Saturday, January 28th, 2023
Saturday, January 28th, 2023

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In Pennsylvania, extended bear hunts make all the difference in 2017

Harrisburg — This isn’t how things are supposed to work, necessarily.

In a typical year, Pennsylvania’s statewide four-day bear season represents the largest part in determining whether the harvest is a good one or not. The early seasons in wildlife management units surrounding special regulation areas, the statewide archery season and the extended seasons in other units play supporting roles.

Things weren’t entirely different this year.

Hunters killed more bears in the four-day season than any other.

But not by much.

In fact, were it not for the archery take and – even more so – the kill in the extended seasons, this year’s harvest would likely have been the lowest in a decade, if not longer.

Hunters killed 2,724 in the statewide season in 2015. In 2016 that take was 2,601.

By comparison, the 2017 statewide season accounted for just 1,832 bears.

That’s a drop of 30 percent.

Weather is the reason. Mark Ternent, the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s black bear biologist, said before the season that with a record number of bears and a record – or close to it – number of bear hunters, weather would determine how well hunters did.

Snow, he said, could lead to a massive harvest.

Instead, opening day brought rain across most of the state. That proved devastating.

Hunters killed just 659 bears, according to preliminary commission figures. By comparison, they took 1,297 on opening day in 2016 and 1,508 on opening day of 2015.

That’s a 50 percent decline compared to last year and more than 60 percent compared to 2015.

But things picked up. Hunters took 651 bears on the second day of the statewide season, 318 on the third and 204 on the third.

But the kill never closed the gap entirely.

Then came the extended seasons.

In 2015 hunters took 803 bears while also looking for deer. In 2016 they took 691.

This fall, with the weather mild, food sources abundant enough to keep bears out of their dens and lots of orange-clad sportsmen and women wandering the woods, hunters killed 1,053 in the extended seasons.

The archery kill helped make up some of the difference, too.

This year, for the first time, the season stretched six days, including a Saturday, and was held within the statewide archery season for deer.

Going into the season, Ternent said he wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of harvest. But a kill of 800 to 1,000 bears was possible.

That didn’t happen. Archers killed 477 bears.

Still, that was more than the 209 of 2015 and the 225 of 2016.

Overall, those bears came largely from where they might be expected.

Hunters took bears in 54 counties, with the northcentral region producing the most. Indeed, Lycoming County ranked first overall, giving up 250 bears. Tioga County was next with 209. Clinton County added another 153, Potter County 152.

The northeast kicked in a lot of bears, too, with Pike giving up 190, Sullivan 155 and Wayne 154.

One unusual and in a way historic bear was taken, too. A hunter killed a bear in Greene County for the first time in at least 100 years.

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