The Great Outdoors: Plenty of Bears Await Area Hunters

12184164_1012832502081975_2731896466796246865_oThe busy November calendar for hunters continues Saturday as Pennsylvania’s black bear season begins.

(Photo courtesy PA Game Commission/Joe Kosack)

In our 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. Take into consideration the large stands of mature black cherry trees and oaks that are loaded with acorns this year and 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 traditionally had bigger harvests, it’s really not necessary. Last year’s harvest figures indicate hunters bagging 79 in Elk County; 78 in Cameron County; 77 in Forest County; 69 in Clarion County; and 59 in Jefferson County.

State officials estimate the bear population at more than 18,000.

Of the top eight all-time bear harvests, five have been since 2011. That year, hunters set the state record with 4,350. Last year’s 3,748 bears were third and 2014’s 3,366 is eighth.

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 a real bruiser taken in 2015. It weighed about 600 pounds and was nearly 12 years old. However, it wasn’t the only big bruin bagged in the county. There were five others that weighed 300 pounds or more. One tipped the scales at 424 pounds, field-dressed weight, putting it at nearly 500 pounds live weight. Remarkably, its age was listed at just three years, 10 months.

Clarion County had two males tip the scales at more than 300 pounds. 

Jefferson County had six bears that weighed at least 300. One was a very old bear, 15 years, 10 months old, that weighed 364 pounds dressed.  Another was a rare bear, a female weighing more than 300 pounds. It had a dressed weight of 270 pounds and was six years, 10 months old.

Not surprisingly, Cameron County, featured a number of older bears in the 2015 harvest chart. Four were at least 10 years, 10 months with the oldest at 16 years, 10 months. It was a male that weighed 308 pounds dressed. Twelve others were at least five years, 10 months old. The biggest was 400 pounds dressed, putting its live weight at least 450 pounds.

In Elk County, there was one male that weighed more than 400 pounds. It was six years, 10 months old and was 429 dressed. The oldest was 12 years, 10 months, and it was a female with an actual live weight of 362 pounds, an unusual size for a female bear.

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 19, through Wednesday, November 23, 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 them in the region, and one is new in Jefferson County.

The bear check stations that were formerly located at State Game Lands 244 in Jefferson County and the Dague Maintenance Building near S.B. Elliot State Park in Clearfield County have been combined this year to form a new check station located at the Friendship Hose Company No. 1 in Falls Creek. 

Directions to the new station are Exit 97 off Interstate 80, then Route 830 west to Falls Creek (Slab Run Rd/First St), right on 1st 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 County, 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.

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“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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