The second part of the statewide bear hunting season for archery and muzzleloader hunters gets underway Sat. Oct. 16, but has been open in WMUs 2B, 5C and 5D since Sept. 18.
Bear season in Pennsylvania has gained in popularity the last few years. According to the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC), a record 220,471 people (211,627 Pennsylvania residents) purchased bear license in 2020. That was up from 292,043 in 2019, 174,869 in 2018 and 147,728 in 2009.
Perhaps the main reason for the increase is that it has become known throughout the country that Pennsylvania has some very large bears, many weighing more than 600 pounds. On Nov. 7, 2020, Abby Strayer of McConnelsburg took a 719-pound male bruin with a crossbow in Ayr Township, Fulton County.
As for bowhunters, who had two weeks last year to hunt rather than one as in the past, they took a record 955 bears. The harvest was 1,041 in the 2-year-old muzzleloader/special firearms seasons, and 1,177 during the general firearms season.
Hunters took bears in 59 of 67 counties and in 22 of Pennsylvania’s 23 Wildlife Management Units (WMUs).
Potter County led the state in the bear harvest with 188; Lycoming was next best at 186; Tioga had 185; Clearfield, with 158; Monroe, with 152; Clinton, with 150; Elk, with 140; Luzerne, with 125; Centre, with 117; Bradford, 108; Pike, 105; Wayne, 100; and Carbon, 97.
There is something new for the 2021 season. In the past, many WMUs will allow bear hunting during the first – and in some units even the second – week of the statewide firearms deer season. Unlike last year, though, when bears didn’t become legal game until the first Monday, hunters in 2021 will be able to harvest them on the opening weekend of deer season, both Saturday and Sunday says the PGC.
Another regulatory change is that properly licensed bowhunters may carry muzzleloaders when any deer or bear archery or muzzleloader seasons overlap again this year.
Also, and aside from the exemption that applies during overlaps in the muzzleloader deer and bear seasons, holders of License to Carry Firearms may possess their permitted firearms while bowhunting.
Successful bear hunters must not forget to have their bears checked at a bear check station that are listed in the 2021-22 Hunting & Trapping Digest.
DEER RUT REPORT
According to Bob Danenhower, of Bob’s Taxidermy in Orefield, this season could prove to be an early rut. He’s seeing deer hammering soybeans the past few weeks and they love the leaves as they turn yellow, although many bean fields are already brown. Plus, corn crops are about two weeks ahead of normal. He says oak trees are showing above average yield and early dropping white oaks are always a sure bet. Chestnuts too, look big and plump.
His customers have been seeing large bucks on their trail cams, many of which are not yet on the move during the day, but staying close to or in the tall standing corn.
Danenhower believes now is an ideal time to use cover scents with buck urine preferred because many bucks are still in bachelor groups and they’ll seek out other bucks. As such, Danenhower handles fresh weekly Yurin-Luck buck scent that he and many of his customers use on the bottoms of their shoes as they walk to and from their stands. Later on, when the rut heats up, he’ll have fresh doe-in-heat scent available.
The Little Lehigh Creek in Lehigh County will be stocked Oct. 18 and Lake Minsi in Northampton County on Oct. 14.
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.