The Great Outdoors: Region Has Plenty Big Bears for Hunters

The busy November calendar for hunters continues on Saturday, November 18, as Pennsylvania’s black bear season begins.

In our PA Great Outdoors region, we are blessed to have some of the best bear hunting opportunities in the state. Consider the habitat that favors bears in Cameron, Elk, Forest, Clarion, and Jefferson counties – heavily forested, mountainous, large tracts of land with mountain laurel, conifer trees combined with a mixture of corn fields, sumac, and apple tree orchards. With the large stands of mature black cherry trees and oaks that are loaded with acorns this year, it’s an enviable mix that is prime bear country!

What is difficult to imagine is that bears may be actually under-hunted in the region. Ask a Pa. Game Commission officer, and some will tell you that.

While many hunters head to some counties that have had traditionally bigger harvests, it’s really not necessary. Last year’s harvest figures indicate hunters bagging 79 in Cameron County; 74 each in Elk and Forest counties; 68 in Jefferson County; and 50 in Clarion County.

State officials estimate the bear population at about 20,000.

Of the top eight all-time bear harvests, six have been since 2011. That year, hunters set the state record with 4,350. Last year’s 3,529 bears ranked fifth, 2015’s 3,748 bears were third, and 2014’s 3,366 ranked eighth. To top it off, 60 of those bears weighed 500 pounds or more, while 17 exceeded 600 pounds.

While the vast majority of bears taken by hunters weigh between 110 and 250 pounds, there are some big boys out there, but the challenge is finding them!

Forest County had two males that weighed in the neighborhood of 500 pounds. One weighed about 526 pounds dressed and was nearly 10 years old. The other was 485 pounds dressed, and it was an astounding 17 years and 10 months old. Another tipped the scales at 426 pounds, field-dressed weight. Its age was listed at just eight years, 10 months.

Clarion County had two males tip the scales at around 400 pounds. One male that weighed 408 pounds field dressed was aged at six years, 10 months. Another male, aged at three years, 10 months, weighed 399 pounds dressed. The oldest Clarion County bruin was a male aged at 13 years, 10 months. Its dressed weight was 347 pounds.

Jefferson County had four bears that weighed at least 400 pounds. The biggest was a 457-pound, field-dressed male that was eight years, 10 months old. The second-biggest was 448 pounds, its actual live weight. It was nearly six years old. One was a very unique, old bear at 17 years, 10 months old, a female that weighed 169 pounds dressed.

Cameron County featured three bears in the 2016 harvest that were older than 10. The oldest was 15 years, 10 months, a female that weighed 284 pounds dressed. Another female was nearly 13 years old and weighed 151 pounds. A third female that weighed 173 pounds dressed was 12 years, 10 months old. The biggest was a 445-pound male, aged at seven years, 10 months. The second-biggest was 405 pounds dressed.; the male was nearly eight years old.

In Elk County, there were five bears that were at least 10 years old. The oldest, and biggest, was 14 years, 10 months. The big male checked in at 462 pounds dressed. The second biggest was a 440-pound male that was just three years, 10 months old.

There are a few things to know about this year’s bear season.

Hunters who bag a bear must report it to a check station. For the regular season, which runs Saturday, November 18, through Wednesday, November 22, they are open from 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. the first day; from 10:00 a.m. to noon on Sunday;10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday; and 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday.

There are a number of check stations in the region, including one each in Jefferson and Forest counties.

The Jefferson County station is at the Friendship Hose Company No. 1 in Falls Creek. Directions to it are Exit 97 off Interstate 80, then Route 830 west to Falls Creek (Slab Run Rd/First St), right on First Street. The station is 600 feet on the right. (41.1458166 N, -78.7985611 W).

There are other check stations that bear hunters may choose, including one in Forest County at the Allegheny National Forest Marienville Ranger Station on Route 66; one at the Northwest Region office in Franklin, Venango County; and one at the Tidioute Borough Fire Hall on Main Street.

For hunters in Cameron and Elk counties, the nearest check stations are in Clinton and Clearfield counties. The one in Clinton is located at Chapman Township Fire Hall, four miles south of Renovo, on Route 120. In Clearfield, it’s on the Quehanna Highway.

For a complete listing, please refer to the Digest.

Hunters are asked to place a 3- to 4-inch stick into the bear’s mouth before rigor mortis or cold temperatures set in, which makes it very difficult for PGC staff to remove a tooth that is used for determining the bear’s age.

For those new to bear hunting, joining someone who has done it before is an excellent idea. Bagging a bear is a real accomplishment that is a rare treat for a hunter; however, getting one out of the woods is the real job.

Hunting in a group increases your odds greatly, and having a number of people to help with the chore is a great way to go.

For more information to help you plan your hunting experience in the PA Great Outdoors region, go to VisitPAGO.com or call 814-849-5197.

“The Great Outdoors,” sponsored by the Pennsylvania Great Outdoors, is a weekly blog by exploreClarion.com’s Scott Shindledecker. Plan your next outdoor adventure at VisitPAGO.com or call (814) 849-5197 for more information.


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