According to the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC), the agency said hunters have a chance to break last year’s record bear harvest of 4,653 when the rifle bear season opens Nov. 21 with the first (of three) Sunday hunt on Nov. 22.
The archery season offered the first Sunday hunt on Nov. 15 and after this Sunday, Nov. 29 will be the final Sunday big-game opportunity. For those hunting no private property on these Sundays, the PGC requires hunters carry written permission from the landowner with the owners contact information and phone number. The purpose, says the PGC, is if a game warden needs to check the validity of a permission slip.
As for the rifle bear season that runs until Nov. 24, the PGC sold a record 202,043 bear hunting licenses this year, an 18 percent increase over last year.
Hunters will be pursuing a bear population of approximately 20,000, of which hunters removed 20-25 percent of this number last year says the PGC.
Bears have become common throughout the state and especially the Pocono Mountain region. Some swim over the Delaware River to Pennsylvania from New Jersey. Bears have been spotted at Leaser Lake, the Orefield area even one in Lehigh Parkway in late summer.
According to Tom Keller, PGC Game Mammals Section Supervisor, “Bears are incredibly adaptable as they can fit in almost anywhere that offers them cover and reliable food sources. It’s why bears are found in more places in Pennsylvania than any time in PGC existence.”
Last year, bears were taken in 58 of 67 Pennsylvania counties, and 22 of 23 state’s Wildlife Management Units (WMUs). And the largest bear during the 2019 seasons was an 813-pound male taken with a rifle on opening day in Smithfield Township, Monroe County.
Lycoming County experienced the top harvest of 284 bears followed by Clinton and Tioga, both with 267. Other top counties included Huntingdon, 180; Potter, 174; Luzerne, 163; Bedford, 156; Centre, 146; and Warren, 146.
Interestingly, 561 bears were harvested during the archery season alone with 1,340 taken during the concurrent new muzzleloader and special firearms seasons and the new muzzleloader season had an unexpected harvest of 1,000 bears.
Hunters get an extra opportunity during the Extended bear seasons that run in WMU’s 1B, 2C, 3A, 3B, 3C, 3D, 4A, 4B, 4C, 4D, 4E and 5A from Nov. 30-Dec. 5, and in WMU’s 2B, 5B, 5C and 5D from Nov. 30–Dec. 12.
As for the required bear check stations, the PGC has changed two that are not listed in the Hunting/Trapping Digest that comes with every hunting license purchased. The changes are as follows: In Lycoming County the check station is now at PGC’s Northcentral Regional Office at 1566 South Route 44 Highway, Jersey Shore, PA, 17740. The other will be at the Southcentral Region Office at 8677 William Penn Highway, Huntingdon, PA. 16652.
For real-time bear harvest totals check www.pgc.pa.gov. Then select “Black Bear Harvest” under “Quick Clicks” on the homepage to link to the totals and harvest maps.
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.