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.
The connection between a houndsman and a hound is hard to describe. Certainly, it’s a unique bond that outranks the bond between a pet owner and their pet. A hunting dog is a provider. He is a hunting companion. He is the hunter’s connection point to the wild game they pursue. Hounds that achieve “legendary” status are few and far between. They are a special class of hound. Though some dogs are blown out of proportion, a real houndsman knows when a dog is the real deal. Such is the case with a 40-pound plott named Shamrock’s Timex.

When animal-rights activists portray bear hunters, they do so in a manner that casts a disparaging light up on them in the eyes of non-hunters. They call hound and bait hunters things like lazy and slobs who employ unfair tactics to lure hungry, unsuspecting bears to slaughter.

It’s up to hunters – houndsmen and bait hunters – to educate non-hunters, the media and even other hunters on the truths pertaining to their chosen methods.