Black bear hunting seasons open this weekend in parts of the Hudson Valley and New York State.

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Black bear hunting seasons open this weekend in the southeastern part of the state and next weekend in the north country, the DEC announced on Thursday.

In southeastern New York, the early bear season runs from Sept. 12 to Sept. 27 in Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) 3A, 3C, 3H, 3J, 3K, 3M, 3P, 3R, 4P, 4R, and 4W. The early bowhunting season for bears will open in all of the Southern Zone on Oct. 1, followed by the regular firearms season beginning Nov. 21.

In northern New York, the early bear season runs from Sept. 19 to Oct. 16 in WMUs 5A, 5C, 5F, 5G, 5H, 5J, 6C, 6F, 6H, and 6J. Bowhunting season for bears also begins on Sept. 19 in the other Northern Zone units (WMUs 6A, 6G, 6K, and 6N). Muzzleloader season opens in all northern WMUs on Oct. 17, followed by the regular firearms season for bears on Oct. 24.

The DEC has added WMU 4W to the early bear season in the Southern Zone. The bear population in 4W has been growing and additional bear harvest is necessary to meet the management objective of maintaining a moderate bear population density in the unit, according to the DEC.

During the early season, bear hunters may use a bow, with appropriate bowhunting eligibility, crossbow, muzzleloader, handgun, shotgun, or rifle.

Because of the likelihood of warm weather, bear hunters should be prepared to skin and cool harvested bears as soon as possible to protect the quality of the meat, officials say. Hunters may opt to skin and quarter the bear in the field, then pack out the meat in game bags to a waiting cooler of ice.

From roasts, stews, burgers, and sausage to barbequed ribs, bear meat makes excellent table fare, the DEC states. Hunters may also consider rendering bear fat into grease or lard, which is a great oil for cooking or baking and can be used to waterproof leather or to lubricate patches for muzzleloading, according to the DEC.