Perhaps no one was happier in central Pennsylvania Monday than Rick Hill of Williamsport who made the first black bear he ever shot one to brag about.
Hill's bear weighed in at 446 pounds at the Trout Run bear check station. By comparison, the weight of adult black bears ranges from 140 to 400 pounds, with a rare few weighing more than 800 pounds, according to the state Game Commission Web site.
Hunters from around the state were tromping the woods on the first day of bear season, but Hill was among the lucky few who ended up with a kill.
State Game Commission Forester Larry Sheats, left; Loyalsock Township High School junior Brandon Shick, center; and Sugar Valley Valley junior Andrew Batschelet watch the scale as they weigh a harvested bear Monday afternoon at the bear check in station at Antes Fort Volunteer Fire Co. The two high school students are “job shadowing” to find out what it is like to work for the Game Commission. The largest bear checked in as of 5:30 p.m. weighed 326 pounds.
The curious take advantage of bleachers set up in the bay of the Antes Fort Fire Co. as bears are brought in for weighing Monday at the check-in station.
Hill said he was about 30 yards away from the bear when he shot it while it was walking not far from his hunting club near Liberty.
"It was the only bear I saw," he said. "The club got two others."
Mario Giazzon, diversity biologist for the state Game Commission, helped track the number of bears as they came in to be weighed at the Trout Run fire hall.
By 4 p.m., more than two dozen bears had been taken there by hunters, but more trucks loaded down with dead bruins were lined up outside the fire station.
That compared favorably to opening day 2007, he said.
"It was pretty slow last year due to the rain."
He said the first bear came in at about 11:45 a.m., shortly after the check station opened.
According to commission figures, the Trout Run site reported 49 bears harvested for the entire first day last year. Overall, 82 bears were taken to the site in 2007.
Over the past decade, 2005 shaped up as the best opening day with 103 bears harvested. Overall, 147 bears were received at the check station that season.
Traditionally, the most bears are harvested in Lycoming and Clinton counties.
As usual, the fire hall drew a small crowd of curious people eager to gawk at the bears as officials weighed and recorded them.
Among the first to arrive were Jim and Joyce Morgan of Williamsport.
"About 3 o'clock, this place will be a madhouse," said Jim, camera ready to snap shots of the different bears.
"It's not bad now," agreed Joyce.
Jim said he'll send photos over the Internet to some Navy buddies from out of state.
"They just get so excited about this. It's hard to believe."
Jeannette Hoffman of Trout Run took her 4-year-old son, Rocky, to watch the deer arrive.
"I just picked him up from school," she said. "We come over every year."
Among the more interesting sites was a cinnamon bear shot by Jeff Troop of Columbia, Lancaster County.
Troop said he shot his cinnamon bear, so named for its lush brown coat, near Canton.
"One year we had, I think, 11 cinnamon bears," said Tom Smith, land management group supervisor for the commission.
As of late afternoon, Smith said it appeared to be a pretty decent harvest for the first day.
"They are coming in steady," he said.
Dilon Myers of Mechanicsburg shot a 150-pound black bear south of Wellsboro.
"This is my first one," he said, shortly after checking in at the Trout Run weigh station.
Myers said it was the only bear taken at his hunting camp.
It took Vincent Zilinski 50 years since he began hunting at the age of 12 to shoot his first bear.
Zilinski, 62, killed the 322-pound bear with two shots while it was walking about noon not far from his hunting camp near Liberty.
"It was really an experience for me," he said. "I was in Vietnam but this was more exciting than when I was shot at."
Game Commission officials at the North Central office in Jersey Shore were not available to report overall bear kill numbers early Monday night.