Bears, deer and turkey...oh my! Hunting in Pennsylvania, especially in Potter and surrounding counties, has been a time-honored tradition for decades. Despite the activity being on decline, even in Pennsylvania, the 2018-19 season showed a record harvest of black bear trophies and Sunday hunting days will be available for the 2019-20 seasons, according to the state’s Gaming Control Board.

According to a PCGB December news release, preliminary 2019 results showed 4,577 black bears were harvested statewide, with 1,588 of those out of the Northcentral region. Those harvested in Potter County totaled 173, with 261 in Tioga County, 125 in McKean County and 78 in Cameron County. Lycoming County led the state with 283.

“It’s the biggest harvest year we’ve ever had,” Mike Steingraber, informational and educational supervisor with the game commission, said.

After bear season ends in the fall, deer hunters will have the option of at least two Sundays on which they can bag their trophies. According to a November PGCB news release, “Gov. Tom wolf signed into law, (on Nov. 27,) Senate Bill 147, which permits additional hunting on three Sundays per calendar year-one within the archery deer season, one within the firearms deer season and one selected by the Pennsylvania Game commission. The law will take effect Feb. 25, 2020 and first new Sunday hunting opportunities will be identified by the Game Commission thereafter.”

The majority of Pennsylvania hunters are those who participate in rifle deer season, Steingraber said, which ran from Nov. 30 to Dec. 14. Scott Bundy, of Coudersport, said he prefers rifle hunting season, but wishes it were scheduled differently.

“I think the game commission needs to move rifle season up (to) when deer are active during the rut,” Bundy said. He said when he hits a deer, he knows it will be a quick death and the deer won’t suffer for a long time, as it would with an arrow. He said some hunters don’t follow a deer once they hit it with an arrow. This leaves the deer injured, and it is a waste of meet, he said.

Issac Jones, of Volant, said he prefers archery season.

“It’s not only about hunting but about the preparation, spending time with family and friends, and spending time in the woods,” Jones said. “Getting to watch the sun come up, the leaves change, the first chill in the air. And maybe, just maybe, a nice buck will walk within shooting range.”

Dennis Kulp, of Reading, doesn’t have a seasonal preference.

“Any hunting season in Potter County is the best.” Kulp said.

Steingraber said deer harvest results should be tallied and made public by spring 2020, but are “never exact” because that data is dependent on hunters’ reporting and accuracy.

In spite of the successful black bear harvesting and popularity of deer hunting, Steingraber said statistically hunting has become less popular across the country, though shows a slower decline in Pennsylvania.

“The tradition has held on here,” Steingraber said. “Kids aren’t getting into it. (But,) we need hunting, to manage our wildlife population.”

Though July 1 starts each new hunting-season year, Steingraber said “generally, people call fall ‘hunting season’ in Pennsylvania. In reality, there is hunting going on year round.”

The next and final officially scheduled hunting season in Pa is spring turkey season, which starts on May 2, according to www.pgc.pa.gov. A complete list of every scheduled season is available on the PCGB website, under the “Seasons” icon.