Bear harvest numbers down from last year

Ralph Medlin killed the biggest bear – this 372 pounder – of the 2016 Mountain Unit bear season.

Plentiful food, dry weather to blame for drop in bear harvests

The 2016 Mountain Unit Bear Hunt harvest numbers were lower this year than in the past several years because of poor hunting conditions and an overabundance of food.

“There were 47 bears harvested in the mountains this year with 18 during the still hunt and 29 during the dog hunt,” according to Tammy Wactor, Region 1 Wildlife Biologist for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.

Wactor said that the harvest number was lower than the trend for the past several years due to poor hunt conditions this year. “There was a bumper crop of white oak acorns, as well as plentiful mast from other hardwoods. The bears did not have to move about very far to find food. This was good for the bears but bad for the hunters,” Wactor explained.

Wactor stated that hunter attitudes were good this year because they understood that, “it was going to be bad.”

The bear hunters knew that it was going to be a tough season this year because of the lack of rain. Hunters stated that it was like walking on corn flakes in the woods. “During hot weather, bears are not going to move much during the day, and in some areas they could find pockets of 4-6 inches of acorns stacked on the ground,” said veteran bear hunter Frankie Sanders of Mountain Rest.

Because of the extremely dry conditions and warm temperatures, the dog hunt parties had a difficult time finding fresh tracks. They also had a hard time locating scent trails and holding the scent. The largest bear harvested was 372 pounds during the dog hunt in Pickens County.

Last year was a much better year for bear hunters with 91 bears harvested, and the second largest bear ever taken weighed 596 pounds.

The following is a breakdown for each of the three counties.

Pickens County- still hunt: 6 males and 3 females/ dog party: 4 males and 13 females for a total of 26.

Oconee County- still hunt: 1 male and 0 females/ dog party: 3 males and 8 females for a total of 12.                   Greenville County- still hunt: 5 males and 3 females/ dog party:  0 males and 1 female for a total of 9.