The PA bear season, a hunting heritage across the Keystone State opened this past week. The five-day statewide archery bear season, ran from Monday, November 16, to Friday, November 20. Then yesterday, Saturday, November 21st was the opening of the four-day general season (no hunting on Sunday) that continues and runs from Monday, November 23 to Wednesday, November 25. Extended opportunities to hunt bears during all or a portion of the deer-hunting seasons also exist in much of the state.
Only 1 bear may be taken during the license year and it didn’t take long for some hunters to bag a bear Saturday morning shortly after the official start, which is half an hour before sunrise. Cory Hoffman, of Halifax, shot a 500-pounder shortly after the 6:22 a.m. start at Carsonville in northern Dauphin County. Locally, Jayden Caraballo, a 13 year-old from Freemansburg, Northampton County shot a 190-pounder at 7:30 a.m. on private land in Wayne County.
In the coming days, reports of more bears being taken by local hunters will emerge.
A record number of hunters purchased a bear license last year, and more than 175,000 hunters, potentially a new record number are likely to be licensed again this year.
Bears were taken in 56 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties last year. The 2014 statewide harvest of 3,366 bears was the seventh largest in state history. Nine of Pennsylvania’s largest black bear harvests have occurred in the past 10 years. In fact, since 2005, more than 34,000 bears have been taken by hunters in the state.
Last year 41 bears that weighed 500 pounds or more were harvested. Three reached more than 600 pounds. The largest, a 677-pounder, was taken by James Hultberg, of Pittsfield, in Warren County during the bear archery season.
Statewide black-bear populations remain stable at record levels with an estimated 18,000 bears living within the Keystone State. To keep bear populations in check in certain areas an extended bear season exists in several Wildlife Management Units. In WMUs 2B, 5B, 5C and 5D, bear season is open concurrent to the archery, early muzzleloader and firearms deer seasons. And hunters in other WMUs also have a limited opportunity to harvest a bear during portions of the upcoming firearms deer season. Those areas include WMUs 3A, 3B, 3C and 3D (Nov. 30 through Dec. 5), and WMUs 2C, 4B, 4C, 4D, and 4E (Dec. 2 through Dec. 5).
To participate in bear hunting in Pennsylvania, a hunter needs a general hunting license, as well as a bear license. Bear hunters also must follow fluorescent orange requirements. In the bear archery season, hunters are required at all times while moving to wear a hat containing a minimum of 100 square inches of solid fluorescent orange material if hunting in an area also open to fall-turkey hunting. The hat may be removed once the archer has settled in a stationary position.
During any bear firearms seasons, hunters must wear a minimum of 250 square inches of fluorescent orange material on the head, chest and back combined. The orange must be visible from 360 degrees and worn at all times while hunting.