Pennsylvania’s bear hunting season is soon to be in full effect statewide with the ability for hunters to participate with bows, muzzleloaders, and rifles.
PENNSYLVANIA STATE | On Saturday, October 15, bow hunting for bears will begin statewide and run until Saturday, November 5. Muzzleloader hunting will range from Saturday, October 15th to Saturday, October 22nd. Juniors, seniors, active military, and disabled permit holders may use a rife to hunt bears from Thursday, October 20th to Saturday, October 22nd.
The traditional hunting season for bears will begin November 19 and run until November 22. Additionally, according to the Pennsylvania Game Commission, there will be an extended season that will run from November 26 to December 3 in WMUs 1B, 2C, 3A, 3B, 3C, 3D, 4A, 4B, 4C, 4D, 4E and 5A, including the Saturday and Sunday that mark the first two days of deer season, and from November 26 to December 10 in WMUs 2B, 5B, 5C and 5D, which includes the entirety of deer season. Hunters are allowed only 1 bear for the entire year.
“Pennsylvania continues to offer tremendous bear hunting,” said Emily Carrollo, the Game Commission’s black bear biologist. “We’ve got lots of bears, and lots of big ones and hunters can pick and choose when and how they want to pursue them. If there’s ever been a great time to be a Pennsylvania bear hunter, this is it, right now.”
Combined, over 3600 bears were harvested in 2021 across each season.
“The extended bear season adds excitement for hunters, allowing them to seek deer and bears at the same time, doubling their chances of placing their tag on an incredible trophy,” said Game Commission Executive Director Bryan Burhans. “As the numbers show, hunters are finding much success, too, in this and other bear seasons, and statewide bear hunting is about to kick off once again.” Bear hunters currently have a success rate of about 3% but those who hunt close to food sources have a better chance to tag a bear throughout the seasons.
Hunters who harvest a bear during any season other than the standard statewide season must have it checked by the Game Commission. Hunters are asked to call either of the Game Commission’s numbers at 1-833-742-4868 or 1-833-742-9453 to have the bear checked.
Hunters who take a bear in the regular statewide season can take it to a check station on the first two days of the season, Saturday and Sunday. Locations for the stations can be found on page 41 of the Hunting & Trapping Digest. On Monday and Tuesday of the standard season, there will not be any active check stations. Bears must be checked on these days by calling the aforementioned number.
Hunters who take a bear in the extended season must take them to one of the check stations listed on page 42 of the Hunting & Trapping Digest.
Hunters are encouraged to prop open the bear’s mouth after harvest so that agency staff can have easier access to its teeth (which are used to determine age) before the muscles in the bear’s mouth have stiffened.
License and orange requirements as provided by the Pennsylvania Game Commission
Hunters who want to pursue bears in Pennsylvania need a general hunting license or mentored hunting permit, as well as a bear license.
Hunting licenses can be purchased online at https://huntfish.pa.gov or from issuing agents located in every county. A list of them is available at www.pgc.pa.gov under the “Hunt/Trap” tab. Licenses purchased online cannot be used until they are received through the mail because bear licenses contain harvest ear tags.
Bear hunters must wear a minimum of 250 square inches of fluorescent orange material on the head, chest, and back combined at all times during the four-day general firearms season, or when participating in the muzzleloader or special firearms bear seasons. The orange must be visible from 360 degrees.
Hunters are also required to carry photo identification while hunting.
Hunters should also go into the woods with a plan for how to get a bear out if they harvest one. Even smaller bears can be difficult for one person to handle.
Junior and Senior license holders, those with disabled person permits, and Pennsylvania residents serving on active duty in the armed forces may hunt bears or antlerless deer with a rifle during the special firearms season. These individuals may not hunt antlered deer during the special firearms season while in possession of a rifle.