Conditions may not be the best for hunters, but they’ll still be in the Upstate woods when the still-hunting segment of bear season opens on Friday, Oct. 17, running through Oct. 23 on public and private lands in Game Zone 1.

According to biologist Richard Morton of the S.C. Department of Natural Resources, the summer mast survey showed a record year for mast crops.

“This alone should have a big impact on the number of bear killed.” Morton said, explaining that last year’s record bear harvest came in a year with the worst mast crop in decades.

Last season, the still-hunt harvest was 70 bears in the three counties of the Mountain Hunt Unit. Hunters killed 30 bears in Pickens County, 25 in Greenville County and 15 in Oconee County.

With an exceptional mast crop on the ground, Morton said, “Hunters looking to fill their tag need to search for heavily producing oak trees and find fresh sign such as scat, claw marks and tracks. Bears will not wander far from a reliable food source, so finding fresh sign will increase your odds of filling a tag this season.”

Hunters should expect to work harder for their bear this year than last, Morton said, but “We have a healthy population of bears.”

Hunters looking to take a bear need a big-game license and a $25 bear tag that can be purchased from local SCDNR offices or in Columbia. Hunters are allowed to take one bear weighing more than 100 pounds. No sow bears with cubs may be taken.

After the still-hunt season, a 7-day season for dog-hunting will follow. Parties must register with SCDNR, and all bears taken must be tagged and reported within 24 hours. The dog-season harvest is typically greater than the still-hunting season; last year was an exception, with dog parties accounting for 57 bears.