Going for bear
SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS Gary Marshall of Artistic Wildlife Creations of Slatington says if you're lucky enough to get a bear you should cool the carcass quickly.
You'd think the odds were fairly good. About 161,000 hunters have purchased a bear license, and the state's bear population is estimated at about 16,000 one bear for every 10 hunters.
Sometimes you eat the bear but, more often, the bear beats you. Statewide, in 2012, those 160,852 bear hunters downed 3,632 bears. Roughly, one in 44 hunters will bag a bear.
The odds are best during the state's rifle season, which opens today. Last year, 13 bears were taken in the early season, 262 during archery season, and 672 during the extended season, which was open in select areas.
The majority of the harvest, 2,685, occured during the statewide general season, and 58 percent of that harvest happened on opening day.
One local hunter didn't let the odds discourage him.
Ed Marx of Kunkletown has purchased a bear license faithfully for about four decades. This year, he bagged a 200-pounder with his crossbow while hunting in Berks County during the early season.
"I've been hunting bears for 30 or 40 years, and I've gotten three, one was 300 pounds and two were 200 pounds each," Marx said. "I was archery hunting for deer in the Kempton area, where I've hunted for years and I've never seen a bear there."
Only six bears were harvested in Berks County in 2012.
"I saw a bear coming towards me and he came close enough for me to get it," he said. "I have to say that I've been really lucky, to have gotten three bears in Pennsylvania."
So what do you do if you get one?
Taxidermist Gary Marshall of Artistic Wildlife Creations, Slatington, said it's important for hunters to cool the carcass.
"After you field dress the bear, pack the body cavity with bags of ice -- with the skin, fur and fat acting as insulation, you could need to take extra care to cool the bear," Marshall said. "Many people are not comfortable with skinning the bear, to prepare it for taxidermy, especially if they're planning to have a (bear) rug made."
Marshall said that although taxidermists can repair "mistake" cuts, skinning the bear correctly in the first place will lead to a better result. Marshall prefers to skin the bear for the hunter in preparation for taxidermy work.