MT. JEWETT – If the number of bears processed over the weekend at the bear check station located at the Mt. Jewett Fire Hall in McKean County is any indication, hunters are meeting with quite a bit of success in their quest to bag a bruin this year.
The check station was open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday, though workers noted that they stayed later due to the high volume of bears being brought to the location. Hunters have 24 hours to take a bear to a check station after it is harvested. Because of this requirement, check stations were also open on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., during which time a steady flow of bears continued to be brought to the Mt. Jewett location. As of around 11 a.m. on Sunday, 136 bears had been processed at the site.
John Dzemyan, Land Manager for the Pennsylvania Game Commission, noted that the number of bears being brought to the site was a bit higher than normal.
"We knew we had a lot of bear out there," Dzemyan said. "We just didn't know whether the hunters would get into the right spots and get them. We didn't know if the weather was going to be good, but the weather was good enough. There were plenty of hunters and lots of bears."
Last year, there were 59 bears taken to the Mt. Jewett check station on the opening day of the season, while in 2009 there were 89. The 10-year average for the site is 86 bears on opening day and 131 bears total. Prior to this year, the most bears taken on opening day was 133 in 2005. That year there were a total of 177 bears processed at the site throughout the three-day hunting season.
While Dzemyan indicated that no 'monster bears' had been brought to the Mt. Jewett check station so far this year, two harvested on the first day had estimated live weights of over 400 pounds. Both of those bears were harvested in St. Marys and had dressed weights of 392 pounds and 359 pounds.
The heaviest bears processed at the station since 1998 were a male harvested in 2007 in Roulette Township, Potter County with a live weight of 712 pounds and a female harvested in 2004 in Hamlin Township, McKean County with a live weight of 352 pounds. In 2010, the heaviest bears seen at the check station were a 551-pound male harvested in Jones Township and a 290-pound female harvested in Eldred Township, McKean County.
According to Dzemyan, typical weights for bears usually range between 125 and 150 pounds for females and 150 and 200 pounds for males.
"You get some older bears that are a good bit bigger than that, but if you look at the charts [hanging in the check station listing all the weights of the bears that have been brought in so far this season] you'll see a lot of bears between 150 and 200 pounds," Dzemyan said.
Dzemyan also noted that the number of bears harvested in Elk County that were brought to the site was up from in past years. There is no bear check station located in Elk County. The closest stations are the Mt. Jewett Fire Hall and two other sites in Clearfield County, the PGC Maintenance Building along the Quehanna Highway and the Lawrence Township Firehall, which is a new site this year, having replaced S.B. Elliott State Park. Of the 136 bears processed at the site, 43 were harvested in Elk County.
"We definitely got more from Elk County this year than we have the last two or three years," Dzemyan said.
He credited the increase, in part, to the availability of beechnuts this year.
"One of the reason we saw more is there's a lot of beechnuts this year in the area of Elk County [around] Ridgway, Wilcox, and St. Marys. A lot of hunters are doing well there and they're bringing their bear here," Dzemyan said.
Pick up a copy of the Monday, Nov. 21, 2011 edition of The Ridgway Record for more.