BRADLEY CO., Ark. – Bear season returned to South Arkansas on Saturday for the first time in almost a century.

Eager hunters in Zone 4 ended the seven-day hunting season in over 20 counties by filling the quota allotted by the state in less than three days. 28 bears were hunted in five counties between Saturday morning and Wednesday evening.

The new season is bringing not only new opportunities for recreation but also to the area businesses that usually handle deer. Daniel Robinson, owner of Harold’s Processing in Warren, was surprised at how similar processing bear is to deer.

“Everything is new to me as far as bear. I googled how to clean a bear, and it turns out it’s not too different from deer. It’s all the same meat,” Robinson said.

Robinson has made steaks, sausage, burgers and more. He hopes to see the population of black bears available to hunt locally expand like in Northwest Arkansas where bear hunting has been prolific for decades.

“Their quota is 500, but they only killed 303, so I’d like to see quota get bigger and bigger every year, and people be killing them every year, and it would give them something else to do besides deer hunt,” Robinson said.

Keith Bryan said he often travels from California to Arkansas to hunt. Bryan said that Saturday was the first time he has hunted a bear.

“It’s beautiful, the cost of living is nice, the people are great, the food is great, the access is great, and I don’t know what else to say except maybe the pelican dropped me off in the wrong state,” Bryan said with a laugh.

According to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC), 28 bears were killed in Zone 4. Union County collected nine, Bradley and Ashley Counties killed eight each, Drew County hunted two and Calhoun County got one.

The smaller Zone 3 has a quota of five bears through Friday, but so far none have been hunted. The AGFC is looking at fur and tooth samples from the hunted bears, along with the harvest numbers and population studies to determine if the zones or quotas need to be adjusted in the future.