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It’s been a banner year for black bear hunters in Pennsylvania, and public-land hunters have been well represented in that group. In October Tressa McCune, her husband, and their 6-year old son, Murray, had just climbed a steep mountain ridge nicknamed Heart Attack Hill. The McCunes were on public hunting land in Pennsylvania’s Elk State Forest, northeast of Pittsburg. It was a rainy and windy day on top of the timbered mountain peak.

“We’d just topped the mountain crest and were near some heavy pine trees when we spotted the bear walking toward us,” says McCune, a 36-year-old account manager and photographer. “Murray and I spotted the bear at the same moment, and I just had time to make a quick shot with my .50 caliber muzzleloader.”

The bear was at 50 yards when McCune squeezed the trigger of her Traditions in-line rifle.

“I hit the bear just a little bit back from the shoulder and there was no blood trail to follow,” she says, “so we quickly tracked the bruin through the pines, and I put another shot into him.”

Tressa McCune with a 300-pound black bear taken on public land.
Tressa McCune and her six-year-old son, Murray, celebrate their bear. Tressa McCune

That put the bear down for good, and the three McCunes, plus McCune’s father, Bruce, dragged the 307-pound animal off the mountain. They skinned and dressed the bear back at the hunting camp they’ve had in the family for 80 years.

“We’ve been hunting out of the camp for bears for about 10 years, and some other family members have taken bears, but this is my first one,” says McCune, who’s been a diehard hunter and angler for most of her life. “My father is a taxidermist, and I’m just going to have a tanned skin made from my bear, which has a beautiful black and shiny pelt. It’ll look great draped over a chair or couch.”

This year’s unofficial black bear harvest count by the Pennsylvania Game Commission is 3,625 animals, according to the Lancaster Farming newsletter. That is slightly more than the 2020 state bear harvest of 3,621, but well short of the record number of 4,653 tagged in 2019. Pennsylvania Game Commission’s black bear biologist Emily Carrollo said this year’s bear harvest represents an average harvest, and it’s what wildlife managers want to see.

“The record in 2019 was a large variation, and we’re looking for a harvest that’s on par with previous years rather than extreme highs or lows,” she told Lancaster Farming.

The 2021 Pennsylvania bear harvest was strong, according to Carrollo, and it was well distributed through the state’s various bear hunting seasons. The largest bear taken in Pennsylvania this year was a massive 722-pound bruin tagged in Franklin County, with another heavyweight 681-pounder from Newport Township.

Tressa McCune with her Pennsylvania buck.
McCune also had a darn fine deer season. Tressa McCune

An Awesome Year for Tressa McCune

It has been a memorable 2021 season for McCune. This year she caught and released an estimated 10-pound lake-run steelhead caught on fly tackle from a river feeding Lake Erie. She also tagged a 9-point, 147-inch whitetail buck taken on private ground in Pennsylvania.

“I wanted that deer with my bow, and watched him for 30 minutes, but he just wouldn’t get close enough for a shot,” she says. “I ended up taking him, though, with my .30-06 rifle.”

Tressa McCune with a nice trout.
McCune with her Pennsy steelhead caught from a Lake Erie tributary. Tressa McCune

McCune regularly details her family’s outdoor adventures on her Instagram account, but this year was a particularly good one.

“It’s really been a great family year for being outdoors.”