Lycoming County had a lead in the state and on Clinton County as the third day of black bear harvests were reported by the state Game Commission, with more hunters heading into the woods today to bag their big buck as the two-week deer hunting season begins.
More than 2,815 bears arrived at check stations across the state, not quite topping last year's three-day harvest total of 3,023, according to Jerry Feaser, a commission spokesman. The season has four days.
Hunters in Lycoming County had bagged 239 bears while those in neighboring Clinton County were not far behind with 217.
Large bears were included in the bounties. A male shot in Pike County was estimated at 706 pounds while a 620-pound bear was taken in Potter County and a 598-pound bear was shot by Michael P. Intallura of Renovo, in Noyes Township, Clinton County.
Clayton Dulaney, 27, of Towanda bagged a 559-pound bear, but had six helpers load it into a pickup to get it to a weigh station at Wysox, according to a story in the Daily Review of Towanda.
Bear hunters who still possess an unused bear tag starting today may take a bear during all or portions of the first week of deer season, but only in certain specific areas of the state.
Deer season opener
The woods turn a fluorescent orange starting today with the commission anticipating about 750,000 deer hunters afield.
Hunters - and everyone else - can likely expect a high temperature of 42 and a low of 29. Hunters may also be aided in tracking deer Tuesday morning, as forecasters call for a 40-percent chance of snowfall tonight with the odds of snow turning to rain on Tuesday at 50 percent.
"In addition to being a rich part of our state's heritage, deer season is critical in managing Pennsylvania's whitetails," said Carl G. Roe, commission executive director.
"The efforts of hunters are far-reaching," he said, adding hunters help keep deer populations in check, and enable the agency to meet deer management goals that benefit those who reside, visit and travel through the state.
"Spending time afield before season often leads to better hunting opportunities," Roe said.
All hunters who take a deer must fill out their harvest tag and attach it to the deer's ear before moving the carcass. The tag can be secured to the base of the ear with a string drawn tightly, if the hunter plans to have the deer mounted. Cutting a slit in the ear to attach the tag will require additional work by a taxidermist, Roe said.
For hunters who plan to visit both a deer processor and a taxidermist, it is important to remember that state law requires the deer harvest carcass tag to remain with the heat at the taxidermist, and that a second hand-made tag containing the name, address and license number of the individual who harvested the deer and the location of the harvest should remain with the rest of the carcass going to the processor, Roe said.
Hunting licenses no longer need to be displayed on an outer garment.
"Hunters may place their hunting license in their wallet with other identification, as they are required to have a second form of identification with them while hunting," Roe said.
Shorter daylight means more active deer and drivers need to be extra cautions on roads, said David Thompson, a safety press officer with the state Department of Transportation in Montoursville.
"Deer are most active during their breeding season and particularly between sunset and sunrise. Hunting season also increases the movement of deer," he said. "Hunting season also increases the movement of deer."
Half of all reportable crashes in PennDOT's nine-county district region occurred in October, November and December. More than 85 percent of those crashes occurred between 5 p.m. and 7 a.m. and since 2007 there have been more than 960 hit-deer crashes district-wide, resulting in 238 injuries and three deaths, Thompson said.
Deer often travel in small herds, so if a motorist sees one deer crossing the road, there is a strong change others will follow.
If one sees a deer while driving, slow down, tap the brakes to warn other drivers and sound the horn. Deer tend to fixate on headlights, so flashing them may cause the animal to move.
To report a dead deer on a state road, call 1-800-FIX-ROAD.
Hunters often decide to share harvests and the venison goes to local food banks, soup kitchens and needy families, Roe said.
Although hunters may be concerned by recent reports that chronic wasting disease was found this fall in two captive deer in the southeastern part of the state, recommendations about deer handling gone largely unchanged, according to Martin Bucknavage, food safety extension associate in Penn State's Department of Food Science.
While the disease is fatal for deer, elk and moose, it has not yet been found in wild deer in the state, and no evidence of transmission to humans, Bucknavage said.
Still, it's recommended to follow guidelines for handling and processing deer, such as wearing rubber gloves and minimizing contact with brain and spinal-cord material, he said. Deer carry pathogenic bacteria and protections are needed to prevent cross contamination.
Hunters need to eviscerate the animal as soon as possible to help the carcass dissipate heat and remove internal organs where spoilage can occur more quickly.
"During field dressing, if any of the internal organs smell offensive, or if there is a greenish discharge, black blood or blood clots in the muscle, don't consume the meat," Bucknavage said.
"If you kill a deer and question the safety and quality of the meat, immediately contact the Game Commission," he said. "The agency has policies for authorizing an additional kill."
"Hunters Sharing the Harvest" is a program allowing hunters to donate deer to specified processors, which distribute the meat to food banks, soup kitchens and pantries, said state Agriculture Secretary George Greig.
The processor list is available at www.sharedeer.org.