PGC releases preliminary bear, elk harvest numbers

As I sit at my computer working on this week’s column, it’s Black Friday morning, and I’m being treated to emails by the dozen from every possible vendor with every kind of sale or special offer to celebrate this bizarre, unofficial “holiday” in tribute to American consumerism.

I’ve also been monitoring the long-term weather forecasts all week, which have been solidly stuck on a 100-percent chance of rain for the first day of deer season. Of course, in a year where so many outdoor plans were spoiled by unrelenting rain, why would I think it wouldn’t rain for the first day of deer season?

Between deleting emails and hoping for a change in the weather forecast, I examined the Game Commission’s report on the harvest figures for the first three days of the four-day statewide bear season, which was released last Wednesday morning.

With most of the state getting several inches of snow the day before the Nov. 17 opening day, a banner season seemed possible. This year, the three-day total came in at 1,833 bears. That’s an increase of 12 percent over the 1,628 three-day harvest in 2017, which is no surprise given the all-day downpour on opening day last year that drastically affected the harvest numbers. The 2018 bear season is still on pace to be in the top ten total bear harvests in history, but somewhat short of the all-time record bear season of 2011, when the three-day harvest was 2,709 and the season total was 4,350 bears.

Three bears weighing more than 700 pounds were recorded during the first three days of the season. The largest of those had a staggering estimated live weight of 780 pounds and was taken on Nov. 19 by Michael J. Rubeo, of Mercer, in Howe Township, Forest County. Timothy J. Weaver, of Dallas, took a 708-pound On Nov. 20 in Harvey’s Lake Borough, Luzerne County. Mickey L. Moore, of Clearfield, took a 704-pounder on Nov. 17 in Goshen Township, Clearfield County.

Other bears taken through the first three days of the season with live weights of more than 600 pounds include: a 697-pound male taken Nov. 19 in Chapman Township, Clinton County, by Scott Yorty, of Bloomsburg; a 681-pounder taken Nov. 17 in Coal Township, Northumberland County, by Robert L. Britton III, of Coal Township; a 680-pounder taken Nov. 19 in Chest Township, Clearfield County, by Douglas D. Routch, of Curwensville; a 679-pound male taken Nov. 17 in Farmington Township, Warren County, by Jordan Tutmaher, of Warren; a 666-pound male taken Nov. 20 in Snyder Township, Jefferson County, by Earl F. Timothy, of Brockway; a 627-pound male taken Nov. 19 in Snyder Township, Jefferson County, by Wayne C. Kline, of Reynoldsville; and a 623-pound male taken Nov. 17 in Newport Township, Luzerne County, by Corrina M. Kishbaugh, of Nanticoke.

So far during the 2018 season, bears have been harvested in 54 counties of Pennsylvania. The top two bear-producing counties after three days of sthe eason were Clinton County with 119 and Lycoming County with 103. Three-day harvests for counties in our area, with 2017 totals in parenthesis, include: Blair, 21 (6); Cambria, 13 (6); Bedford, 51 (26); Huntingdon, 76 (39); Centre, 46 (31); and Clearfield, 72 (49).

The Game Commission has also released the results of the 2018 elk hunt, which ran from Nov. 5-10. A total of 125 elk licenses were issued this season, 26 for antlered elk and 99 for antlerless elk. Hunters receiving elk licenses are selected by a random drawing from a pool of about 30,000 applicants and are assigned to specific hunt zones in the elk range in the northcentral region of the state. Successful elk hunters are required to bring their animal to a check station within 24 hours of harvest where tissue samples are collected to test for chronic wasting disease, brucellosis, and tuberculosis.

This year, hunters checked in 99 elk, 25 bulls and 74 cows. More than a third of that total, 9 bulls and 30 cows, were taken on the first days of the season.

“Overall, the 2018 elk season was fairly typical with a slightly lower success rate for antlerless elk hunters,” said Jeremy Banfield, Game Commission elk biologist. “Poor weather on Monday, Tuesday, and again on Friday might have contributed to the lower harvest, but most hunters recognize the rarity of having an elk tag and will hunt hard no matter the weather. Several hunters reported seeing elk while hunting and just not being able to connect with them.”

As usual, some impressive elk were harvested during the weeklong 2018 season. The two heaviest bulls taken had estimated live weights of more than 800 pounds. Richard L. Reicherter I of Wynnewood bagged a bull with 7-by-8-point antlers in Gibson Township, Cameron County estimated at 894 pounds. Mark D. Copp of Wellsboro took a bull with 10-by-7-point antlers in Goshen Township, Clearfield County estimated at 806 pounds. Eleven other bulls were estimated to weigh 700 pounds or more. Eight cow elk taken this season weighed more than 500 pounds.

And for all my fellow deer hunters who will be in the woods before dawn tomorrow morning: good luck, stay dry and hunt safely.