A robust black bear population and ample opportunities to pursue Bruins have one again pushed Pennsylvania's bear harvest to more than 3,000.
According to the Pennsylvania Game Commission's bear harvest website (http://www.pgcapps.pa.gov/Harvest/Bear), preliminary figures as of Monday show that 3,179 bears had been taken so far via all seasons.
While the regular, four-day firearms season harvest of 1,832 is down from last year when 2,579 were taken, the archery season kill increased substantially, something that was expected due to a change in the archery season dates for 2017.
"During the general rifle season, harvest numbers were typical on Monday through Wednesday," PGC Black Bear biologist Mark Ternent said. "Saturday was the only day with a below-average harvest, which was due to widespread rain and fog that likely deterred hunting activity and success."
Last year, hunters took 3,529 bears overall, the fifth-highest tally ever. Of those, 225 were killed with bows and crossbows during a November archery season. This year, the PGC moved that statewide archery hunt up to the end of October, allowing it to run concurrently with the state's bow deer season, a time when many sportsmen are afield.
"Preliminary results for the archery bear season indicate that 477 bears were harvested, which is more than double the harvest observed last year," Ternent said. "We expected a significant increase in the archery harvest because the season was moved into the archery deer season."
According to the PGC's website, Bruins have been harvested in 59 of the state's 67 counties so far. And, as with every bear season, some impressive individuals have been taken. As of this past weekend, the Top 10 bears all topped the 600-pound mark. The largest, a male estimated to have a live weight of 700 pounds, was taken in Venango County on Nov. 18, the first day of the firearms season, by Chad A. Wagner.
Leading the harvest this year is Lycoming County, where sportsmen took 238 bears. Tioga County is second at 196 and Pike County third with 172. Locally, 16 bears have been taken in Northampton County, while one was harvested in Lehigh County. Other counties in the region include Monroe (76), Carbon (52), Schuylkill (41) and Berks (6).
Although most of the bear hunting seasons have come to an end, the special extended firearms season continues in the Lehigh Valley's Wildlife Management Unit 5C, as well as WMUs 5B, 5D and 2B, through Saturday. Final figures on the state's bear seasons are usually released in January or February.
Pennsylvania's all-time Bruin harvest occurred in 2011, when 4,350 bears were taken. The last time fewere than 3,000 bears were harvested in a season was 2007 (2,362).
HuntCrafted Offers Handmade Holiday Gifts for Sportsmen: From major retailers such as Cabela's and Bass Pro Shops, to online shopping giant Amazon, there's certainly no shortage of locations to purchase holiday gifts for the sportsmen on your shopping list. HuntCrafted is one option, however, that stands out for its uniqueness.
Developed by avid outdoorsmen Miles Sims and David Glenn of Texas, HuntCrafted specializes in offering products that you won't necessarily find in stores. From custom-crafted duck calls and waterfowl decoys, to handmade gun straps and jewelry featuring outdoor themes, the site offers dozens of ideas for outdoors enthusiasts of all ages. It also provides great exposure for artistically inclined sportsmen and entrepreneurs to sell their outdoor gear and products.
"We like to think of ourselves as the Etsy for hunters since we provide a platform for sellers to create a shop where they can list and sell their handmade items," Sims said. "Our goal is to provide a platform for craftsmen to create and sell quality products that will be handed down from generation to generation. … Most of our products are handmade and made-to-order, making them unique and hard to find at the big sporting goods stores."
For more information on HuntCrafted, visit www.huntcrafted.com.
Mark Demko is a freelance writer. Contact him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @markdemko1.