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Hunting and Fishing: Black Bear Info for Pennsylvania


Hunters who harvest a bear 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. 19; from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 20; from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday, Nov. 21 and 22; and from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 23.  Check station details are listed on page 37 of the 2011-12 Digest.

During the five-day archery bear season (Nov. 14-18) or after 6 p.m. on Nov. 23, GameNews_Cover_November_Large 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 2011-12 Hunting and Trapping Digest, issued with hunting licenses.

Those hunters harvesting a bear during the extended seasons should consult the list of available check stations detailed on page 38 of the 2011-12 Digest.  Hunters should note that the days, hours and locations of check stations open during the extended seasons may differ from those open during the general season.

This year, the Game Commission has listed global positioning coordinates for hunters to plug into a GPS to help them find the nearest check station.  However, coordinates for the check stations in Fulton, Huntingdon and Union counties are listed incorrectly in the Digest.  The correct coordinates are: Fulton County, Buchanan State Forest/Sideling Hill, 40.0172 N, 78.1506 W; Huntingdon County, Huntingdon/Armory, 40.4889 N, 78.0499 W; and Union County, Bald Eagle State Forest/Laurelton, 40.0923 N, 77.2138 W.




Hunters and trappers are reminded that they still are required to display their licenses on an outer garment, said Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director Carl G. Roe.

“The Game Commission is supporting legislation to remove the statutory requirement that licenses be displayed, and thereby allow hunters to place their hunting license in their wallet with other ID,” Roe said. “However, until such time as the General Assembly removes this statutory requirement, hunters and trappers will need to continue to display their licenses.”




Hunters can check traffic and road conditions on more than 2,900 miles of roadways by simply calling 511 or logging onto the Department of Transportation’s website ( before heading out for bear season.

“’511PA’ is Pennsylvania’s official travel information service,” said Carl G. Roe, Game Commission executive director. “This service from PennDOT provides travelers with reliable, current traffic and weather information. This site enables hunters to check on the status of road conditions before heading out to their bear hunting destination.”




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 mast conditions.”

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.




- 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 licenses, 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 2011-12 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.


- 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 season, 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 or compound bows 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.