Very often, Jim Thorpe is thought of as the "Gateway to the Pocono Mountains."

During the 2009 Pennsylvania black bear seasons, however, Jim Thorpe proved to be the gateway to some of the best and most productive hunting in the state. That was especially so for two community residents who are among the 3,512 successful hunters making it the second-best season since the Pennsylvania Game Commission has been keeping records.

Terence Burkhardt shot a boar with an actual live weight of 654 pounds, Monday, Nov. 23, the first day of the statewide three-day season, at 4:35 p.m. in Penn Forest Township. What makes the kill so unusual is that he took the big male with a bow – not a rifle.

Amazingly, just 65 minutes earlier, Mike Wimmer, Jr., show a boar in Penn Forest Township that had an estimated live weight of 654 pounds. Neither of those bears, however, was the heaviest taken in the Jim Thorpe area.

Dave Kohnow of Morrisville was hunting near Jim Thorpe when he took a boar with an estimated live weight of 655 pounds the second day of the season at 4:15 p.m. His bear ranks as the second-heaviest bear legally taken last year.

For years, bears have been expanding their range beyond such traditional areas as the Pocono Mountain and the Northern Tier. Still, it is somewhat surprising that the heaviest bear was a boar with an estimated live weight of 668 pounds taken by Ed Bechtel of Lykens in Jefferson Township, Dauphin County, Thursday, Dec. 3, at 3:10 p.m. during the extended bear season during the first week of the statewide deer season.

According to PGC records, 116 bears were taken during the special archery season 3,052 during the statewide three-day season and 344 bears during the extended seasons open in select areas of the state. Only the 4.164 bears taken in 2005 surpasses this past season, bettering the total of 3,458 taken in 2008.

That Pennsylvania continues to rank among the top states for bear hunting is evident by the results for other recent seasons. Hunters took 3,075 bears in 2000; 3,063 in 2001; 2,686 in 2002; 3,000 in 2003; 2,972 in 2004; 3,122 in 2006; and 2,360 in 2007.

Producing the top five bear-producing counties was the Northcentral Region with Clinton, 295 (139 in 2008); Lycoming, 280 (252); Tioga, 217 (236); Cameron, 214 (75); and Potter 181 (294). Bears were taken in 54 counties, the same as 2008, but an increase from 2007, when bears were taken in 49 counties.

Totals by PGC region and county, with 2008's figure in parenthesis, are:

Northwest: Warren, 101 (59); Forest, 60 (60); Jefferson, 59 (62); Clarion, 48 (65); Venango, 33 (64); Butler, 13 (13); Crawford, 8 (31); and Mercer, 3 (6).

Southwest: Fayette, 72 (43); Somerset, 72 (103); Westmoreland, 65 (37); Armstrong, 44 (50); Indiana, 33 (66); and Cambria, 19 (40).

Northcentral: Clinton, 295 (139); Lycoming, 280 (252); Tioga, 217 (236); Cameron, 214 (75); Potter, 181 (294); Centre, 148 (129); McKean, 142 (141); Clearfield, 135 (115); Elk, 121 (92); and Union, 51 (59).

Southcentral: Huntingdon, 110 (134); Bedford, 65 (80); Mifflin, 64 (56); Blair, 44 (51); Juniata, 33 (22); Snyder, 23 (44); Fulton, 16 (13); Perry, 8 (14); and Franklin, 5 (0).

Northeast: Pike, 117 (73); Monroe, 77 (54); Bradford, 74 (102); Sullivan, 68 (135); Carbon, 66 (35); Luzerne, 56 (59); Wayne, 49 (107); Wyoming, 44 (56); Lackawanna, 32 (39); Susquehanna, 30 (40); Columbia, 27 (24); Northumberland, 6 (6); and Montour, 1 (1).

Southeast: Schuylkill, 37 (41); Dauphin, 24 (23); Lebanon, 8 (0); Berks, 7 (1); Northampton, 5 (4); and Lehigh, 2 (2).

Bear totals by wildlife management unit, with 2008 totals in parentheses, are: WMU 1A, 8 (21); WMU 1B, 36 (67); WMU 2C, 247 (227); WMU 2D, 128 (166); WMU 2E, 77 (117); WMU 2F, 282 (246); WMU 2G, 1,027 (729); WMU 3A, 255 (313); WMU 3B, 292 (392); WMU 3C, 73 (177); WMU 3D, 276 (199); WMU 4A, 125 (145); WMU 4B, 43 (43); WMU 4C, 141 (105); WMU 4D, 442 (456); WMU 4E, 58 (53); WMU 5B, 1 (0); and WMU 5C, 1 (1).