Black bear populations are increasing across the East and many archers overlook one of the great hunts of our time. States such as Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Virginia have over-the-counter licenses that are affordable for residents and non-residents alike. Archers in particular have the opportunity to hunt bear and deer at the same time with wild turkey included if your timing is right.
Huge Eastern Bears
Some of the largest black bears in the world live in the Eastern USA. These don’t measure up to the big brownies of Kodiak Island, yet black bears are taken annually that exceed the weight of the average grizzly bear. Better yet, Eastern bruins can often be hunted like whitetail deer. They leave abundant feeding and scat sign so that you can tell if a bear is working an area. Bears love acorns and the same dropping trees that attract whitetail will attract bears. Additionally, hunting from tree stands is very effective with the option of taking multiple species from the same location.
The Virginia Dilemma
A recent change in Virginia law placed Emily George in a difficult predicament. Virginia had recently separated bear tags from the traditional big game license which previously included it. As a huge bear approached and George realized the separate tag was not in possession, the bruin got a free pass, a difficult, but proper ethical choice for an archer. This post from the Sporting Classic Daily website examines reasons for the license change and factors that affect bear hunting across the East.
I learned the cruelest lesson of ethical hunting I’ve ever experienced during the second weekend of Virginia’s 2015 archery season. It was the first season that a Virginia hunter had to purchase his or her bear license separate from a big game tag. My father and I were in a double-buddy tree stand that weekend with a 350-pound bear heading our way. I was beyond excited, this being my first chance at a bear with my bow, and I assumed my dad had purchased all of the tags we needed—especially the bear tags, as we had been seeing black bears on our trail camera footage all summer.