ANTES FORT - The Antes Fort Fire Hall saw a number of hunters and those interested in the outdoors as it kicked off the first day of bear rifle season Saturday.
"I just love it out in the woods and being able to beat (the bears) at their own game," said Keith McDermit, of Woodward Township, after bringing in his first bear of the season.
As the day went on, pickup truck after pickup truck backed into the designated stall for the state Game Commission to be able to weigh, tag and gather other information about the bear.
JOSEPH STENDER/ Sun-Gazette
Rob Shirey, above, a game lands maintenance worker, prepares a bear to be weighed at the Antes Fort Fire Hall during the first day of bear season Saturday.
Although it was "chilly" for some out hunting, Robert Cooper, who goes out for bear season every year, said he enjoyed the weather.
"It was nice," he said. "Beautiful out there today."
And while for most hunters going out for bear season was a familiar routine, Nathan Martz, of Bloomsburg, was able to get his first bear with his father, Kevin, hunting with him.
Nathan said he was "pretty excited" about getting his first bear and added that he shot it with a gun he won the week before in a raffle.
"I have been pretty lucky so far this year," he said.
And being able to share the experience with his son was also a special experience, his father said.
"I was as proud as a peacock," he said. "I was just glad he got a shot at one.".
The father and son were hunting out of Buckhorn hunting camp, and Kevin Martz was sure there would be some celebrating later on in the day.
"We're going back to the cabin and everyone's waiting for us," he said. "It's going to be a good night."
McDermit said he enjoys being out in the woods by himself. He added that he doesn't have any specific tricks to strategies but "stumbles along" and hopes "for the best."
But as the hunters brought their kills in one after the other, their arrivals were not without fanfare. Community members gathered along the sides of the weigh station and sat on bleachers to see what was brought in.
Matt Lupton, of Avis, brought his four-year old son Mazden to see the bears.
"He wanted to see the bears. His pap is a big hunter," Lupton said.
Lupton said he comes from an outdoors family and Mazden can't wait until he's able to tag along on the hunting trips.
"He wants to hunt," Lupton said. "He has that mind set, so bringing him in here keeps him interested."
And although hunters and spectators, alike, were worried about the kill, the game commission was more interested in what the bear could tell it about the area's bear population.
One aspect of a bear that game commission officials look for is if it has mange - a bald patch of dry skin, which is caused by mites.
Lisa Williams, biologist with the Bureau of Wildlife Management, explained that if they see a bear with mange come in, they will take a patch of skin along with a blood sample.
By asking the location where every bear was killed as it comes into the weigh station, the game commission is able to learn about the area's population.
Cliff Guindon, wildlife conservation officer supervisor, said mange wasn't too bad in the Antes Fort area, but he said Lycoming County has seen cases of it.
Every bear that comes in has a tooth pulled to find the age of it and has its weight, sex and whether its an adult or juvenile recorded.
"It's good to know from year to year what the harvest looks like," Williams said.
Williams said they "slice and dice" the data to get every bit of information they can.
"It all kind of builds to our biological picture of our bear population," she said.
Williams added that they keep the public updated on the weights of the bears for the hunters' "bragging rights."
"That's bragging rights," she said. "They all like to talk about how big their bears are."