PA Game Commission Offers Bear Hunting Tips

PA Game Commission Offers Bear Hunting Tips

Pennsylvania Game Commission
Pennsylvania Game Commission

HARRISBURG, PA –-( Pennsylvania Game Commission officials point out that one of the biggest mistakes bear hunters make is failing to locate areas with good fall food supplies – acorns, beechnuts, apples, corn – before the hunting season and overlooking areas of dense cover where bears like to hide.

“Signs to look for while scouting include droppings; bedding areas, which are scratched out depressions, usually at the base of a tree or log; and active trails with tracks,” said Mark Ternent, Game Commission black bear biologist. “In beech stands, look for fresh claw marks on tree trunks indicating that bears are feeding in the area, and in oak stands look for fresh droppings that are almost completely composed of acorns bits. Either of these signs suggests bears are feeding nearby and, if food conditions are right, they will likely still be there come hunting season. A good time to scout is early November, so you can assess local mast conditions.”

Other bear hunting tips include:

  • Look for bears in the thickest cover you can find, such as: swamps and bogs, mountain laurel/rhododendron thickets, north-facing slopes, regenerating timber-harvest areas, wind-blown areas with lots of downed trees, and remote sections of river bottoms. Bigger bears are notorious for holding in thick cover, even when hunters pass nearby.
  • Organized drives are effective. Hunters working together often increase their odds of taking bears, especially those bears holding out in thick cover. Develop plans to safely drive likely bear hideouts and follow them to the letter. A minor slip-up by a driver, flanker or stander is all a bear needs to elude even the best-planned drive. Regulations limit the size of organized drives to 25 people or less.
  • Hunting on-stand early and late in the day gives hunters a great chance to catch bears traveling to and from feeding and bedding areas. Hunt areas that provide cover to traveling bears and ensure there is either a good supply of mast or cornfields or cover near where you plan to hunt.
  • Use the wind to your advantage. If a bear gets a whiff of you, you’re busted as a hunter. Bears have an outstanding sense of smell. They often let their noses guide the way as they travel. Always place yourself downwind of expected travel lanes when hunting on-stand or driving. Bears are cagey enough without giving them more advantages.
  • Stay focused and assume nothing. Black bears blend in well in forest settings at dawn and as dusk approaches. Spend too much time looking one way and you can miss a bear. Even though bears are quite heavy, they often are surprisingly quiet moving through the forest. You may see a bear before you hear it coming. Staying alert and remaining vigilant are critical.

More Bear Hunting Facts

  • A bear license is required to participate in any bear season.
  • Only one bear may be harvested per license year from all seasons combined.
  • A hunter who harvests a bear must complete all information on his or her bear harvest tag and attach it to the ear of the animal immediately after harvest and before the carcass is moved. In addition, within 24 hours, hunters who kill a bear must take it, along with their general hunting and bear licenses, to a Game Commission check station for examination. Bear check stations are maintained at the agency’s six regional offices and at other locations listed on page 36 in the 2009-10 Hunting and Trapping Digest.
  • Once a hunter has used his or her bear harvest tag, it is unlawful to possess it in the field. Also, hunters are reminded to remove old licenses from their holder before placing a new one in it. If you keep an old license in the holder, you may accidentally use it to tag big game and unintentionally violate the law.
  • It is unlawful to kill a bear in a den; use a radio to locate a bear that has a radio transmitter attached to it; hunt in areas where artificial or natural bait, hay, grain, fruit, nuts, salt, chemicals, minerals, including residue or other foods are used, or have been used, as an enticement to lure wildlife within the past 30 days; use scents or lures; pursue bears with dogs; or to hunt bears in a party of more than 25 persons.
  • During the regular and extended bear seasons, hunters are required to wear at all times 250 square inches of fluorescent orange on their head, chest and back combined, visible 360 degrees, while hunting in either of the black bear firearms seasons. In WMUs where the archery bear season and fall wild turkey season run concurrently, bowhunters when moving are required to wear a hat containing 100 square inches of solid fluorescent orange. The hat may be removed when the hunter is stationary or on stand. Those WMUs affected by this requirement are 2G, 3A and 4D.
  • Bears may be hunted with: manually-operated center-fire rifles, handguns and shotguns with an all-lead bullet or ball, or a bullet designed to expand on impact – buckshot is illegal; muzzle-loading long guns 44-caliber or larger; long, recurve or compound bows or crossbows with broadheads of cutting-edge design. Crossbows must have a minimum draw weight of 125 pounds and cannot exceed 200 pounds.
  • It is unlawful to intentionally lay or place food, fruit, hay, grain, chemicals, salt or other minerals that may cause bears to congregate or habituate in an area.
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Is someone allowed to participate in the drive during bear season but not hold a valid hunting license nor will they carry a firearm? they are primarily used as just an additional body during the drive to push bear to the Hunter


is it allowed to shoot a mangy bear out of season in PA>

Ben Bo

Hey guys,

I recommend using an electronic call for hunting bear. You should get something like a Primos Alpha Dogg or FoxPro Shockwave which allows for uploading your own calls. Maybe use a bear cub distress call. They are fairly expensive units, but have a bigtime lifetime value.



Electronic call is illegal in pa!


Use the predator call. Act like you’re trying for a coyote too.. If a bear comes in its a coincidence!!

Bruce Greene

Let me get this right, I can hunt bears with a 185 lb draw weight compound crossbow such as the Barnett Razor that shoots 400 fps but its illegal to use my 260 lb draw Excaliber recurve that shoots 380 fps. Its reassuring to know that our game commission employs only the top intelligent people to make up the game laws


If they were more intelligent it would say “Long, Recurve or Compound bows ONLY” or “Crossbows of any weight over 125lbs can be used in the Crossbow only season at the end of the year”

Jaime Jones

Are you aloud to use any type of predator calls to hunt bear in PA or it that considered a lure?