Wet start to bear season may keep the harvest down

By Tom Venesky - [email protected] | November 20th, 2017 3:10 pm

Number of bears brought to the PGC check station in Dallas on opening day:

2017 -

2016 - 56

2015- 72

2014 - 50

2013 - 52

2012 - 54

2011 - 70

2010 - 56

2009 - 63

2008 - 68

2007 - 27

The timing was perfect for Austin Schuler’s first bear.

He spent the Saturday opener of the statewide bear season hunting with his stepfather, Kevin Ball, on South Mountain in Wyoming County. At 9 .m., Schuler saw a bear heading toward him, and when it drew closer he connected with a shot.

And just as Schuler got the bear out of the woods, it started to pour.

“It was windy all morning but the rain held off until after we got out,” Schuler said. “It was good timing.”

The bear — a female with an estimated live weight of 136 pounds — was Schuler’s first. For a lot of other hunters out on opening day, the rain dampened their hopes of bagging a bruin.

The heaviest bear brought to the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Northeast Region check station, which was held at the Back Mountain Regional EMA building in Lehman Township, had a field-dressed weight of 475 pounds and an estimated live weight of 560 pounds. The bear, which was a male, was taken in Ross Township, Luzerne County. Overall, 29 bears were brought to the check station, down from 56 last year and the lowest opening day total since 2007.

“The hunting pressure was relatively light,” said Wildlife Conservation Officer Jerry Kapral, whose district includes northern Luzerne County. “There were only a handful of vehicles on State Game Lands 57 this morning. We had wind, rain and no snow. Conditions just weren’t good.”

Hunting pressure was just as light in the southern part of Luzerne County, as WCO Phil White said he saw few hunters in Jenkins, Bear Creek and Buck townships, including a portion of SGL 91.

“It’s the weather,” White said. “The morning was clear until 10 a.m. and then it opened up.”

Still, some hunters managed to have a successful hunt before rain swept through the area. By 1 p.m., 16 bears were brought to the check station.

One of those lucky hunters was Chris Meeker of Hunlock Creek. He harvested a 92-pound female in Ross Township at 8:30 a.m. Meeker has hunted bears for 26 years and the one he harvested on Saturday was his first.

“I heard crashing behind me and there were two together. This one broke off from the other and I took the shot,” Meeker said. “It was hard to believe when I saw it. There was nothing happening and then all of a sudden there it was.

“That’s what I love about hunting. You never know what’s going to happen.”

Jonathon Berryman of Orange wasn’t going to let the threat of rain prevent him from being in the woods for the opening day. He spent Saturday hunting in the Noxen area and in the morning harvested the third bear of his hunting career, a 94-pound female.

Despite having already harvested two bears over the years, Berryman said his third was just as exciting.

“I had the shakes afterward. It’s just a thrill,” he said. “I didn’t expect to see a bear today, but you never know when it might happen.”

The statewide bear season concludes on Wednesday, Nov. 22 and opens up again in some Wildlife Management Units for part of the rifle deer season at the end of the month.

Coupled with the early archery bear season two weeks ago, which resulted in an unofficial harvest of 473, Kapral said the added bear hunting opportunities may be another reason why hunting pressure was light on Saturday.

“I think there are some hunters who are waiting to try for a bear during the extended season, which is when they may be off of work for vacation to hunt deer as well,” Kapral said. “A lot of guys take advantage of the extended season.

Pennsylvania Game Commission employee Kurt Yuhas weighs a black bear taken by Jonathon Berryman of Orange. The bear had a field-dressed weight of 94 pounds.
http://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/web1_bear2_faa.jpgPennsylvania Game Commission employee Kurt Yuhas weighs a black bear taken by Jonathon Berryman of Orange. The bear had a field-dressed weight of 94 pounds. Fred Adams | for Times Leader
A tooth is pulled from a black bear at the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s check station in Lehman Township on Saturday. All bears brought to the check station have a tooth removed for aging purposes, and a blood sample is taken to determine the presence of mange.
http://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/web1_bear3_faa.jpgA tooth is pulled from a black bear at the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s check station in Lehman Township on Saturday. All bears brought to the check station have a tooth removed for aging purposes, and a blood sample is taken to determine the presence of mange. Fred Adams | for Times Leader
Bella Brown, 9 of Chase, asked her grandmother, Tina Brown, to stop at the Bear Check Station because she was curious as what it was. After looking into the back of a pickup truck with a harvested black bear, she was shocked but she enjoyed her experience.
http://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/web1_bear4_faa.jpgBella Brown, 9 of Chase, asked her grandmother, Tina Brown, to stop at the Bear Check Station because she was curious as what it was. After looking into the back of a pickup truck with a harvested black bear, she was shocked but she enjoyed her experience. Fred Adams | for Times Leader
A sign along Route 118 in Lehman Township.
http://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/web1_bear5_faa.jpgA sign along Route 118 in Lehman Township. Fred Adams | for Times Leader
Pennsylvania Game Commission Information and Education Supervisor Bill Williams checks the weight of a black bear taken by Austin Schuler of Sweet Valley at the Bear Check Station in Lehman Township on Saturday. Schuler bagged the bear, a 115-pound female, in Noxen Township, Wyoming County.
http://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/web1_bear1_faa.jpgPennsylvania Game Commission Information and Education Supervisor Bill Williams checks the weight of a black bear taken by Austin Schuler of Sweet Valley at the Bear Check Station in Lehman Township on Saturday. Schuler bagged the bear, a 115-pound female, in Noxen Township, Wyoming County. Fred Adams | for Times Leader
Wet weather resulted in light hunting pressure and a slow day at the PGC check station

By Tom Venesky

[email protected]ader.com

Number of bears brought to the PGC check station in Dallas on opening day:

2017 -

2016 - 56

2015- 72

2014 - 50

2013 - 52

2012 - 54

2011 - 70

2010 - 56

2009 - 63

2008 - 68

2007 - 27

Reach Tom Venesky at 570-991-6395 or on Twitter @TomVenesky


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