Slayer Pro, Travis Tweet, Bags Bruiser Bruin With Wicked Rabbit Call
By M.D. Johnson
It’s no secret that Washington state black bears get big. I’m talking real big. Okay, maybe not 695 pounds big like this one — but big enough to make even experienced hunters stand up and take notice.
And it’s no secret, either, that black bears can be suckers for the plaintive screams of a dying cottontail. No, a bruin typically isn’t going to rush a call like a coyote might. He’ll take his time … sit and watch … and then silently appear as if by magic just 45 feet from where you’re sitting. Exciting? As they say in Wisconsin, “You betcha!”
Slayer Pro Travis Tweet, of Washington, knows the two variables — big bear, and nerve-wracking excitement — all too well. Recently, Tweet and a colleague scored on a bruiser of a black bear while hunting “the hot spot” in Eastern Washington*. I’ll let him tell the story in his own words.
*Author’s Note: During our discussion, I never once thought to ask Tweet for GPS coordinates to his honey hole, or even the county where he and his buddy hunted. Not once!
Travis Tweet’s black bear hunt
So, I think it’s been three years I’ve been hunting bears. Since the last spring season we had in Washington. In 2022, I shot my first bear and then went out and got another tag. Shot the second one two weeks later. This one was another Eastside bear; same exact location.
Three years ago, I put some game cameras in this bowl. I was looking for really big mule deer, and this humongous chocolate black bear shows up. He’s huge. I saw him and thought, ‘There’s a problem. That’s why there’s no deer in there.’ So that year, I started hunting bears, in part to manage the predators, and in part to try to find this humongous chocolate bear. He was a tank.
First year I didn’t have much success. Looking back, I realize I really didn’t know what I was doing. Last year , things started to come together on how to hunt the bears in this area. And that helped me put the two ’22 bears down.
The ‘big’ hunt, 2023
This year, I’m back in the spot. Last year, we had tons and tons of bear interactions. The first night last year, me and my buddy go in there, and he’s super skeptical and is thinking there won’t be any bears there. But we’re in the spot for five minutes [when he] looks over my shoulder and says, ‘There’s a bear right behind you.’ And there’s a bear about 20 feet behind us.
Throughout the next couple weeks, we had — I’m guessing — probably 30 bear interactions in this area. THIS year, we get in there, and the first night is really dead. It’s a hole of sorts. On one side, there’s berries and wild oats, and on the other side, it’s a scree [loose rock] field and rimrock. Friday night, I’m pretty sure I could hear a bear walking on the scree. I’m running the call, but not much else. And we’re concerned and thinking, Why aren’t we having the same engagement as last year?
Saturday morning. We set up a different plan and try to play the wind better. Nothing. Maybe a bear walking high in the scree, but it’s dead. I’m confident in my spot, though, and I tell my buddy, ‘Hey. Let’s get back in there and try again. Persistence usually pays off.’
So we get back in there Saturday night, and I’m running the call sequence. Maybe 30 minutes into it, my buddy — who’s maybe 200 yards away — texts me and tells me the big chocolate bear is back. The one that started all this. He saw him running at a dead sprint for [me and] my calling. My heart is pounding. I’m thinking, ‘Here we go.’
This bear is gorgeous. His coat is chocolate and glossy. It shines in the sun like it’s been oiled down. He’s a magnificent big bear. So I’m sitting there waiting … and waiting … and waiting … until it’s five minutes before dark, and he never shows up.
The next day, we’re confident now that we know the bears are in there. We’re in there at 5 a.m., and now it’s about 10:30. I get a text from my buddy who writes, ‘Hey. Let’s make an adjustment before the morning’s over, where I swing down and around this gully, and maybe my scent will push something into him.’ And I’m like, ‘Let’s do it.’
I tell him my plan to still-hunt down through a little woodline. I run a calling sequence before I move, and then I start the still-hunt.
I’m walking along. I crest this little knob, look up, and there’s this black bear going to town on some berries. I get down on one knee and settle my sights. He’s standing up eating berries, so I wait until he lifts his left leg to pull some berries into his mouth, opening up his heart area, and I shoot. He drops to all fours, growls, and then just bombs into the brush. Then I hear him moaning and crashing. But I let him sit, so after about an hour, my friend is able to meet up with me.
We walk in and I look over, and not 10 yards from where I shot him, he’s laying there. My first thought was ‘He’s a decent sized bear,’ but the closer I got to him, the bigger he got. A lot of times with a deer or something, you have ground shrinkage. But this bear kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger. His head is humungous. His paws are gargantuan. He’s definitely the second biggest bear there, outside of that chocolate.
It was an amazing experience. He’s easily over 300 pounds. Just trying to pull him to an area where we could work on him … he was a big … big … big bear. By the time we processed him and hiked him out, it took about nine hours.
Following up with Travis Tweet
I asked Tweet a handful of questions to close out his incredible story. Here are his answers.
The Rifle: Howa Legacy Ranchland in 7mm-08
The Call: Slayer Calls’ Wicked Rabbit
The Menu: Tweet plans on rendering the fat down and using it for any number of things. As for the meat itself, Tweet tells me that it will be transformed into tenderloin and backstrap chops, roasts, steaks, and something that I’ve already put the touch on him for: his own version of Little Smokies pepperoni snacks.
Author’s Note: Bear fat is AMAZING stuff for making soap, pie crusts, and greasing boots!
Congratulations, Marine, on a job well done and a tremendous bear!