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Outdoors: Bear rifle season starts Saturday

Saturday, Nov. 23 kicks off the rifle bear season for its three-day run that ends Nov. 27. After that, there’s the extended season from Nov. 30-Dec. 14 in Wildlife Management Units 2B, 5B, 5C and 5D. The extended opener also opens again in WMUs 1B, 2C, 3A, 3B, 3C, 3D, 4A, 4B, 4C, 4E and 5A, but that period ends Dec. 7.

Pennsylvania is known nationwide for having large bears. Bruin’s in the 500-600-pound range are taken every year and in fact two were shot last year that topped 700 pounds, according to the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

Last year hunters took 3,153 bears, the 11th best state harvest to date. And this was out of an estimated population of about 20,000.

Typically, the north-central part of Pennsylvania produces the most bear. Counties of Clinton, Lycoming and Tioga are customarily the top producers. And bear have been shot in 60-67 counties within the state.

But that doesn’t mean there are no local bears. During the 2018 seasons Lehigh County had one bear taken during the early season and three during the general season. They were taken from the Blue Mountain area.

In Northampton County, there were four in early, five in archery, three in the general and five in the extended season. Over in Berks, two in early, one in archery, two in general and three in the extended season.

Interestingly, the bears taken in Lehigh in 2018 were all year-old bear, determined by biologists manning bear harvest check stations who pull a tooth to analyze it for age. The four Lehigh County bear field dressed at 141, 124, 130 and 142 pounds respectively.

In Berks, one bear dressed out at 456 pounds and was determined to be nine years old. A 283-pounder was nine years old. There was one 179-pounder that was nine years old, and a 152-pounder that was five.

Over in Northampton County, the largest four were a 400 pounder age three, a 316-pounder that lived to 12, a 258 pounder that was four-years old and a 10-year old 209-pounder.

So far this year and during the early season, the largest bear came from Clarion County that tipped the scales at 631 pounds. Slightly below that was a 610-pounder taken in Monroe County, and then a 601-pounder from Northampton County.

There were two archery season bear shot. A 556-pound bruin came from Berks County while the other, a 549-pounder bruin, came from Clearfield County. Interestingly, the PGC says it takes about nine years for a bear to reach 500 pounds.

The top 10 harvest counties to date were: Clinton (138); Lycoming (119); Tioga (91); Luzerne (70); Potter (66); Pike (58); Centre (56); Monroe (51); Wayne (50); and Bedford (49).

If hunters prefer to hunt locally, the best bet is the Blue Mountain ridge that encompasses Berks, Lehigh and Northampton counties.

Bear hunting opportunities have expanded this season since there are now 32 hunting days in most parts of the state as compared to the previous 16, and from three Saturdays to seven.

Successful bear hunters are reminded that they are required to take their bear within 24 hours to a PGC check station. Check the Hunting/Trapping Digest for their locations and hours of operation.

Map courtesy of the PGCFour bears were taken in Lehigh County last year, while 17 were shot in Northampton County.