Hunter’s tattooed bear aids game agency’s study
BY PETER CAMERON
On Tuesday, Bradley Everetts shot a tattooed bear.
Sitting in a tree stand on the third of the four-day gun hunting season for bears, the 50-year-old Forkston native heard a rustling in the underbrush and had to wait patiently for 20 minutes before he could get a clear shot.
When he brought the black bear to the check-in station at the game commission in Dallas, biologist Kevin Wenner noticed a faded five-digit tattoo on the inside of the bear’s white lip.
Everetts hadn’t shot a member of some sort of ursine gang, but rather the sow had been previously captured for research or for being a nuisance, Wenner explained. Because bears often tear out an ear tag, they also get a tattoo.
Tagged bears shot by hunters can give an idea of the health of the population, Wenner said. And conservation officers pull a tooth from each carcass to be analyzed. Like a tree, the tooth has rings that can be used to age the animal.
In 2011, hunters harvested 4,350 bears, the highest total in state history. After the first two days of the season this year, the number stood at 2,086. One of those kills was by an 86-year-old man, Wenner said, his first in 40 years of hunting. The season ended Wednesday.
More than 160,000 hunters bought the $16.70 bear permit last year. In the best year, that’s a success rate of less than 3 percent.
Wenner, looking the part of a biologist perfectly in a bushy beard and dark green coveralls, said the animals can be difficult to hunt because of their acute sense of smell and preference to stick to dense cover.
“Bears are out there,” Wenner said. “Guys just have to be at the right spot at the right time.”
Charles Pantano certainly was. The 29-year-old Courtdale native only had to sit up in his Larksville tree stand for about two hours, a pittance of time by hunting standards, before his trophy presented itself.
“I didn’t even have time to finish my coffee,” said Pantano, who dropped the beast Tuesday morning with one well-placed shot and checked it into the game commission in the evening after work.
Because it was his first successful bear hunt in five or six years, the hunter said he felt like a car-chasing dog that finally gets one and then doesn’t know what to do with it. Pantano said he had to call his father on his cellphone from the woods to get instructions on how to “dress” the bear – cutting open its underbelly and removing its internal organs.
At more than 20 years his senior, Everetts didn’t need help dressing his kill, but he did need the same bit of luck. Because bears are so hard to find, Everetts said he doesn’t bother scouting before he goes hunting. Instead, he uses a less scientific method.
“Take a dart and throw it at the map,” the big, cheerful man said. “That’s where I’m going.”
Despite being out every year, Everetts said he hadn’t even seen a bear since 2005, the last time he bagged one.
While the largest animal brought down in the state so far this year was a 652-pound male taken in Middle Smithfield Township, Monroe County, the kills of the two Northeastern Pennsylvania hunters on Tuesday were baby bears by comparison. Everetts’ scrawny female, shot on Forkston Mountain – where food can be rare this time of year – weighed less than 200 pounds.
The hunter said he found little but “bones and deer hair” in her stomach. Pantano’s bear was only slightly bigger.
Both hunters said they plan to mount the heads of their bears, but only Pantano plans to eat some of the bear meat. He also said he would like a rug, but with a second child on the way, his wife won’t let him spend the money.
But while the trophy and the meat gained from the kill are nice, both men said there’s nothing that can beat the adrenalin rush of a successful hunt.
“When you lose that thump-thump-thump in your heart, then you might as well quit hunting, because it ain’t no fun no more,” Everetts said.