WYSOX TOWNSHIP - Clayton Dulaney, 27, of Towanda has been hunting unsuccessfully for a bear every year since he was 18 years old.

This year, though, Dulaney had better luck.

Dulaney said that while hunting near West Auburn in Susquehanna County at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, he shot a black bear from about 45 yards away in the back of the neck while it was on all fours.

Dulaney said that he didn't realize the bear was as big as it was until he walked up to it.

When he brought it to the Pennsylvania Game Commission's bear check station Saturday evening, it had a dressed weight of 475 pounds and an estimated live weight of 559 pounds, according to the Game Commission.

As of 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dulaney's was the largest of the 24 bruins brought to the check station on Saturday, the first day of firearms bear hunting season in Pennsylvania.

Bryan Bensoter of West Auburn, who had gone bear hunting that day with Dulaney and five other people, said it took over two hours to get the bear 1 1/2 miles out of the woods.

That's because they had to fetch an ATV to haul the bear, and it took a long time to navigate the vehicle through the woods, as there were no trails to use, Bensoter said.

He said it took six people to lift the bear into the back of a pickup truck.

Dulaney said that he expects to have the bear full mounted, and said he may keep the mount at Bensoter's residence.

"He's the only one who has enough room for him," Dulaney said with a laugh.

Last year, there was a record high number of bear harvested in Pennsylvania, and this year is shaping up to be one of the top four years, said Rich Lupinsky, the Pennsylvania Game Commission's land manager for Bradford and Susquehanna counties.

Among the reasons why hunting conditions are good this year is that there are a lot of acorns on the ground, which are a good food source, and it hasn't been so cold that the bear would have started hibernating yet, Lupinsky said.

Besides being weighed at the check station, Game Commission workers extracted a pre-molar tooth from each adult bear. Like the trunk of a tree, the tooth has rings, which are used to determine the bear's age, Lupinsky said.

As of 7:30 p.m., the next largest bear that had been brought to the Wysox check station on Saturday was a 354-pounder shot in North Towanda Township by Joshua E. Johnson, according to the Game Commission.

The check station was open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday.

Last year, 23 bears were brought to the Wysox check station on the first day of bear hunting season, Lupinsky said.

James Loewenstein can be reached at (570) 265-1633; or email: jloewenstein@thedailyreview.com.