There is something to be said for the simplicity of breeding the best dogs to the best dogs, regardless of breed. Thinking outside of the “pure breed” box is taboo to some bear hunters, but to many it’s something they’ve done for years. Bear hunters have always been interested in results. The bottom line for houndsman is treed bears. Speed, a cold nose for tough tracks, the right amount of grit to stay alive, but enough to pressure a mean bear to bay or tree are key issues. What is amazing about this legendary bear “hound” is that much of its breeding isn’t even hound.
Roy Stiles was nine years old when he first went coonhunting with Plott hounds. It’s during this magical time period in a child’s life that they are the most impressionable. These impressions often last a lifetime and help fashion future passions. Roy’s father planned to buy him a registered Plott puppy, but three years later tragedy would strike and change those plans. When Roy was 12 years old, his father was paralyzed in a tragic accident. Afterwards, the family struggled financially and Roy’s boyhood dreams of a Plott pup were crushed. However, a seemingly scripted destiny would unravel for Roy in few short years.
Legendary bear hounds come in all shapes, sizes and colors. Some are registered dogs with generations of trackable pedigree, while others are crossbreeds. One thing is for sure, bear hunters are interested in dogs that will put a bear up a tree, or bay it on the ground, for as long it takes. Papers won’t produce a bear dog, but generations of solid breeding practices will. Undoubtedly, the Treeing Walker is one of the most popular breeds of tree hounds in North America used for big game hunting.
In the words of Curtis Walker, now 65-years old, the definition of a legendary bear hound is simple. “A legendary bear dog is one that when you turn it loose, you won’t see it again until it’s got a bear in a tree. Whether it’s by itself or with other dogs.” Curtis has been hunting American Plotts since 1971 when he got his first brindle dog just after getting out of the service. He bought the dog from Charlie Osbourne, and it was bred strong with Brandenburger and Gola Ferguson lines. Since that time, Curtis’ dogs have hunted all over the United States for bear, raccoon and mountain lion. He’s also sold hounds into multiple foreign nations, including Germany. Needless to say, his West Virginia Plott line has made a notable impact on bear hunting, and the Plott breed.
If you know much about Walker lines, then you are familiar with the Nance line of breeding. Starting in 1932 in Indiana, a coonhunter by the name Lester Nance started breeding a line of Walker Foxhounds that would later be recognized as Treeing Walkers. Nance knew he had an excellent line that was different than their “Running Walker” relatives and had a strong desire to tree. Nance is indisputably credited as the father of the Treeing Walker breed.