HARRIISBURG, PA — Whether inspired by a record 2019 harvest or the new hunting opportunities dotting the 2020 calendar, bear hunters are lining up to buy licenses at a rate never before seen.
And those who experience success in the coming bear seasons should be prepared for some changes at bear check stations that include limited opportunities for the public to observe bears as they’re checked, and changes to check station locations and hours of operation.
Three check stations have changed venue and will be held at different locations than what is published in the 2020-21 Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest, issued to all hunters at the time they purchase their licenses, and available to download and view at www.pgc.pa.gov.
In the Northcentral Region, the Lycoming County check station initially planned to be held at Antes Fort Fire Hall along state Route 44 in Jersey Shore will be moved a quarter-mile away to the Game Commission’s Northcentral Region Office, 1566 South Route 44 Highway, Jersey Shore, PA, 17740.
In the Southcentral Region, the Buchanan State Forest Building in Fulton County has moved about one-half mile away. The new building is located on Route 915, one-tenth mile north of Route 30 and 4.8 miles east of Breezewood. The GPS coordinates are 40.019519N -78.159104W. This building will host bear check stations in both the regular firearms bear season and extended bear season, which overlaps a portion of the firearms deer season.
And, also in the Southcentral Region, one check station in Huntingdon County is changing locations, but only in the extended bear season. In the extended bear season, the check station initially to be held at the Huntingdon National Guard Armory will be held about a mile away at the Game Commission’s Southcentral Region Office, 8627 William Penn Highway, Huntingdon, PA 16652. The hours of operation for this check station in the extended bear season also are different compared to what is listed in the digest for the check station at the Armory. The Southcentral Region Office check station will be open during the extended season from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 30 through Friday, Dec. 4, and noon to 7 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 5.
The check station at the Armory will continue to be used during the four-day regular firearms bear season, as listed in the digest.
While all other check station locations and hours remain the same as published in the digest, there will be changes at all check stations due to COVID-19 protocols.
To comply with the Governor’s social-distancing requirements and to keep Game Commission employees and members of the public safe, access to bear-checking areas will be limited. While some check stations may have areas that are open to the general public, at all check stations, only the successful hunter, and in some cases members of his or her hunting party, will be permitted to enter the checking area. Social-distancing of at least 6 feet and face coverings are required at all check stations. Further restrictions may apply at some facilities.
There also will be no harvest maps or tally boards at check stations, however, real-time bear harvest totals can be viewed at www.pgc.pa.gov. Just select “Black Bear Harvest” under “Quick Clicks” on the homepage to link to the totals and maps.
Following last year’s record bear harvest of 4,653, bear hunters got off to a good start in the early muzzleloader, special firearms and archery bear seasons. More than 1,900 bears have been taken so far.
As of Oct. 25, bear license sales were up by more than 17 percent over last year, when a record 202,043 bear licenses were sold.
About a month ahead of the four-day regular firearms bear season, more than 191,000 hunters had bought their 2020 bear licenses.
Game Commission Executive Director Bryan Burhans said a healthy bear population, which has sustained at about 20,000 bears statewide, and a wide slate of hunting opportunities have combined to boost excitement for bear hunting like at no other time in memory. Burhans thanked successful bear hunters and the public for their cooperation and flexibility to ensure safety for themselves and others at check stations.
“While hunting has continued virtually uninterrupted during this year’s pandemic, and surging license sales show hunters are eager to take advantage of new opportunities including the Sunday, Nov. 22 bear hunt, a few adjustments at check stations are necessary,” Burhans said. “Our staff will be as efficient as possible in checking successful hunt.”
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