HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Bear hunting has always been special in Pennsylvania. This year, something legendary could be “bruin.”
When the firearms season for black bear opens on Saturday, the Pennsylvania Game Commission believes the stage is set for hunters to experience record success rates.
“We know we have a record bear population this year. It has increased from 18,000 to 20,000 animals since last year,” said Pennsylvania Game Commission Spokesman Travis Lau. “A lower than expected harvest two years ago is the reason for that.”
Additionally, Lau says the number of hunters buying bear licenses is on pace to break the previous record of around 175,000. An assist from Mother Nature has made for the trifecta of good bear hunting indicators, offering up the heartiest crop of red oak acorns “since at least 2001, and really one of the biggest ever in Pennsylvania,” added Lau.
Game Commission bear biologist Mark Ternent said with food readily available, bears have less reason to hibernate before bear season and they don’t need to travel as much to find food. He said bears that hunters find while scouting before the season are likely to be found in the same areas on opening day.
“With 20,000 bears statewide, a 5,000 bear harvest is not out of the question,” Lau said. “These animals are healthy and abundant and could certainly sustain that adjustment.”
Ironically, the threat of “great weather” could actually be the one fly in the ointment for the prospect of a record harvest. Lau says with opening day temperatures expected in the mid 60’s, hunters will have little trouble enduring the elements, and may not feel the need to move about the woods in order to stay warm.
“When it’s warm and everybody stays on stand longer, when the temperatures are more tolerable throughout the day, you have less movement by hunters and less movement by bear or deer,” he said.
Every successful bear hunter must report with the animal to a PGC Bear Check Station within 24 hours of the harvest. Pennsylvania’s all-time largest bear harvest occurred in 2011 when 4,350 bears were harvested.
Bear archery season opened Nov. 14. The four-day general season begins Saturday and ends Wednesday, Nov. 23.