Tuesday, January 31st, 2023
Tuesday, January 31st, 2023

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Sportsmen Since 1967

Bear hunters have a shot

Albany – It will be tough to top the bear season of 2008, when
record harvests were reported in two of the state’s bear-management

While black bears continue to expand their range in the Allegany
range of western New York, and bruin numbers remain solid in both
the Catskill and Adirondack ranges, there are numerous factors that
impact the bear harvest each season.

Weather and food availability are perhaps the two biggest,
according to DEC wildlife biologists.

“Food availability is important,” says DEC_Region 5 wildlife
biologist Ed Reed. “The bears don’t move as much when there’s lots
of food – they don’t have to. But there’s lots of good bear
movement when the food is down, and that makes them more visible to

That said, a lack of food will also send many bears into their
dens for the winter a bit earlier than in good food years.

“A lot of the younger bears will den early if the mast crop
isn’t there,” Region 3 wildlife biologist Matt Merchant said. “That
may be the case this year; some of the bears we’ve dealt with
through nuisance complaints have been pretty thin.”

Early mast crop reports across the state’s bear-hunting areas
have ranged from spotty to good. But with record-breaking bear
harvests in the Catskill and Allegany regions in 2008, bruin
hunters – most of which are actually deer hunters who happen to
encounter a bear – have a tough act to follow.

“I suspect our harvest might be a little lower this year in the
Catskill region,” says Merchant. “But last year was a record

Statewide, hunters took 1,295 black bears last season, a 16
percent increase from the 1,117 bears harvested in 2007. In the
Allegany region of central and western New York, hunters took a
record 193 bears, far surpassing the previous regional record of
120 set a year earlier.

Hunters took 520 bears in the Catskill bear hunting range in
2008, topping the 2005 regional record take of 494 bears.

The Adirondack harvest also increased last year, with a total of
582 bears taken, up from 544 in 2007 and well above the 318 bagged
in 2006.

Early indications heading into the season – which opens Sept. 19
in the Adirondacks – are that plenty of bruins will be available to

Adirondack Range

Reed says the mast crop has been pretty good, and as a result
nuisance bear complaints have been lower than normal.

“We’ve had lots of calls lately, but nothing at all early in the
summer,” he said. “There was good food out there with all the

His Region 6 counterpart, Steve Heerkens, says conditions in the
southern Adirondacks are poised for a harvest “on par or a little
better than last year. But it’s really hard to say. Conditions –
weather conditions – always dictate how well the hunters do.”

Heerkens said nuisance complaints are above last year’s
relatively slow year, but most of the bear problems have been in
the Old Forge-Inlet area.

The early-season kill, he adds, often sets the tone for the
region’s total harvest.

The Adirondack region, unlike the Catskill and Allegany areas,
does have a fraternity of what Reed calls “serious” bear hunters.
“Both local and out-of-state hunters,” he said. “I get a lot of
calls from hunters asking where to go, what the season looks like.
And the locals have been hunting bears for a long time now.”

Both Heerkens and Reed predicted an “average” bear take in the
region of about 550-600 bruins.

“It seems to have flatlined there for the past 20-plus
years,”_Heerkens said.

The early Adirondack season runs from Sept. 19-Oct. 16, with an
archery offering from Sept. 27-Oct. 23, a muzzleloader season from
Oct. 17-23, and the regular season from Oct. 24-Dec. 6.

Allegany Range

Region 9 wildlife biologist Tim Spierto says the region’s bear
population continues to expand, setting the stage for another
perhaps record take this fall.

“We’re well above any previous years in the number of nuisance
bear complaints,” he said. “Road kills are up, nuisance complaints
are up, which is an indication the bear population is up.”

Spierto says it’s likely the Allegany bear take will be on
either side of 200 bruins this season, “even though we don’t have a
real bear-hunting tradition like the Adirondacks and most harvests
are incidental kills made by deer hunters.”

Last year, additional Wildlife Management Units were added to
the Allegany bear-hunting range to address bear expansion into
those areas. No new units have been added this year, but Spierto
expects some increased harvests in WMUs 9G and 9H.

“Word (of the bear-hunting opportunities) got out late last year
and wasn’t well-advertised,” he said. “I suspect that may change
this year; the bears are certainly there.”

The archery bear season in the Allegany Range runs from Oct.
17-Nov. 20 and Dec. 14-22, with a muzzleloader season Dec.14-22 13
and the regular season of Nov. 28-Dec. 13.

Catskill Range

While Merchant predicts a harvest below last year’s record, that
doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of bears in the region.

“Our nuisance complaints are fairly high this summer; probably
slightly above average,” he said. “We actually had to destroy four
bears. Two were due to home break-ins and two at summer camps where
they were just getting too bold, coming into tents and very close
to people.”

A spotty mast crop this fall may funnel more bruins into lower
elevations and off oak ridges, he added.

“The mast crop may not be there this year”_Merchant said.

Still, he said some big bruins have been sighted, and predicted
a solid harvest unless poor weather sends a lot of bears into an
early den.

The Catskill bear season runs from Oct. 17-Nov. 20 and Dec.
14-22 for bowhunters, Dec. 14-22 for muzzleloaders and a regular
season of Nov. 21-Dec. 13.

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