I traveled to Belize this week.

Along the way, I shared a taxi with a German man that’s spent the last 20 years living in rural Canada. As happens with most good company, our conversation quickly turned to hunting.

In this case, we talked about bear hunting.

We talked about my time in Alaska and the bears there. He told me about the vast hunting opportunities around his home and the animals he’s taken. If somebody were looking for a bear-hunting adventure, we had a list of the top spots.

But when it came to the idea of shooting a big bear, we both agreed Pennsylvania is the place to go. Apparently, the Keystone State’s secret is out. Even folks north of the border know about our big bears.

Our beloved state is responsible for five of the top 10 black bears ever recorded by the Boone and Crockett Club, the official record keeper. Even better, it seems as though one record after the other is falling. In 2005, it was a 733-pound beast that took the top spot. Not only was it the biggest black bear taken in Pennsylvania. It was the biggest in the world.

But in 2010, the record fell. An 879-pound bear killed by an archer in Pike County hit the scale. It was huge.

It’s proof that few other places can compete with Pennsylvania and its big bears.

Because of its thriving population of some 20,000 bears (many of them well over 400 pounds), the state is quickly growing a reputation as a world-class bear-hunting destination.

That is great news for hunters taking to the woods in the state’s current bear season, which kicked off for archers on Monday. But tomorrow is when the big rush starts. When rifle season kicks in, roughly 100,000 hunters will be searching for the big, black animals.

If Game Commission estimates prove accurate, nearly 4,000 bears will be harvested this season. Last year, the state’s hunters took 3,748 bears. It could prove to be yet another record-breaking year.

And don’t think you have to travel to the “Big Woods” of the northern half of Pennsylvania to have success. Black bears were harvested in 57 of the state’s 67 counties last year.

If you want to be one of those fortunate hunters, you need to find a high-traffic spot. With this year’s above-average acorn production, your best bet is to look for a stand with plenty of oak trees. With winter on the way, bears are looking to pack on a few extra pounds. Eating acorns is one of their favorite ways to do it.

Areas routinely frequented by bears are not hard to find. Big animals leave big trails. Look for footprints and scat. If you find these signs in an area with thick cover and plenty of food, you can bet the bear will pay the spot a visit sometime during the short season.

You do not have to travel thousands of miles for great hunting. Pennsylvania has all of the world-class hunting opportunities you could hope for. We are lucky to live in a state with such wildlife diversity.

Now get outside and enjoy it.

— Andy Snyder writes about outdoors for The York Dispatch. You can reach him at