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Pennsylvania Black Bear: An Unexpected Bonus

After my successful Illinois rut hunt earlier this month, I had a lot of catching up to do at the office and just didn't have time to participate in Pennsylvania's archery bear season last week. However, my friend Keith Rodgers was getting some consistent bear photos on his trail camera at a farm just a few miles from my house.

Today was the opening day of the rifle bear season here, and although Keith (a contractor) had a job lined up and I planned to catch up on some overdue yard work, we both decided we'd go out bear hunting this morning just for a few hours. Our plan was to be home by 9 a.m. and still carry out our plans for the day.

Well, as you can see, Keith never got to his job, and my leaf blower never made it out of  the garage!

Around 7:30 a.m., another local hunter we know fired a shot at this bear, which ran off into a brushy creek bottom. We were about a quarter mile away, so Keith and I decided to slowly work our way in his direction. As I was moving along the creek, I actually walked up to within about 15 yards of the bear, which had bedded down in some hemlocks in the creek bottom. When the bear noticed me and started to get up, I fired a shot but somehow completely missed at point blank range! I guess I really should stick to archery! If I had any idea I was going to get so close to a bear, I would have carried my bow (that's allowed during Pennsylvania rifle seasons), and probably would have tagged this beautiful bear myself.

Anyhow, after I fired my shot, the bear ran off through the brush and out of sight. As we later discovered, the initial shot fired by the other hunter only hit the bear in the leg, but there was enough sign for us to track him for several hundred yards before the blood started getting very spotty. That's when we had to start looking closely for small drops of blood on the ground and small amounts of blood smeared on weeds where the bear had gone through. Right around the time I was starting to think the odds of finding this bear again didn't look too good, Keith said, "I see him."

I immediately scanned the ground around us, thinking I'd find a dead bear lying somewhere within my vision. When I couldn't see anything, I asked Keith, "Where is he?"

"Look up in the tree," Keith said. Sure enough, about 40 feet up a huge white pine sat the wounded bear! This was quite an unbelievable sight, and Keith and I just stood there for several minutes marveling at the situation and trying to figure out our next move. It certainly didn't look like this bear was in any hurry to come down, and the way it had itself sprawled across several thick limbs, we were afraid it might get stuck up there if it died.

After discussing the situation, we decided the best thing to do was to wait for the bear to offer a good shot at the vitals and deliver a finisher. I told Keith to go ahead and take the shot - both in light of my poor marksmanship earlier and the fact that this really was an area he had scouted and suggested. Keith's aim was absolutely flawless, and at the sound of the shot, the bear scrambled several feet higher up the tree before slowly starting to wobble and tumbling down through the branches to the ground.

That's when the real work began. By the time we got the bear out of the woods, photos taken and processed through the check station, it was supper time.This adult male weighed 161 pounds field dressed and had an estimated live weight of 190 pounds.  I am sure Keith and I are going to sleep great tonight, but these are always the kind of days that you feel a really "good tired." Congratulations Keith on your first black bear! He's a beauty.


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