In the fall of 1999, Pratt and Whitney Corporation senior staff engineer Evan Workman was a young man looking for a dog.  Perusing the coonhound publications, his eyes fell upon an ad for Plott Hound puppies born on October 14th of that year.  At the time, Evan was hunting black bears with hounds in his native West Virginia, but he was possessed of a strong desire to enter the competition hunt scene with a Plott.  “You can get a lot of attention with a Plott in a sport that’s largely dominated by other breeds. Other people have done that,” Evan recalled.  “I was just looking for a well-bred pup, and here was an ad for puppies in Illinois out of one of the most popular Plott stud dogs of that day and a female that had made a name in major completion hunts across the country. The sire was GRCH NITECH Bear Pen Rio Grande Roper and the dam was Marlo Arp’s GRCH GRNITECH WORLD CH Capital City Sam’s Go Annie. I figured if I got the pup and worked him hard, I could have him ready to hunt at Plott Days the following August. The asking price was seven hundred dollars, which was pretty steep, but we struck a deal on the phone for $500. I met her at the Grand American Coon Hunt in Orangeburg, South Carolina in January and brought the pup home with me to West Virginia,” said Evan.   

            “He was a real houndy-looking pup, and he started running and treeing on coons the following spring at about six months of age. I hunted him hard. When you really like a pup and believe he has the potential, you hunt them hard. I coon hunted him at six months old and he would trail and tree a coon, but when I cut him loose he wouldn’t go deep by himself.  He would just trail and tree and was a steady tree dog, actually a pleasure hunter’s dream. You could road hunt him, and he was just an all-around good pleasure dog, but obviously not the rapid-fire competition dog I was looking for. He just ran in a different gear when hunted on coon,” said Evan.  “The area where I lived was called Tacy. Marlo had named the pup Desperado, and I added Tacy Hills to the name on his papers. However, I called him Drum,” added Evan. 

            Drum was about fourteen months old when the December bear harvest season opened in West Virginia.  Well into the second week of the season, the older, more experienced hounds were beat up and sore.  Evan thought, “I’ll just take the pup today and see what he does.” There were six inches of snow on the ground when a bear track was found in the snow. Evan’s hunting party turned several dogs loose, and all of the dogs hung up on a rock ledge except Drum and an older female. The two dogs treed the bear by themselves and according to Evan, “the Drum pups never missed a lick.” 

            Within a short time, Drum became a legendary bear hound within the circle of Evan’s hunting friends. “He had a real knack for figuring stuff out,” Evan said, remembering Drums strengths. “And it’s showing up in his offspring,” he added.  “I’m hunting a young pup now out of Drum semen and a Dodger female. She has Wrangler top and bottom. Wrangler was Drum’s uncle being a half-brother to Drum’s sire Roper. We ran a bear last Saturday morning and I turned him in. The bear had climbed a tight, woven-wire fence. The Drum pup that I call Snake hit the fence and ran three-hundred yards or more to get around it, came back, hit the track and was gone.  The other dogs were hung up on the fence. The point is the old Drum dog, from a very young age had a knack for not being interrupted by rocks, fences or whatever.  He had a knack for figuring those kinds of things out,” Evan said.

            Evan hunted Drum in some of the most challenging terrain in eastern United States.  He began to hunt remote areas of Boone County in southern West Virginia when a September season was introduced to control burgeoning bear populations there several years ago. “Compared to where I hunt, the terrain is as different as night and day. The area down there is extremely uninhabited. The population lives along the creeks, and the mountains are devoid of people. Spoils from coal mining left steep cliffs called high walls, and there are mining auger holes everywhere. The bears flourish in those remote and treacherous areas,” Evan says.  “And, the bears are meaner than the bears we have here. They have a totally different demeanor. Biologists believe it to be the best habitat in North America for bears due to the millions of acres of just the kind of habitat bears need to thrive,” Evan says adding, “That’s where I got bit by a bear.”

            Evan went on to explain the story, “We had turned loose on a cold trail, and there were no other hunters to speak of with us at first on that morning. We ran a bear across the road and caught it on the other side of the mountain. I got to the bay and was walking along with the bear and the hounds.  He was doing most of the chasing.  When the bay moved, he decided to move. They were moving straight up and down in steep terrain and cutover timber. It was a mess. The bear stopped and sat on a tree root. I stopped and raised the muzzle of the gun to aim at his head. I wanted a killing shot because the dogs were all around him. I got to within about ten feet of the bear when he spotted me. I stopped to see what he would do, run or swat at dogs. When he turned and looked at me he was about seven or eight feet away. As he swirled around he sprang with his back legs off the limb and jumped right for my face and tackled me. If I had known he was going to jump on me, I would have shot anyway. I was able to push him off somewhat to the right and thankfully keep him out of my face. He clamped onto my shoulder and bit down, shaking his head as if to rip off my arm. Instantly, the dogs piled on, one by one, on top of the bear. He didn’t stand for much of that and let me go. One of the hunters in our party was coming up the mountain to the bay and had sat down to rest. He said, “I looked up and the bear went right by me within arm’s reach! He was popping his teeth and I could see fragments of your flannel shirt falling out of his mouth.”  Evan and his companions later had a good laugh out of his friend’s description.  

            “At that point I became the legend,” Evan remembers. “I had holes in my shoulder I could stick my pinky finger in, and the local doctor that treated me told me I was given two kinds of antiseptic because of the toxicity of a bear’s bite. Ironically, the next morning I found myself in nearly the same situation. The dogs jumped a bear and by following them, they were baying about twenty feet from me. There I was, with a bandaged shoulder, wondering if I were going to get caught again.  I’ve been around countless bears but generally, if you give a bear a path to get away, he’ll take it. I’ve been in cave-type holes catching dogs and in places I shouldn’t have been. But down in that country, I’ve seen bears that when you pulled the dogs off, they wouldn’t even run,” said Evan with conviction. Evan also hunted Drum in areas that contained lots of swift, wide rivers. “Drum would try to swim the ocean if a bear did. If we were hunting and the track was going toward the river, I knew we would have to try to get to the river before he did. A river here may be two hundred yards wide. Bears will swim anything. When it came to water, there was absolutely no hesitation in Drum. If the track came to the water, Drum was in it. I’ve seen him launch fifteen to twenty feet off a rock or the bank into the water. Water did not slow him down,” said Evan of his bear dog. 

            “When it comes to cold-trailing a bear, I haven’t gotten to the point that I was with my dogs since I no longer have Drum.  When I was hunting Drum, it didn’t concern me if others were rigging the roads for bears ahead of me. I could depend on him not only on old tracks that crossed the road, but also with cold tracks that were near the road. When he came off the truck, he left like he knew where the track was and where it was going. The track could be on top the ridge, and he would be up there and off the backside before you could get anything to him. And that applied not only when hunting him off the road, but whenever a track was found anywhere. You could rig a track, put him down and he would run it when most dogs didn’t know it was there. Drum had a truly outstanding nose, a trait that appears prominently in this family of dogs,” Evan said.  (This writer recalls Chad Barth, who hunted a cousin to Drum named Rock (Drum’s sire Roper and Rock’s sire Wrangler were half-brothers). When we were hunting near his home in northwestern Wisconsin, Chad showed me where Rock started a cold track and trailed it for eight miles by the truck odometer to the spot where he and two other Plotts jumped the bear from its bed.) 

            Hunting in West Virginia in December, Evan didn’t worry about when a track he had found had been made. If it were made anytime during the night before, Drum would take it. There were many times when, in his words, he was “out there in the morning beating around trying to find a track” and there would be no evidence of a bear track of any kind. Drum would begin to work a track, and Evan would walk along with him if the terrain was such that he could keep up with the dog. Sometimes Drum would stick his nose under the snow while tracking, and it would come back over his head like a snowplow. Under conditions like that, many dogs wouldn’t have the heart to stay with it, but Drum would and would routinely jump the bear. He could trail underneath the snow until the track led to the bear’s bed. “I’ve seen dogs with the nose and I’ve seen dogs that were as fast as him but I have never seen one dog that had it all together like Drum did. In my lifetime I’ve seen maybe three dogs that could cold-trail like he could,” Evan firmly declared.

            When it came to durability, hunt after hunt, Evan believes Drum to have been unequalled. “The dog just didn’t get sore,” he said. “You just can’t hunt any harder than we did, up before daylight and home after dark, six days a week. Sunday was our only day off. He and his offspring don’t get foot and muscle sore when hunted like this. Of course in the off season he would get fat,” he admitted. “But when it comes to bear hunting, from the rough mountains of West Virginia to the cedar swamps of Wisconsin, the Drum dogs are durable,” Evan said.

            I talked with Evan about the differences in hunting black bears in the areas he hunts now as compared to when he started hunting. “When Drum was four years old (that would have been thirteen years ago), treeing two bears in the dead of winter here, you would have done something. I recall the time Drum treed two bears, by himself, in one day,” Evan explained. “It was on Saturday, and we had hunted the five preceding days. We found a bear track that was fresh the first thing in the morning. The other guys had fresh dogs because they had worked all week and hadn’t hunted as I had. I turned Drum loose with them, and I remember later seeing the bear come off the mountain with Drum about fifty yards behind it, and it crossed the road. A bear couldn’t outrun that dog. He treed the bear and the other dogs never made it to the tree,” Evan proudly remembers. “We left there, went down into some lower country, and found a track. It was melted out in the snow, and we could barely see it. There were about twenty-five people there. There were about six dogs that were taken out of the boxes that their owners thought could cold trail that kind of track. Some of the dogs came back, and some of them wouldn’t go on the track.  Drum took the track and cold-trailed out of hearing. They drove around the mountain and heard Drum. There he sat with a bear treed,” Evan recalls.  

            When it came to fighting a caught bear, Evan believes Drum did exactly what he wanted him to do. “He was like a bumble bee. He would never jump right on the bear and bite it. He barked incessantly and circled around and around the bear, moving in and out. He would never quit. In his entire life I saw him come out on one bear,” Evan admitted. “It was a mean bear that would chase the dogs, and it almost killed him. We were hunting the Pheasant Mountain area near Parsons, West Virginia. The track was a cold one and one of those we couldn’t see under the snow. Drum jumped the bear and brought it across the road. We heard the dogs catch it. As we headed toward the fight, I met the dogs going back to the truck. All the dogs but a couple came out. It was a rank bear, and he had taken his stand in a bad rhododendron thicket. As I got closer, Drum came to me. The bear had run him down and caught him and had just about eaten him alive. I got him into a vet that night. The vet said, ‘I don’t know if the dog is going to make it.’ He sewed him up and placed him on oxygen. The next day the vet called and in an odd way of speaking, said with astonishment, ‘this dog just doesn’t feel. He had a ruptured stomach lining and I sewed him up and there are tubes all in him and he was up this morning eating like a horse.” Evan confirmed that in all the years he hunted Drum that was the only time the dog ever got caught. 

            Being a one-man army on black bears aside, perhaps Drum’s greatest contributions have come in the realm of breeding, of producing offspring to carry on now that he is gone. Evan’s hunting partner, Scotty Swiger, attended the National Plott Hound Association’s National Plott Days with Evan in August of 1999 in Saline City, Indiana.  Scotty met a fellow there that had a small Plott female to sell. She was a North Georgia-bred female coming from the kennel of Wayne Allen. The fellow’s name was Bo Hammock, and Bo told Scotty that the female wasn’t straight, meaning she would run some off game, but if she got on a bear track, she would run the bear. Scotty found Bo’s assessment to be true, and when she came into season, he bred her to Drum. Scotty kept two males from the cross that he named Duke and Dusty. “We have bred several females to Duke,” said Evan, “and there are truckloads of dogs around here out of him. Local hunter Lyndell Perry has a female litter mate to Duke and Dusty as well,” said Evan.

            Perhaps one of the wisest of his decisions concerning Drum was that of having semen collected before the dog passed. “We raised four litters out of him while he was living,” Evan said. “There are maybe fifty pups to his credit. I had a friend that planned to attend the PKC Super Stakes hunt in Indiana, and he took Drum to Nevergone Genetics in Indiana. They drew thirteen breeding straws from that one collection,” he explained. The decision proved to be very wise in that Drum did not live very long after that. All of the dogs now being hunted by Evan and his companions are either pups of, or are grand pups of Drum’s.

            It was in September of 2008 that Evan’s friend Rich and his son Kyle Emory came to West Virginia from Indiana to try their first bear hunt. Drum was nine years old and had been hunted hard that week. His legs were swollen from the punishment he had taken in the rocks and laurel thickets that are prevalent in the southern Appalachians. Evan told his companions, “I’m not going to turn Drum loose today. He’s run hard all week.” It was a hot and dry afternoon when somebody reported they had seen a bear. The party investigated and located the track.  The dogs they released were attempting to trail it, but it was dusty and dry and they couldn’t seem to get the track going.  Drum could smell it from the truck and was having a fit. Scotty Swiger said, “Just let him go and we’ll catch him when we go around the road.” Evan agreed to the suggestion and when they set him down, Drum took the track out of there like he was looking at the bear.  

            “We drove around and I could hear Drum coming. I tried to catch him but I missed him. They ended up running the track a long way before treeing the bear.” Rich Emory harvested his trophy, but as Evan led his dog back to the truck he realized something was wrong. “I figured he was just hot and tired but I took him to the vet just to be sure,” Evan sadly recalls. “His kidneys were shutting down. The vet hooked him up to IVs, and I fed him expensive dog food in an attempt to salvage his kidneys,” Evan said. “I didn’t hesitate to spend the money and told the vet that if he could fix him, it didn’t matter the cost.” Sadly, after about forty-five days of treatment through which Evan just couldn’t bring himself to put the dog down, Drum died at nine years of age. He lived beyond his ninth birthday and died around the first week of November.

            It is said that bear dogs, like good athletes, are born and not made. Such would appear to be the case of Champion Tacy Hills Desperado, known far and wide as Evan Workman’s Drum. As legends go, Drum’s legacy is that of a truly phenomenal bear dog.