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Four-Day Statewide Bear Season Centerpiece Of Line Up; Take A Veteran Bear Hunting; Bear Check Station Hours Of Operation; Game Commission Offers Bear Hunting Tips; Bear Hunting Bullets

HARRISBURG, Pa., Nov. 2, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Pennsylvania Game Commission officials said bear hunters soon will be able to enjoy a four-day statewide bear season, in addition to a full-week archery bear season and a series of extended bear seasons in certain Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) during the upcoming fall months. 

The statewide archery bear season, which will be held Nov. 12-16, will lead up to the four-day statewide bear season, which will open on Saturday, Nov. 17, and then run from Monday through Wednesday, Nov. 19-21. The extended bear seasons will be held in certain WMUs and portions of WMUs the following week during deer season.

In WMUs 2B, 5B, 5C and 5D, an extended bear season will run concurrently with the entire two-week deer season, Nov. 26-Dec. 8.  This extended season is in addition to overlapping bear and deer hunting opportunities held in these four WMUs during the archery deer and early muzzleloader and firearms deer seasons. These seasons were approved by the Board of Game Commissioners as a means of achieving the agency's goal of reducing bear-human conflicts in these urbanized areas of southwestern and southeastern corners of the state.

In WMUs 3D, 4C, 4D, 4E, an extended bear season is open Nov. 28-Dec. 1.  An extended bear season also will be held Nov. 26-Dec. 1 in the following:

- All of WMUs 3A and 3C;

- Portions of WMU 3B, that are East of Rt. 14 from Troy to Canton, East of Rt. 154 from Canton to Rt. 220 at Laporte and East of Rt. 42 from Laporte to Rt. 118, and that portion of WMU 4E, East of Rt. 42; and

- Portions of WMU 2G in Lycoming and Clinton counties and WMU 3B in Lycoming County that lie North of the West Branch of the Susquehanna River from the Rt. 405 Bridge, West to Rt. 15 at Williamsport, Rt. 15 to Rt. 220, and North of Rt. 220 to the Mill Hall exit, North of SR 2015 to Rt. 150; East of Rt. 150 to Lusk Run Rd. and South of Lusk Run Rd. to Rt. 120, Rt. 120 to Veterans Street Bridge to SR 1001; East of SR 1001 to Croak Hollow Rd., South of Croak Hollow Rd. to Rt. 664 (at Swissdale), South of Rt. 664 to Little Plum Rd. (the intersection of SR 1003), South of SR 1003 to SR 1006, South of SR 1006 to Sulphur Run Rd., South of Sulphur Run Rd. to Rt. 44, East of Rt. 44 to Rt. 973, South of Rt. 973 to Rt. 87, West of Rt. 87 to Rt. 864, South of Rt. 864 to Rt. 220 and West of Rt. 220 to Rt. 405 and West of Rt. 405 to the West Branch of the Susquehanna River.

"Pennsylvania's bear population covers more than three-quarters of the state, and includes a number of world-class trophy bears," said Carl G. Roe, Game Commission executive director. "This has earned Pennsylvania recognition as one of the top states for bear hunters. Every year, we have a number of bears exceeding 500 pounds included in the harvest."

Since 1992, six bears with an estimated live weight of 800 pounds or more have been legally taken in Pennsylvania. The possibility of another 800-pounder being taken by a hunter is always in play when Pennsylvania's bear season opens.

In 2011, hunters harvested 4,350 bears, which was the highest harvest in Pennsylvania history.  In 2005, hunters took 4,164 bears, which was the second highest number.  Over the past 10 years, hunters have taken more black bears than in any other decade since the Game Commission began keeping bear harvest records in 1915.

"Conditions this year are favorable for another record harvest," said Mark Ternent, Game Commission bear biologist. "Bear populations are up in many parts of the state relative to past years, hunter participation is expected to be good, based on the number of bear licenses being purchased, and acorn crops are above average, which keeps bears out of hibernation longer and available to hunters. The only real unknown is if we will have favorable weather for hunting on opening day."

Bears were taken in 54 counties last year, which was the same as 2008, 2009 and 2010, but an increase from 2007, when bears were taken in 49 counties.

The 2011 bear harvest by WMU for both the archery and four-day bear seasons, including 2010's harvest results in parentheses, were: WMU 1A, 13 (11); WMU 1B, 64 (42); WMU 2A, 0 (1); WMU 2B, 1 (0); WMU 2C, 226 (307); WMU 2D, 150 (146); WMU 2E, 79 (94); WMU 2F, 345 (202); WMU 2G, 1,086 (894); WMU 3A, 564 (199); WMU 3B, 479 (234); WMU 3C, 299 (118); WMU 3D, 318 (284); WMU 4A, 72 (135); WMU 4B, 70 (55); WMU 4C, 148 (90); WMU 4D, 355 (245); WMU 4E, 79 (31); WMU 5A, 1 (0); and WMU 5C, 1 (2).

To participate in any bear season, hunters must have a general hunting license and a bear license, which they can purchase through Nov. 16, or Nov. 22-25.  During the four-day bear season, which runs from Nov. 17-21, bear license sales will temporarily be closed. Bear licenses are not part of the junior or senior combination licenses, and must be purchased separately.

All hunters who harvest a bear must immediately tag it with their field harvest tag that is part of the bear license, and, if during the statewide four-day season or the extended seasons, transport the carcass – minus entrails – to one of the Game Commission bear check stations within 24 hours, and present it for checking along with their general hunting license and bear license. During the archery season, hunters must tag the bear in the field and then contact a Game Commission region office within 24 hours to have their bear checked.

TAKE A VETERAN BEAR HUNTING

Pennsylvania Game Commission officials, in partnership with the state chapters of the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), are encouraging hunters to help veterans discover or rediscover the thrills and joys of hunting in Pennsylvania, including the archery bear season that will be open when Veterans Day is observed on Monday, Nov. 12.

To recognize licensed hunters who step up to serve as volunteer guides for a veteran, the Game Commission will conduct a drawing to present six framed fine-art wildlife prints. To be eligible for one of the prints, a participating hunter must submit a brief e-mail that outlines the name and address of the veteran taken afield, type of hunting taken part in, and county where the shared hunt took place. American Legion or VFW members who take another veteran hunting also should include their member number.

All participating hunters, including those not affiliated with the American Legion or VFW must send an e-mail to either dsandman@vfwpahq.org or hq@pa-legion.com.  A drawing will be held to select the six winners from all e-mails received by Dec. 31, 2012.

BEAR CHECK STATION HOURS OF OPERATION

Hunters who harvest a bear during the statewide four-day general bear season must take it to one of the Pennsylvania Game Commission's check stations within 24 hours. Check stations will be open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 17; from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 18; from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday, Nov. 19 and 20; and from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 21.  Check station details are listed on pages 37 and 38 of the 2012-13 Hunting and Trapping Digest, which is issued with each license.

During the five-day archery bear season (Nov. 12-16) or after 6 p.m. on Nov. 21, hunters with bears to be checked should contact the Game Commission region office that serves the county in which the harvest took place for assistance. Office telephone numbers are listed on page 5 of the 2012-13 Digest.

Those hunters harvesting a bear during the extended seasons should consult the list of available check stations detailed on page 38 of the 2012-13 Digest.  Hunters should note that the days, hours, locations and number of check stations open during the extended seasons may differ from those open during the general season.

This year, the Game Commission again has listed in the 2012-13 Digest global positioning coordinates for hunters to plug into a GPS or mobile device to help them find the nearest check station. 

GAME COMMISSION OFFERS BEAR HUNTING TIPS

Pennsylvania Game Commission officials point out that one of the biggest mistakes bear hunters make is failing to locate areas with good fall food supplies - acorns, hickory nuts, beechnuts, apples, corn - before the hunting season and overlooking areas of dense cover where bears like to hide.

"Signs to look for while scouting include droppings; bedding areas, which are scratched out depressions, usually at the base of a tree or log; and active trails with tracks," said Mark Ternent, Game Commission black bear biologist. "In beech stands, look for fresh claw marks on tree trunks indicating that bears are feeding in the area, and in oak or hickory stands look for fresh droppings that are almost completely composed of nut bits.

"Either of these signs suggests bears are feeding nearby and, if food conditions are right, they will likely still be there come hunting season. A good time to scout is early November, so you can assess local nut crops."

Other bear hunting tips include:

● Look for bears in the thickest cover you can find, such as: swamps and bogs, mountain laurel/rhododendron thickets, north-facing slopes, regenerating timber-harvest areas, wind-blown areas with lots of downed trees, and remote sections of river bottoms. Bigger bears are notorious for holding in thick cover, even when hunters pass nearby.

● Organized drives are effective. Hunters working together often increase their odds of taking bears, especially those bears holding out in thick cover. Develop plans to safely drive likely bear hideouts and follow them to the letter. A minor slip-up by a driver, flanker or stander is all a bear needs to elude even the best-planned drive. Regulations limit the size of organized drives to 25 people or less.

● Hunting on-stand early and late in the day gives hunters a great chance to catch bears traveling to and from feeding and bedding areas. Hunt areas that provide cover to traveling bears and ensure there is either a good supply of mast, cornfields or cover near where you plan to hunt.

● Use the wind to your advantage. If a bear gets a whiff of you, you're busted as a hunter. Bears have an outstanding sense of smell. They often let their noses guide the way as they travel. Always place yourself downwind of expected travel lanes when hunting on-stand or driving. Bears are cagey enough without giving them more advantages.

●Stay focused and assume nothing. Black bears blend in well in forest settings at dawn and as dusk approaches. Spend too much time looking one way and you can miss a bear. Even though bears are quite heavy, they often are surprisingly quiet moving through the forest. You may see a bear before you hear it coming. Staying alert and remaining vigilant are critical.

BEAR HUNTING BULLETS

● A bear license is required to participate in any bear season.

● Only one bear may be harvested per license year from all seasons combined.

● A hunter who harvests a bear must complete all information on his or her bear harvest tag and attach it to the ear of the animal immediately after harvest and before the carcass is moved. In addition, within 24 hours, hunters who kill a bear must take it, along with their general hunting and bear license, to a Game Commission check station for examination. Bear check stations are maintained at the agency's six regional offices and at other locations listed on pages 37-38 in the 2012-13 Hunting and Trapping Digest.

● Once a hunter has used his or her bear harvest tag, it is unlawful to possess it in the field. Also, hunters are reminded to remove old licenses from their holder before placing a new one in it. If you keep an old license in the holder, you may accidentally use it to tag big game and unintentionally violate the law. Also, while displaying a hunting license on an outer garment is no longer required, hunters must have their licenses and photo identification with them while hunting.

● It is unlawful to kill a bear in a den; use a radio to locate a bear that has a radio-transmitter attached to it; hunt in areas where artificial or natural bait, hay, grain, fruit, nuts, salt, chemicals, minerals, including residue or other foods are used, or have been used, as an enticement to lure wildlife within the past 30 days; use scents or lures; pursue bears with dogs; or to hunt bears in a party of more than 25 persons.

● During the firearms bear seasons, hunters are required to wear at all times 250 square inches of fluorescent orange on their head, chest and back combined, visible 360 degrees.  In WMUs where the archery bear season and fall wild turkey season run concurrently, bowhunters, when moving, are required to wear a hat containing 100 square inches of solid fluorescent orange. The hat may be removed when the hunter is stationary or on stand.

● Bears may be hunted with: manually-operated center-fire rifles, handguns and shotguns with an all-lead bullet or ball, or a bullet designed to expand on impact - buckshot is illegal; muzzle-loading long guns 44-caliber or larger; long, recurve, compound or crossbows with broadheads of cutting-edge design. Crossbows must have a minimum draw weight of 125 pounds. Also, crossbows are legal for the archery bear season.

● It is unlawful to intentionally lay or place food, fruit, hay, grain, chemicals, salt or other minerals that may cause bears to congregate or habituate in an area.

Note to Editors: If you would like to receive Game Commission news releases via e-mail, please send a note with your name, address, telephone number and the name of the organization you represent to: PGCNews@pa.gov

Note: A brief video interview with Mark Ternent, Game Commission bear biologist, has been posted at: http://youtu.be/taioGUdHgFs. This broad-cast quality video and audio is suitable for television and radio news, as well as informative for all interested in learning more about the upcoming bear seasons.

SOURCE Pennsylvania Game Commission

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