The Bear Whisperer
Just for jokes ‘Most Wanted's' Woodward feeds, trees bears
Larry Woodward with one of the many black bears he's taken. (Courtesy Heartland Productions)
Don’t hand-feed the bears.
Yeah, Larry Woodward probably needs a sign like that, but the veteran hunter might just do it anyway. He recently had a bear eat from his hand, but it wasn’t the oddest encounter on his trip to remote Canada -- he also charged and treed a bear.
That’s right. Woodward, co-host of "Outdoors in the Heartland" and "ScentBlocker Most Wanted" on Outdoor Channel with Bob Richardson, chased a bear into a tree!
With more than two dozen bear kills to his credit, Woodward was after a color phase bear in remote northeast Alberta, where outfitter Roby Reynolds reported a bunch. They had a number of bears come into their setup, but Woodward was picky. A smallish bear sheepishly walked in and out. He threw her some meat scraps.
“I decided to try and see if she would take something out of my hand,” Woodward said. “It took her about 20 minutes to get enough nerve to come do it. I never dreamed that she would. And she finally did.”
Click image for Heartland Productions photo gallery
“Most people would have shot that bear. She was big enough and beautiful color. After all that time, she took that meat from me and left and never came back. One time was enough for her.”
Needless to say, it was certainly a don’t-try-this-at-home moment. But Woodward has been around a lot of bears and knows how to read them. He says they’re just like a mean dog.
“I know that’s crazy and it shouldn’t be recommended for people to try,” he said. “I just watched her and she wasn’t aggressive and was timid. In some people’s eyes, you shouldn’t do it, but it’s just one of those things that happens.”
The exchange was posted on the Facebook page of “Most Wanted” and received 50,000 views in two days. Woodward was wearing his new ScentBlocker suit with Trinity. The bear barely looked at him, followed the smell of the meat, grabbed it and took off.
“The Bear Whisperer,” Woodward crowned himself as he turned to face the camera. “That’s a first for me.”
Might not be the last, too.
“You take the good with the bad,” he said. “I’m known to be crazy and fearless anyway, so it was a pretty cool experience for me. I hope it was as good for her.”
His next interaction was equally remarkable, but he said he’d done this before. Woodward was hunting with Dustin Whitaker of Mossy Oak and his brother, Ben, an Ohio attorney, and admits he might have been showing off a little when a black bear came in and ran off another bear.
“I could tell he was ruling the roost around there because he laid down on the bait. The others would come in and grab a piece and run off,” said Woodward, who wasn’t going to shoot this bear and tried to scare it off.
“I was woofing at him, and he would end up getting all bristled up and kind of walking our way, checking out to see if we was another bear, which was kind of neat. He got within 5 yards and looked and went back about his business.
“Just for jokes, I bent over and I got all postured up like I was more dominant than him and kind of went out toward him. He got behind a tree and stood up and starting rubbing his back and popping his teeth.”
Bears pop their jaws when they’re uncomfortable with the situation. That bear left and Woodward thought that was the end of it, but he soon came back. That’s when Woodward went in for the mental coup de grace.
“I told the guy who was filming ‘I’m going to run in there and charge him and I’ll run him up that tree,’ which I had done before,” he said. “So I went running at him and he shot right up that tree.”
Woodward said the bear wasn’t so mean anymore, hanging 15 feet up the tree with his crew filming. The bear didn’t have many branches to hang onto and began to get tired.
“He was doing everything he could to hang on, biting branches, trying to hang on by his teeth,” Woodward said. “It was kind of funny, because he’s up that tree snapping and snarling like you ought to get away, but he’s still a scaredy cat.”
It made for an action-packed week in Alberta as the three hunters, who could take two bear each, killed four, including one with a tag in its ear. Woodward said the tag warned them that the bear shouldn’t be eaten as it had been tranquilized twice and relocated. He was waiting to hear from the Alberta Game and Fish to learn the rest of that problem bear’s story.
Anyway, Woodward likes to have fun, and he said the show with him feeding that bear will be, although he said he’s sure to get some detractors.
“I know it will come with criticism from some people -- make that bear associate humans with food,” he said, “but it was way out in middle of nowhere. It wasn’t a camp or a town dump.
“I was just having fun with those bears. I guess one of these days you’ll read my obituary that I got swatted and killed by a black bear. That would beat getting hit by lightning or getting T-boned by another driver … it would be a more noble way of going.”
Click the links for the Heartland Productions show pages, 'ScentBlocker Most Wanted' and 'Outdoors in the Heartland'