Pennsylvania’s total bear harvest figures are in and the tally ranks as the fifth all-time highest number.
The total harvest for 2016 was 3,539 bears. Sixty of those weighed 500 pounds or more and 17 exceeded 600 pounds says the Pennsylvania Game Commission. The highest harvest occurred in 2011 when 4,350 bears were taken.
And of the 2016 numbers, bears were taken in 58 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties, an increase of one county. The Northwest Region was the only one of PGC’s six regions that experience a harvest increase in 2016.
It’s interesting to note that Pennsylvania has become known as a top bear hunting state because of the huge bears that have been shot. Proof of that was the 740-pound male taken in Rayne Township, Indiana County, on Nov. 18, during the archery bear season by Dustin R. Learn, of Home, PA. His bruin was one of three taken by hunters that exceeded 700 pounds in 2016. And these three were the first to exceed 700 pounds since 2013.
The PGC points out that in 2011, Pennsylvania’s highest harvest, an amazing eight bears exceeding 700 pounds were harvested.
Despite weighing 740 pounds, it wasn’t the heaviest ever taken in Pennsylvania. Back in 2010, David Price, of Cresco, Pa, shot the largest bear ever with bow and arrow. It weighed an estimated 876 pounds and was taken in Middle Smithfield Township, Monroe County on Nov. 15, during the archery bear season opener.
The second largest bear taken in the 2016 season was a 722-pound male shot Dec. 2 in Lehman Township, Pike County by Brian R. Diehl, Northampton, Pa. Other biggies were a 700-pound male taken Nov. 19 in Barrett Township, Monroe County, by Chad D. Nauman, of Cresco, Pa.; a 676-pound male shot Nov. 23 in Dreher Township, Wayne County by Donald W. Boandl, of Lake Ariel, Pa; a 666-pound male taken Nov. 21 in Leidy Township, Clinton County, by Ryan Grieb, of Leesport Pa; a 662-pound male taken Nov. 21 in Homer Township, Potter County by Grant Ruhl, of Lebanon, Pa. Well, you get the PGC’s point. We have some big bear in Penn’s Woods.
The top counties for bear were Lycoming with 243 bears followed by Clinton with 220. Other top counties were: Tioga, 169; Potter 149; Warren, 131; and Somerset, 116.
Interestingly, 691 bears were harvested during the extended seasons while 225 were taken during the archery bear season. An additional 12 bears were taken in the early bear season in WMU’s 2B, 5B and 5C in our area.
Here in the Southeast a total of 113 bears were shot (123 in 2015): Dauphin, 47 (52); Bucks, 4 (1); Berks, 2 (3); and Lehigh, 1 (3).
In the Northeast, where many Lehigh Valley sportsmen hunt, there were a total of 858 (965) bears taken. Surprisingly, many counties totals were lower than the 2015 season: Luzerne, 114 (123); Pike, 109 (180); Wayne, 104 (107); Monroe, 94 (101); Bradford 82 (103); Sullivan, 77 (73); Susquehanna, 73, (59); Carbon, 60 (60); Lackawanna, 51 (41); Wyoming, 49 (60); Columbia, 39 (38); Northumberland, 5 (20); and Montour, 1 (1).
The top harvest region was the Northcentral with a total of 1,287 (1,436): Lycoming 243 (312); Clinton, 220 (265); Tioga, 169 (196); Potter, 149 (97); Centre, 114 (162); McKean, 106 (95); Clearfield, 99 (114); Cameron, 79 (78); Elk, 74 (79); and Union, 34 (38).
If you’re looking to better your odds during the upcoming seasons, you may want to scout out a place to hunt in one of these top counties.
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.