Pennsylvania Bear Hunter Shot Dead on First Day of Open Season

A man in Pennsylvania had died after being shot in the abdomen while hunting bears.

Gary Hunt, from Corry, was hunting in Warren County on the first day of the statewide black bear hunting season, which runs between November 20 and 23. The 64-year-old was with a 42-year-old companion in the State Game Lands 197 in Columbus Township.

According to ErieNewsNow, Hunt's companion tripped and tripped or slipped while crossing a creek at around midday local time. The companion's firearm discharged as he fell, hitting Hunt in the abdomen.

A spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Game Commission said the companion was Hunt's nephew, Bradley Cascavilla.

Hunt was dead before a rescue team arrived on the scene.

Jason Amory, from the Pennsylvania Game Commission's northwest region, told ErieNewsNow they were investigating the incident.

The commission spokesperson told Newsweek incidents like this are rare. Since 2015, there have been 26 cases where a person was injured as a result of a hunter accidentally discharging their firearm. None of these resulted in a fatality, he said.

On average, one person dies in Pennsylvania every year as a result of a hunting-related accident.

"Often times accidents are the result of failing to follow basic safety rules including properly identifying the target and ensuring a safe shooting backdrop with a clear line of fire," the spokesperson said. "These fundamentals are among many points of emphasis to hunting license-buyers, all of whom are required to complete a certification course as a prerequisite. Following all applicable regulations, including wearing fluorescent orange in seasons when it's required also helps to ensure safety.

"When hunting from tree stands, all hunters should wear a safety harness, even while climbing and descending, and be sure they remain connected to the tree at all times they're off the ground. Hunters also should also let others know where they're hunting and when they plan to return, and carry a cellphone with them (assuming service is available), in case there is an emergency."

There are an estimated 20,000 black bears in Pennsylvania. The population has increased significantly since the 1970s, when there were just 4,000 in the wild.

Bear hunting has become a popular activity in Pennsylvania and is seen as a way of managing the population. Thousands of bears are harvested in the state every year, with hunting season in 2019 seeing a record 4,653 bears killed.

Hunters are allowed to kill one individual per season.

According to PennLive, almost 1,200 black bears were killed in 2021 before the open season began.

Pennsylvania Game Commission said nine of the 10 biggest bear harvests on record have taken place in the last 13 years.

Last year 220,471 people in Pennsylvania bought bear licenses. This is an increase of around 18,000 compared with 2019.

"We've got many, many black bears, including some of the biggest in the country, spread across the Commonwealth and within reach of hunters everywhere," Game Commission Executive Director Bryan Burhans said in a statement. "Plus, our various bear seasons give hunters the opportunity to pursue them in numerous ways throughout the fall.

"Pennsylvania has been a bear hunting destination for many, many years," Emily Carrollo, the commission's bear biologist, said in a statement. "I don't expect that to change. Despite large harvests in the past, we've still got plenty of bears, and lots of big ones, out there."

The 2021 bear hunting season started on September 18 with archery hunting. Muzzleloader season started on October 16. The statewide special firearms season for juniors and seniors started on October 21.

Last year the biggest bear killed was a 719lb male. This bear was shot with a crossbow by Abby Strayer, of McConnellsburg, Fulton County. In total, 3,608 bears were taken in 2020. Of these, 1,177 were killed with general firearms, 1,041 with special firearms and 955 with bows.

This article has been updated to include quotes and information from the Pennsylvania Game Commission spokesperson.

bear sign
Stock photo of a bear crossing sign. A man in Pennsylvania was shot dead while on a bear hunting trip. Getty Images