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Bowhunting Pennsylvania Black Bears

Bowhunting Pennsylvania Black Bears

I made a trip to the Pennsylvania Game Commission headquarters a couple of weeks ago to deliver some artwork, and I decided to check out the bear check station located there as well. Pennsylvania’s statewide archery bear season runs from Oct. 17 to Nov. 4, and all successful bear hunters are required to bring their harvested bears to a check station within 24 hours. As luck would have it, there were three hunters checking in a bear, so I decided to chat with them, and I came across some interesting information.

Jeff Sosnoski and hunting partners husband and wife Albert and Barbara Filoreto were out hunting bears with crossbows when Jeff scored, but there’s more to the story.

Jeff was perched in his treestand when, around five o’clock, a doe came by, and he quickly subdued the deer. He got out of the stand, tagged his deer, and got back on the stand to hunt bears. About an hour after tagging the deer, a bear came by headed right for the treestand; it walked to within five yards of the stand and looked right up at him. He placed his crossbow sights on the bear’s chest and fired off his second successful shot of the day.

Jeff’s bear was a 241-pound female, but this wasn’t the first time this black bear had been spotted. It turns out the group of hunters had trail cameras out, and they had been seeing this bear over the past five years. How did they know it was the same bear? The bear had a bare patch on its butt where the fur had been removed, so it was easy to identify; in fact, its name was “Big Mama.” This was Jeff’s second successful Pennsylvania bear hunt, and he has taken two black bears in Canada as well.

While his hunting partners didn’t bag a bear that day, they have certainly had their share of bear-hunting success as well. Albert, known as the “Bear God” by his hunting buddies, is a serious bear scout and hunter. He sets up the posts and drives each year for the bear-hunting gang. Albert has taken four black bears in Pennsylvania, one of 365 pounds, and three bears in Maine. Albert’s wife, Barbara, has had her share of bear-hunting success as well; she has taken two black bears in Maine. Over the past 31 years, their hunting gang of twenty-plus has taken at least 50 bears in Pennsylvania.

When you talk about successful bear hunters, the ones I just wrote about have to rank pretty high. When it comes down to it, only about 2 percent of the hunters who go after bears in our state will be successful. Jeff, Albert, and Barbara all agreed with me, however, that Pennsylvania is a great state for bear hunting. We have an estimated 15,000 bears roaming the state, and the fact is no other state has as many bow hunters as we have. According to a study by the Archery Trade Association, no other state has more bowhunters than Pennsylvania. In 2021-22, Pennsylvania sold 360,984 archery licenses, and no other states even came close; Wisconsin had 307,450, and New York had 244,226.

There are still plenty of opportunities to take a bear in Pennsylvania; the regular firearms season statewide is from Nov. 18-21, and there are some extended seasons running into December — check your regulation booklet for dates.