Just a few tips for the bear hunters out there

On Saturday, Nov. 21, black bear hunting season opens. This year, for the first time on the next day, Nov. 22, it will be one of the Sundays given for hunting. Most hunters, I think are glad for that extra day.

I am of the age that I can remember when it seemed that the black bear population was almost wiped out. We suffered back then from seasons being canceled, shortened and closely monitored. Then Dr. Gary Alt was put in charge of researching bear and he studied extensively.

Thanks to his work, black bears were restored to Pennsylvania. There are still some of us who remember being in groups allowed to go with Alt to bear dens and removing tranquilized sows and cubs, from the dens from which all kinds of data was discovered and utilized into a wise and efficient management plan for the state’s black bears,

As we approach opening day for bears this week, the problem now is too many bears. The animals have become major nuisances as they stroll boldly around people’s homes, gardens, lawns and causing minor panics when they lumber into towns and have to be darted into unconsciousness and moved to another environment.

This year some bear check stations have moved to new locations so be sure you know the location of the check station you will want to use. I have bagged several bears during my lifetime but I am not an expert on the subject. However, I have known and interviewed some who are experts so here are some tips from them.

n Bears prefer to lie up during the day in very thick brush and blowdowns on the first bench down from the top of the mountain. That way, they can burst from their hideout and race up over the top and down the other side. ‘

n A bear’s trail through the woods bears little resemblance to a deer trail. Bear trails are usually wider and will seldom have deer droppings in them as deer do not like to travel on bear trails.

n Bears have an even sharper sense of smell than do deer so take extra pains to be scent-free in the woods. Don’t overlook the small stuff. Be sure you hair and skin are scent-free. That means use odorless soap. Don’t wear a dirty hat. Spray your outer hunting clothes with a spray made especially for removing scent. Or you can have a big black garbage bag filled with pine branches and baking soda and store your outer clothes in the bag overnight. Many professional bear guides use this method religiously.

n Bears usually lie up during the day not too far from their feeding grounds. So check out thickets near cornfields and acorn ridges first. The trails that run through these thickets can be still-hunted if you go so slowly a turtle could catch up with you. Never allow branches or twigs to rub on a hunting coat and pants. Pick up things like berry branches or stalks and lift them around or over you.

n When hunting thickets, always use binoculars. They will reveal black spots that may be bears, twitches of the ears and other identifying features that the naked eye may not pick up on.

It was on the first day of bear season many years ago that I decided to take my rifle for a walk and look for deer sign for the next week which would be deer season. I knew a spot about three miles down a faint woods trail where there was extremely thick and nasty laurel and rhododendron running the entire length of a big ridge.

It was formidable to think of penetrating it but I decided to do it that day. When I plunged out the other side of this massive thicket, I came into a hunter’s paradise. Open woods, surrounded by this horrid laurel on three sides and a small swamp on the fourth side. Rubs and scrapes were everywhere I looked and I could scarcely walk there without tramping on deer droppings.

I scouted the place out and with great excitement I went home and told my husband and son about my find and suggested we abandon our usual first-day haunts and take a chance on this place.

What a treasure it turned out to be. Virtually no one penetrated the laurel to hunt there but hunters were thick in the woods above this place. We all got a buck that day. Turns out that when other hunters on the fringes of this morass got the deer moving, they moved easily through the inside of this “bowl.”

We bagged many deer there over the years and it was our place until we had to move away from that area. My son and I especially had a knack for getting bucks within a half hour of one another many times. One day, when we came dragging our bucks down onto the trail, a couple of other hunters quipped,” It’s that woman and her kid again.”

It’s a treasured memory for both of us.

Sorry about that

Sometimes even writers screw up because the last time my column was published, I screwed up royally involving a recipe.

By request, I had published my recipe for venison jerky and I sent the wrong recipe in to the Mirror. Here is the correct one. May I say that this recipe will work with bear meat as well as with venison.


n 3 pounds of venison

n 1 tablespoon salt.

n 1 teaspoon onion powder

n 1 teaspoon garlic powder

n ¢ teaspoon black pepper

n ™ cup of Worcestershire sauce

n ¢ cup soy sauce

n 3 tablespoons liquid smoke

n ™ cup salt petre

Cut meat into strips the size of cigarettes. Remove all gristle. Marinate overnight in above seasonings. Stir several times so meat becomes all the same color. Drain. Pat dry with paper towels. Spread on cake cooling racks in shallow pan. Put in oven on very low heat, turning several times until dry. Dry until stiff. Store in a covered jar.


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