Hunter Downs Pennsylvania Bruin

Katie Kowalski was 12 when she started bowhunting. Over the years, as she honed her skills, she spent countless hours in pursuit of black bears in eastern Pennsylvania's densely forested mountains. But it wasn’t until three years ago she harvested her first bruin with her rifle. “It wasn’t even close to the accomplishment of taking a bear with a compound bow,” she said. “Since then, I’ve spent hours upon hours in the stand. Sometimes working until two in the morning then getting up at four to head into the woods.”

The 23-year-old’s monumental season began in early November when a mature bear bedded down 70 yards from her stand. After easing out of the tree, she slowly stalked to within 25 yards of the bear. “Finally he got up and gave me a perfect broadside shot. This was the moment I had worked so hard for. And I missed... badly.”

As the bear trotted off, Kowalski inspected her bow and found that the drop away rest had slid up on the cable, which meant it wasn’t dropping as it should be. Although emotional, the young hunter wasn’t going to let misfortune stop her from trying again. She got another opportunity only two days later.

“We hunted the same area and after not seeing anything we decided to take a slow walk back up the mountain to get some lunch,” she said. “This mountain is very steep so we like to use a rope tied to a tree to help get up and down. At the top, as we were taking a break, I looked over and saw the rope was bouncing and flopping around. It was a bear messing with our rope.”

Kowalski sprung into action, grabbing her bow with the bear only 35 yards away. The sow was walking slowly through brush, which didn’t offer much of a shot. “I drew multiple times but had to let down each time,” Kowalski said.

The sow rested on a log 27 yards away, giving Kowalski a chance. The perfectly placed Drone killed the bear after a short 40-yard run. “I was so happy I couldn’t stop crying,” Kowalski said.

The sow weighed 225 pounds and had three tags in her ears, one of which said “DO NOT EAT.” After running the numbers, the game commission confirmed the tags were old and Kowalski could consume the meat.

“I’ve never been so up close and personal to a black bear in my life,” she said. “It’s been a lifelong dream to be able to harvest a black bear with my bow on public land.”