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HARRISBURG, PA - Pennsylvania isn’t offering a bear hunting season in 2022. As was the case last year, it’s essentially offering three.

Properly licensed hunters can take black bears in multiple ways – with bows, muzzleloaders and, in cases, even rifles – in what can be considered the early bear season.

That includes the archery bear season, which runs from Sept. 17 to Nov. 25 in Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) 2B, 5C and 5D, from Oct. 1 to Nov. 18 in WMU 5B, and statewide from Oct. 15 to Nov. 5. It also includes the muzzleloader and special firearms seasons. Muzzleloader hunters can take a bear from Oct. 15 to 22, while juniors, seniors and some other special categories of hunters – including mentored hunters ages 16 and under, active-duty military and certain disabled persons’ permit holders – can harvest a bear with a firearm from Oct. 20 to 22.

The second component of Pennsylvania bear hunting is the regular statewide bear season. It runs from Nov. 19 to 22, including the Sunday before Thanksgiving.

Finally, there’s the extended bear season, which allows hunters with a license for bears to take one during all of part or the firearms deer season. The extended season runs from Nov. 26 to Dec. 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 Nov. 26 to Dec. 10 in WMUs 2B, 5B, 5C and 5D, which includes the entirety of deer season.

Hunters can take only one bear during the license year. But added together, those seasons provide a lot of opportunity.

It’s no wonder then that bear hunting license sales are so strong. A total of 215,219 people bought a bear license in 2021; that was not far off 2020’s record sales of 220,471. In both years, only white-tailed deer put more hunters in the woods.

“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.”

The numbers prove that. Hunters harvested 3,659 bears in 2021. That’s the state’s fifth-best harvest ever.

Those bears came from across the seasons.

The archery bear season produced 672 bears, while the muzzleloader and special firearms seasons chipped in 536. Combined, those 1,208 bears amounted to about one-third of the total 2021 harvest.

The regular bear season, meanwhile – true to form – contributed the biggest portion of the harvest. Hunters then got 1,314 bears across four days. That was the second third of the total harvest.

The extended season accounted for the final third of the harvest, producing 1,127 bears.

“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.

In 2021, hunters harvested at least one bear in 59 of the state’s 67 counties and in 22 of its 23 WMUs.

None of that is to say every bear hunter who hits the woods will fill their tag. Success rates for bear hunters still hover around 3% or less.

But, Carrollo said, hunters who find the food sources bears are keying on at various times throughout the fall, and hunt those spots hard, always have a chance. And not just in one season, but several.


Looking back

Hunters wondering where to hunt black bears this fall can look at where hunters had success last year as a guide.

Lycoming County gave up 211 bears to rank first among counties for bear harvest in 2021. Potter County ranked second with 180, Pike County third with 167, Tioga County fourth with 166 and Clinton County fifth with 156. Rounding out the top 10 were Bradford County (136), Sullivan County (127), Wayne County (120), Centre County (118), and Huntingdon County (115). 

The largest bear harvested last season, though, was a 722-pound male taken with a shotgun in the extended season in Letterkenny Township in Franklin County.

The next nine heaviest bears reported – all topping 600 pounds – came, in order, from Luzerne County, Armstrong County, Snyder County, Clearfield County, Lycoming County, Carbon County, Pike County, Clearfield County and Clinton County.

The heaviest bear ever taken in Pennsylvania was an 875-pounder harvested in 2010 in Middle Smithfield Township, Pike County. Since 1992, seven black bears weighing at least 800 pounds have been lawfully harvested in Pennsylvania hunting seasons.

Final county harvests by region (with 2020 figures in parentheses) are:

Northwest – 451 (475): Warren, 87 (86); Venango, 81 (84); Jefferson, 72 (76); Clarion, 65 (59); Forest, 44 (61); Butler, 43 (42); Crawford, 38 (43); Erie, 13 (18); and Mercer, 8 (4).

Southwest – 246 (260): Armstrong, 57 (56); Somerset, 58 (70); Fayette, 49 (43); Westmoreland, 41 (32); Cambria, 19 (24); Indiana, 12 (30); Allegheny, 7 (3); and Greene, 3 (2).

Northcentral – 1,219 (1,310): Lycoming, 211 (186); Potter, 180 (188); Tioga, 166 (185); Clinton, 156 (150); Centre, 118 (117); McKean, 107 (87); Clearfield, 94 (158); Elk, 80 (140); Cameron, 68 (61); and Union, 39 (38).

Southcentral – 466 (419): Huntingdon, 115 (91); Bedford, 82 (82); Mifflin, 55 (30); Fulton, 47 (51); Perry, 42 (36); Blair, 39 (29); Juniata, 36 (35); Franklin, 19 (31); Snyder, 12 (20); Adams, 10 (7); Cumberland, 8 (6); and York, 1 (0).

Northeast – 1,121 (988): Pike, 167 (105); Bradford, 136 (108); Sullivan, 127 (71); Wayne, 120 (100); Luzerne, 111 (125); Carbon, 103 (97); Monroe, 95 (152); Susquehanna, 77 (54); Wyoming, 66 (42); Lackawanna, 62 (56); Columbia, 36 (53); Northumberland, 16 (22); and Montour, 5 (3).

Southeast – 156 (169): Schuylkill, 61 (78); Dauphin, 54 (37); Northampton, 13 (23); Berks, 12 (15); Lebanon, 8 (9); Lehigh, 6 (7); and Bucks, 2 (0).

The final bear harvests by Wildlife Management Unit (with final 2020 figures in parentheses) were:  WMU 1A, 26 (22); WMU 1B, 96 (121); WMU 2A, 5 (9); WMU 2B, 10 (6); WMU 2C, 192 (176); WMU 2D, 205 (191); WMU 2E, 45 (75); WMU 2F, 245 (277); WMU 2G, 518 (628); WMU 2H, 90 (141); WMU 3A, 238 (199); WMU 3B, 404 (273); WMU 3C, 217 (170); WMU 3D, 426 (409); WMU 4A, 173 (177); WMU 4B, 123 (113); WMU 4C, 224 (228); WMU 4D, 300 (236); WMU 4E, 97 (135); WMU 5A, 14 (13); WMU 5B, 1 (0); and WMU 5C, 10 (22).


Checking bears

Hunters who harvest a bear must have it checked by the Game Commission. That’s not new.

But, starting this fall, hunters need to be aware of some changes in how and where they check bears.

Hunters who take a bear during any archery season or the October muzzleloader and special firearms seasons should call the Game Commission’s centralized dispatch center at either of two new numbers, 1-833-PGC-HUNT (1-833-742-4868) or 1-833-PGC-WILD (1-833-742-9453), to make arrangements to have the bear checked.

Hunters who get 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. The locations of those are listed on page 41 of the Hunting & Trapping Digest every hunter gets when buying a license.

Unlike in years past, though, on the Monday and Tuesday of that season – when the harvest slows dramatically – there will be no designated check stations. Hunters should call the aforementioned numbers to get their bear checked.

That change is aimed at improving efficiency and customer service, while still collecting the biological data needed to manage the state’s bears.

Finally, 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.

In all cases, hunters are encouraged to use a stick to prop open their bear’s mouth soon after harvest and before the jaw stiffens. That allows agency staff to remove a tooth, used to determine the bear’s age.


License and orange requirements

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 or from issuing agents located in every county. A list of them is available at 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 from Oct. 20-22. These individuals may not hunt antlered deer during the special firearms season while in possession of a rifle.

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