A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a piece on how great Pennsylvania’s black bear hunting is compared to other states. Our bear population has remained stable and even increased in recent years, and that’s even in spite of record bear kills. This year’s archery bear kill is further evidence of our robust bear population and our increased bear hunting opportunities.
While not all of the archery bear harvests have been completely tabulated as of this writing, we have already more than doubled last year’s bear take. Last year bow hunters took 225 black bears, but this year’s kill is already at 473, and that number could grow even more.
There are probably a couple of reasons for this big increase. Obviously, our bear population continues to increase, and black bears continue to move into previously unoccupied locations — thus increasing hunting opportunities.
Another big factor is the additional hunting days available for archers. There were two changes to this year’s archery season. First the season was extended from five days to six days, and that additional day included a Saturday; that’s the first time a Saturday was available, obviously providing for more hunters than before. Another change that I’m sure had a big impact on the record number of bears taken, was moving the season from mid-November, after the deer archery season had ended, to coincide with a portion of the regular archery season. This year’s archery bear season from Oct. 30th-Nov. 4th again provided for more hunters in the woods since they were hunting deer anyway.
I’m sure another factor that enters into the increased archery harvest is that fact that a crossbow is included in the archery statistics. Use of the crossbow is rapidly on the increase and, in my opinion, it makes taking a bear much easier in the archery season. Personally, I would like to see crossbow records and statistics kept separate from bows that must be drawn and held in the presence of game. Nonetheless, Pennsylvania’s archers are certainly making a statement. I don’t have any statistics from other states at this time, but my guess is Pennsylvania leads the country in archery bear kills.
No need to worry about overkill in the archery season; Game Commission biologists feel that even 500 killed in the archery season would not be a threat to the overall population and, in fact, it falls in line with their desire to increase the harvest to control the bear population better.
The fact that there are still plenty of bears running around has become increasingly apparent in the last couple of weeks. At least three different people have told me of bear sightings just this past week, and in one case the person saw three bears together. My most interesting bear sighting report was just this past Monday; actually, it wasn’t just a report I actually saw it myself and the circumstances were very unusual. Some of my friends and I were at our “branch office” (Muncy Dunkin’ Donuts) solving a number of the world’s problems when one of the guys said, “There goes a big black bear.” Sure enough, a three to four hundred pound black bear was coming up the bank of Muncy Creek right across from CVS. It was headed across the golf driving range at full trot. Just above the Route 405 bridge, at the intersection, the bear came across the road and headed up along the creek behind Hulls Landing. A friend of mine lives about a quarter of a mile up the road from Dunkin’, and he told me that’s probably the same bear that got into his bird feeders and then crossed the road and got into his neighbor’s feeders. My guess is that bear came down between CVS and the new Taco Bell — we spotted it after it crossed the creek.
When it comes to bears, I guess you never know where one will show up. Some of us thought the one we saw near Dunkin’ Donuts might be heading around to the drive-thru!