Bear Tales as told by Eugene Walker

March 14, 2014 |

Bear hunting is a long running tradition in the mountains along US 219. It started more than 200 years ago, when farmers began to run sheep on their hill farms and the native black bear discovered a new food source. Nowadays bear hunting is a high tech sport, with radio tracking systems, GPS, and CB radios. In the old days the mountains rang with the baying of dogs on a bear track, but the hunt was different then. Only a handful of hunters were willing to brave the laurel thickets, but those that did have become the stuff of legend. In this first installment of Bear Tales, old timer Eugene Walker shares with us his understanding of the chase and tells us tales of those who taught him to hunt. Listen to Eugene Walker tell his story above. For more from the Traveling 219 Bear Tales series, click here.


The Walker family of Pocahontas County is synonymous with bear hunting across the state of West Virginia, Eugene Walker the middle of eleven children and his brothers are natural born hunters.

Eugene grew up hunting in the days of walkie-talkies and carbide lamps learning to track from bear hunting legends and has since become  a bit of a legend himself. Bear hunting is a hobby for many, but for Eugene is a way of life.

“I started coon hunting with dad when I was about five years old which would have been 1950, I guess. I can recall  many a night stogging along  behind him and I’d go to sleep walking. When he’d stop to listen for the dogs or to take  a rest or whatever, I’d walk right into him and wake myself up. He’d always turn around and say, “You awake boy?”  I can remember many a time doing that. Just so tired and it was cold—fall, winter nights you know, but I  wouldn’t  trade it for nothing.


I started bear hunting back when I was about eight years old. I’d go with  the old  guys around the area that  went –  Argile Arbogast, KK Wimer,  Homer Kellison, Lee Deen. Sort of as a go-for you just went along,  you didn’t have a  weapon or anything, you just led the dogs, pulled the bear, you did  the grunt work.  They’d decide where you went  and they’d just pull up on  the side of the  mountain  and get you out four,  five, six dogs with old dog  chains to lead  them with—no lead  straps like we’ve got today—and take  through the mountain and  hope that you  found one.

 These young hunters today, if they had to hunt like we hunted back then there’d  only be a handful of hunters left. Yeah, it’s a world of difference.”


There is more to hunting bear than just the kill. To Eugene, it’s really about the chase, the dogs, the hunters and the stories they come together to tell.


“I don’t do it to kill. I do it to hear the hounds run and the chase; to see your dogs perform well. That does me more good than pulling the trigger, because once you kill one, you don’t run that one no more.

You know I used to hunt a lot with Glenn Cook, Red Beard we called him. He was one of those colorful characters that I dearly loved and loved to hunt with. Back when I had the old Hacksaw and Charlie Brown dogs we turned loose on a bear on the side of briery, and, Red Beard sort of talked through his nose, he said ‘Coon hunter, I’m gonna follow them dogs and I’ll  get that bear.’ He took off and we didn’t know where he went or which    direction he went. So I spent most of the day looking for him and trying to  find him and my dogs. When I finally found him I went around and I went up on Robin’s Fork and was up in that Fitzwater country and I ran into  him coming down the road, pulling that bear and leading the dogs. He got down there and  he said, ‘Coon Hunter, I’ll never kill  another bear as long  as I live. That just looked like a man falling out of that tree.’ I guess he  never did kill another bear after that.




We got a younger generation up now – I’m the old guy now, I’m the KK Wimer or the Argile Arbogast, or whomever it might be now. Hopefully, I’ve  helped some of them, taught them a few things. I had a young kid tell me this year, he said: “every time I go with you I learn something.”




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Category: Bear Tales, Blog, Family & Community, History, Marlinton to Lewisburg, Stories, Stories & Legends

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