For decades, hunters and non-hunters alike have enjoyed observing the procedures that take place at the various bear check stations that are set up throughout the state during the regular firearms bear season in Pennsylvania. Sometimes bleachers are set up in order to accommodate the numbers of observers as the successful hunters arrive in their vehicles along with with their prize Pennsylvania black bear. Pennsylvania Game Commission personnel check the hunter’s licenses and weigh the bear, followed by pulling one of the teeth to be used later in aging the animal. While the majority of these bears are black, there are the occasional color phases that are quite rare – some rust color, some blond or tan coloration can also occur.
When a bear hunter is successful, their first step must be to properly tag the bear before moving it. As the Hunting and Trapping Digest states, bears should be field dressed before being brought to a check station. Further, it states that within 24 hours, each hunter who harvests a bear must take the animal, along with his or her hunting license and bear license, to a Game Commission check station for examination. This is the procedure that most hunters are aware of and follow in order to comply with the laws as they understand them.
However, what about during the statewide archery, muzzleloader or special firearms bear seasons? This is where it becomes interesting, and somewhat misunderstood by hunters.
The Digest states that “Hunters harvesting bears during the statewide archery, muzzleloader or special firearms bear seasons, or during the early season in WMUs 2B, 5B, 5C & 5D, should contact the appropriate Game Commission region office, (the Northcentral Regional office in Jersey Shore phone number is 570-398-4744), for instructions to have the animal checked.
So, from the time you locate and tag the animal, you have 24 hours to make contact with the Regional office to obtain instructions. You will be advised where to take the animal for inspection or you will be told that a state game warden will meet you in order to conduct the inspection.
And Now, Here’s the Catch:
What if, during one of these earlier seasons, or even during the regular firearms season in November and December, we have warm weather? How do you properly comply with the laws and regulations and still take adequate measures to ensure the meat remains edible in the warm weather conditions? It may be critical to insure that the meat does not spoil that you process the meat quickly.
You have 24 hours to obtain the instructions as to how the animal will be inspected. In the meantime, you can go ahead and process the animal’s meat and get it into a refrigerator or freezer. The remaining hide and head are all that are necessary to be checked! Keep in mind that the tag must remain with the head. It does not have to be the entire animal. The hide will be checked for general physical condition and the skull will be checked and one tooth removed for aging the animal. Additionally, the same requirement of needing only the hide and head is applicable during the regular firearms season.
Thus, if you are deep into the woods when you take a bear, and cannot bring out the entire animal, it is perfectly acceptable to quarter the animal for easier transportation, remembering that the head and hide will suffice for an inspection.
One Last Thing to Consider:
Unfortunately, rabies can be found to occur with a number of animals that roam our Pennsylvania landscape, and it has been found to occur in some black bears. In a recent phone conversation with a state game warden, he verified that if a bear shows some degree of hair loss as a result of rabies, such incident would be determined on an individual basis as to whether or not to issue a new bear license, but one would probably be issued.
Good Luck during these coming bear seasons. Taking a Pennsylvania black bear is truly a great accomplishment. The hide and the skull make impressive displays and the meat is surprisingly delicious!