Bear hun­ters should set a re­cov­ery ac­tion plan

The Hazleton Standard-Speaker - - WILDLIFE - BY TYLER FRANTZ COR­RE­SPON­DENT Con­tact the writer: wildlife@ timessham­rock.

While ex­panded hunt­ing dates ap­proved this spring by the Penn­syl­va­nia Game Com­mis­sion board of game com­mis­sion­ers of­fer ad­di­tional chances to take a black bear in 2018, his­tory shows just three per­cent of all li­cense hold­ers will be suc­cess­ful.

Upon down­ing a bear, how­ever, 100 per­cent of this three per­cent faces the chal­leng­ing task of re­mov­ing it from Penn’s Woods in a timely man­ner.

Con­sid­er­ing adult black bears can weigh any­where from 100 to 700 pounds, with mul­ti­ple bears in the 500-plus pound range taken ev­ery year in Penn­syl­va­nia, the re­moval process can be­come quite the daunt­ing un­der­tak­ing, es­pe­cially when hunt­ing the re­mote lo­ca­tions many bears tend to in­habit.

While the odds of suc­cess are low, it is im­por­tant for hun­ters to have a bear-re­moval plan in place be­fore to tak­ing to the woods on open­ing day. Call it op­ti­mistic or just be­ing well pre­pared, but here of some things to con­sider prior to the hunt.

Strength in num­bers

The im­por­tance of bear hunt­ing with friends or fam­ily mem­bers can­not be stressed enough. If solo hun­ters hike way off the beaten path by them­selves and suc­cess­fully kill a bear of any ex­ces­sive size, they are up a creek with­out a pad­dle.

If at all pos­si­ble, try to hunt with a part­ner at the bare min­i­mum or a small crew of hun­ters so ev­ery­one can chip in and lend a hand if some­one in the group is suc­cess­ful.

Many hun­ters ac­tu­ally or­ga­nize into large groups up to 25 in­di­vid­u­als and con­duct thought­fully planned bear drives with much ef­fec­tive­ness.

This is not re­quired to be suc­cess­ful, but it sure helps to have lots of bod­ies to help get a bear off the moun­tain if some­one makes a kill.

If the only op­tion is to hunt alone, be sure to have friends on call to help as­sist in the re­cov­ery and re­moval.

While most adult hun­ters in good shape can man­age drag­ging a bear of less than 150 pounds a rea­son­able dis­tance, any­thing heav­ier than that can quickly be­come quite the chore.

Rather than risk­ing over ex­er­tion, try to en­list the help of some­one else to keep things safe and avoid in­jury.

Skin­ning, quar­ter­ing and pack­ing out bears is le­gal, as long as the hide stays at­tached to the ear-tagged head.

Most hun­ters, how­ever, pre­fer keeping the car­cass in tact for of­fi­cial weigh in and mount­ing op­tions, leav­ing the skin­ning jobs to their butch­ers or taxi­der­mists.

Work smarter not harder

The bear re­moval process can be tremen­dously sim­pli­fied by the use of some sim­ple de­vices to help ease the bur­den.

First, a long rope can be an in­valu­able as­set. Mul­ti­ple loop han­dles can be tied to cre­ate a har­ness sys­tem for hun­ters to drag in uni­son. A bear can be lashed to long carry poles for even weight dis­tri­bu­tion, or a come-along ratchet sys­tem can be em­ployed to winch a bear up a steep in­cline.

In flat or level ter­rain, a wheeled game cart or hard plas­tic sled will con­sid­er­ably re­duce ground fric­tion, al­low­ing hun­ters to trans­port their kill longer dis­tances more eas­ily.

Ob­vi­ously, a ve­hi­cle or heavy ma­chin­ery will dras­ti­cally aid the re­moval process, but many pub­lic hunt­ing ar­eas pro­hibit the use of mo­tor­ized ve­hi­cles on state land, so it is im­por­tant to have a man­ual op­tion at hand.

Pre­par­ing for the check sta­tion

It is re­quired that ev­ery bear taken in Penn­syl­va­nia be taken to a Penn­syl­va­nia Game Com­mis­sion check sta­tion for of­fi­cial ex­am­i­na­tion within 24 hours of the kill.

Suc­cess­ful hunter must also bring their hunt­ing li­cense and bear li­cense, in ad­di­tion to the har­vest tag which should be placed in the bear’s ear im­me­di­ately upon re­cov­ery and prior to mov­ing the car­cass.

It is rec­om­mended hun­ters place a 3- to 4-inch stick in the bear’s mouth to prop it open be­fore rigor mor­tis or freez­ing tem­per­a­tures set in, mak­ing it extremely dif­fi­cult for check sta­tion staff to open the mouth to re­move a tooth for ag­ing.

Bears should be field dressed prior to tak­ing it to a check sta­tion, and the staff does not need to ex­am­ine its re­pro­duc­tive or­gans, which may be left with the en­trails when field dress­ing. Check sta­tion staff will weigh the bear and use a for­mula to cal­cu­late the es­ti­mated live weight even af­ter field dress­ing.

Check sta­tions are avail­able in each re­gion of the state, and their hours and spe­cific lo­ca­tions are listed in the “Penn­syl­va­nia Hunt­ing & Trap­ping Di­gest,” avail­able on­line by vis­it­ing

While suc­cess is no cer­tainty in the Penn­syl­va­nia black bear woods, it is the wise hunter who has a plan in place if for­tu­nate enough to fill their tag.


Tak­ing a Penn­syl­va­nia black bear is a rare treat, but it also comes with a lot of hard work, so hun­ters should have a pre-set plan in place for re­mov­ing their bears if suc­cess­ful.

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