest totals for here in the Southeast Region, and per county with last years totals in parenthesis:
Southeast: 131 (113); Dauphin, 49 (47); Schuylkill, 47 (44); Northampton, 19 (8); Lebanon, 8 (7); Berks, 7 (2); Lehigh, 1 (1); Bucks, 0 (4).
As for local Wildlife Management Units, in 3D, 417 (355); 4C, 157 (144); 5C, 11 (11).
If you hunt in the Northeast, the totals are as follows:
Northeast: 1,112 (858); Pike, 193 (109); Sullivan, 156 (77); Wayne, 156 (104); Bradford, 112 (82); Luzerne, 108 (114); Monroe, 82 (94); Wyoming, 70 (49); Susquehanna, 66 (73); Lackawanna, 65 (51); Carbon, 57 (60); Columbia, 29 (39); Northumberland, 16 (5); and Montour, 2 (1).
These figures can give you somewhat of an idea of where to and not to, bear hunt next season.
Nick Hromiak has been an outdoors and automotive writer for over 30 years. He's been published in numerous national and state-wide outdoor magazines and newspapers.