Black bear season starts soon
The third part of the big game season kicks off Nov. 17 when the black bear season opens in Pennsylvania for its four-day run.
According to the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC), our state has a bear population of around 20,000 over the past three years. And with good mast crops all over, the agency says bears have spread out making them harder to find.
This season opener could overtake 2011’s state record harvest of 4,350 bears. But if the rainy weather we’ve been encountering continues throughout this season, another record could be in doubt, and similar to last season’s 3,438 harvest. And in that season, bears were taken in 57 of the state’s 67 counties. Of that total, 19 were harvested in Northampton County and one in Lehigh.
The PGC says hunters hunting in Lehigh and Northampton counties may see more bear since they’ve been slipping over the Blue Mountain into Wildlife Management Unit 5C that encompasses Lehigh and Northampton counties. Witness to that was the recent bear seen at the Mack Trucks plant in Macungie, and earlier in the year, one crossing the road in Cementon by the community park.
As for bowhunting, last season bowhunters took a record 493 bears since the season runs concurrently with the last two weeks of the archery deer season.
Mark Ternent, PGC bear biologist, believes bears in the 800-pound range could be taken again this season since bears can reach 500 pounds in nine years. And he points out that Pennsylvania ranks second among all states and Canadian provinces in having bear entries in Boone & Crockett Club record book. Last year, 22 Pennsylvania bears were entered into the club’s records. So not only does the Keystone State have a large bear population, but the bears are also large.
Ternent points out that bears are hard to hunt as their densities rarely exceed one bear per-square-mile, while bear-hunter success rate typically falls between 2 and 3 percent. He offers that to be successful, scouting before the season for fresh sign and activity is a necessity. When hunting begins, hunting-party drives through the thickets in which they hide, is also effective.
Counties with the largest bear harvests were: Lycoming, 252 bears; Tioga, 214; Pike, 193; Potter, 161; Sullivan, 156: Wayne, 156; Clinton, 153; Warren, 109; and Luzerne, 108. All northern tier counties.
If you don’t care to drive that far upstate, your best bear bet in Lehigh County are the woodlands around the north part of Leaser Lake that parallel’s State Game Lands #217 on the Blue Mountain ridge, and in Northampton County, it’s SGL #168 also on the Blue Mountain. Several bear sightings have taken place atop the mountain, especially around Blue Mountain Ski Area that borders #168.
Successful hunters are required to take their bears to a designated bear check station within 24-hours of harvest. Their locations, dates and hours can be found in the 2018-19 Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest if purchased with the hunting license, or viewed online at www.pgc.pa.gov.