Berks Brew­ery Fest slated for April 14.

The Kutztown Area Patriot - - FRONT PAGE - By Tom Ta­tum tta­tum2@ya­hoo.com

The folks at the Penn­syl­va­nia Game Com­mis­sion (PGC) re­cently re­leased the re­sults of our 2017-2018 bear and deer hunting sea­sons. We’ll take a look at the bear har­vest fig­ures first, not­ing that, de­spite one of the worst open­ing days in more than three decades of bear hunting, Key­stone State hunters scored yet an­other top ten bear har­vest in 2017.

Hunters bagged 3,438 bears in the 2017 sea­sons with the archery har­vest of 493 bears and the ex­tended sea­son har­vest of 1,083 bears set­ting records for those sea­sons. Fortyeight bears weigh­ing 500 pounds or more (in­clud­ing 14 weigh­ing 600 pounds or more and two weigh­ing 700 pounds or more) were part of the 2017 har­vest. Bears were taken in 57 coun­ties and 22 of Penn­syl­va­nia’s 23 Wildlife Man­age­ment Units (WMUs).

The to­tals rep­re­sent a re­bound from a rough start to the firearms bear sea­son when wide­spread wind and rain re­duced hunter par­tic­i­pa­tion on open­ing day, tra­di­tion­ally the top day for bear hunters. Only 694 hunters were suc­cess­ful on open­ing day, com­pared to the usual 1,500 hunters that typ­i­cally har­vest a bear, ac­cord­ing to Game Com­mis­sion bear bi­ol­o­gist Mark Ter­nent. “In fact, the last time open­ing-day har­vest dipped be­low 700 bears was in 1982 when bear sea­son was only two days and the statewide bear pop­u­la­tion num­bered less than 5,000 an­i­mals,” Ter­nent said. The all-time bear har­vest high was recorded in 2011 when 4,350 bears were har­vested.

Par­tic­i­pa­tion re­turned to nor­mal by the sec­ond day, and hunters pro­ceeded to take 1,852 bears in the gen­eral sea­son, which is just over 70 per­cent of the av­er­age, Ter­nent said. But new bearhunt­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties – in­clud­ing an ear­lier bear archery sea­son that over­laps with a week of the archery deer sea­son, and ex­panded ex­tended bear sea­sons – re­sulted in new records in those sea­sons, mak­ing up for some of the open­ing-day loss.

While the 2017 har­vest was down com­pared to 2016’s har­vest of 3,529, har­vest to­tals in­creased within the Game Com­mis­sion’s North­east and South­east Re­gions. The largest bear har­vested in 2017 weighed an es­ti­mated 707 pounds. It was taken in Mid­dle Smith­field Town­ship, Mon­roe County, dur­ing the ex­tended bear sea­son in WMU 3D by Holly F. Scott, of Steel­ton, Pa. It was one of two 700-pound bears in the 2017 har­vest. Chad A. Wag­ner, of Ti­tusville, took a bear es­ti­mated at 700 pounds in Oil Creek Town­ship, Ve­nango County, dur­ing the firearms bear sea­son.

Top­ping the bear har­vest sta­tis­tics was Ly­coming County with 252 bears to take the top county bear har­vest. Here in the south­east, hunters in Berks County scored on seven bru­ins, up from just two last year. As per usual, no bears were taken in Mont­gomery or Ch­ester Coun­ties. Prior to the start of the 2017 hunting sea­sons, the statewide bear pop­u­la­tion was es­ti­mated at 20,000.

The fact that a low­erthan-ex­pected 2017 har­vest still ranked among the best on record shows how spe­cial bear hunting in Penn­syl­va­nia has be­come, said Game Com­mis­sion Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Bryan Burhans. “There’s no place like Penn­syl­va­nia for hunting bears, and there’s never been a time when hunters’ chances have been bet­ter,” Burhans said.

DEER DATA » Ac­cord­ing to the PGC, Penn­syl­va­nia’s buck har­vest in­creased 10 per­cent, and the over­all deer har­vest also was up 10 per­cent in the state’s 201718 hunting sea­sons which closed back in Jan­uary. Hunters har­vested an es­ti­mated 367,159 deer in the 2017-18 sea­sons, which eas­ily topped the over­all deer har­vest of 333,254 in the 2016-17 sea­sons. Across the 23 Wildlife Man­age­ment Units (WMU) used by the Game Com­mis­sion to man­age white­tails, the deer har­vest de­creased in only three units.

Of course the key word in the above para­graph is “es­ti­mated.” Un­like the hard and fast bear har­vest sta­tis­tics where hunters are re­quired to reg­is­ter their bears at check sta­tions, there’s a sig­nif­i­cant caveat when it comes to cal­cu­lat­ing the deer har­vest. That’s be­cause the PGC re­lies on deer hunters sub­mit­ting re­port cards to des­ig­nate their buck and doe har­vests, then com­pares these re­ports to ran­dom checks of tagged deer at meat pro­cess­ing shops in or­der to as­sess the num­ber of deer har­vested that may have gone un­re­ported. It may be a flawed sys­tem, but it’s one the PGC has been de­pend­ing on for many years.

With that caveat in mind, the 2017-18 buck har­vest to­taled 163,750, rep­re­sent­ing a 10 per­cent in­crease over the 2016-17 buck har­vest of 149,460. It is the sec­ond largest har­vest of bucks since antler restric­tions were put in place in 2002. The largest har­vest – 165,416 – oc­curred in the first year of antler restric­tions. The 2017-18 buck har­vest also com­pares well with big buck har­vests in Penn­syl­va­nia since the Game Com­mis­sion be­gan us­ing cal­cu­lated har­vests in 1986. From that per­spec­tive, the 2017-18 buck har­vest ranks as the 10th best.

In the 1987-88 deer sea­sons, 16 per­cent of deer hunters took a le­gal buck. Ten years later, that rate in­creased to 19 per­cent. In the 2007-08 sea­sons, which were five years into antler restric­tions, 15 per­cent of deer hunters took an antlered deer. In the 2017-18 sea­sons, more than 20 per­cent of deer hunters took an antlered deer.

The antler­less deer por­tion of the 2017-18 har­vest also in­creased. To­tal­ing 203,409, the antler­less har­vest was up 11 per­cent over the 2016-17 antler­less har­vest of 183,794. But that was by de­sign. The 2017 antler­less li­cense al­lo­ca­tion in­creased about 7 per­cent over 2016’s al­lo­ca­tion. Here in our cor­ner of the Com­mon­wealth, hunters in WMU 5C bagged 8,800 bucks and 15,600 antler­less deer; Those in WMU 5D downed 3,300 bucks and 7,500 antler­less deer.

Bowhunters ac­counted for about a third of Penn­syl­va­nia’s 2017-18 over­all deer har­vest, tak­ing 118,110 deer (62,830 bucks and 55,280 antler­less deer) with ei­ther bows or cross­bows. The archery har­vest also in­creased 10 per­cent over 2016-17’s to­tal har­vest of 109,250. Muz­zleloader hunters took 23,490 deer (1,310 bucks) in the 2017-18 sea­sons. This har­vest also rep­re­sented an about 10 per­cent in­crease in over­all muz­zleloader har­vest.

The per­cent­age of older bucks in the 2017-18 deer har­vest re­mained high. About 57 per­cent of the bucks taken by hunters were at least 2½ years old. The re­main­der were 1½ years old. “Ev­ery­where I go, hunters are telling me about and show­ing me pho­tos of the tro­phy bucks they took last sea­son,” said Game Com­mis­sion Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Bryan Burhans. “It’s some­thing that started months ago and hasn’t stopped. I con­sider it a plea­sure to share their ex­cite­ment and see their pride.”

TROUT STOCK­INGS THIS WEEK » The Penn­syl­va­nia Fish and Boat Com­mis­sion stays busy this week with in-sea­son trout stock­ings in our re­gion. Streams slated for fresh batches of trout in Berks County in­clude An­ti­etam Creek (4/12), An­ti­etam Reser­voir (4/12), Manatawny Creek (4/9), Swabia Creek (4/9), and Wil­low Creek (4/12). In Ch­ester County, the East Branch of the Brandy­wine Creek (4/9), Mid­dle Branch of White Clay Creek (4/11), Po­cop­son Creek (4/9), and the De­layed Har­vest sec­tion of West Val­ley Creek (4/9). Mont­gomery County’s Skip­pack Creek (4/9). SAVE THE DATE » Some im­por­tant up­com­ing April dates in the Penn­syl­va­nia out­doors in­clude the statewide open­ing day for trout sea­son this Satur­day, April 14, the spring gob­bler youth hunt on Satur­day, April 21, and the open­ing of spring gob­bler sea­son on April 28.

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