Straight Talk - Interviews
Straight Talk - Doug Walker
By Frank Addington, Jr.
Oct 12, 2007 - 4:42:17 PM

An Interview with Doug Walker:

FA: First of all Doug, can you tell us where you were born and raised?

Born in Visalia, California - schooled in Visalia and San Francisco.

FA: When and why did you try archery for the first time?

My first deer and the one I almost got put in jail over, Sept. 7 1949

In 1938, when I shot the "block bully" in the foot, I took the rubber suction cups off, and became the block hero.

The above is true, but I prefer to say in 1949 when I took my first deer here in California, a nice buck, and as I previously mentioned in my first and second books "Let's Go Bowhunting", I almost got thrown in jail, seems no one knew about an archery season just opening up in California where the archers could hunt 10 days prior to the gun season.

FA: I understand you also served in the military and will be honored by SCI with their World War II Medal of Valor.  Can you tell us about this?

Doug with parachute getting ready for a night jump.

I have been a member of SCI for nearly 25 years.  They are very dedicated to their members and wanted to honor their members who were veterans of WWII, not too many of us around now.  SCI's home office requested my Army records and I sent them.  I was later presented their new SCI WWII Medal of Valor at a special fund raising dinner at the Veterans Memorial Building.  I went into the service very young and after going through Jump School at Fort Benning, Georgia, I became a member of the 82nd Airborne and I was trained as a Reconnaissance Scout.  My platoon was later honored to be assigned to be the Guard of Honor for the Unknown Soldier of World War II. 

We formed ranks at the docks of New York and after a slow march up 5th Avenue we headed into Central Park for the special ceremony which included a 21 "Cannon" Gun Salute.  After this I was honorably discharged from the 82nd Airborne as a veteran of WWII at the age of 17, three months prior to my 18th Birthday.  Some say I am among the youngest of WWII vets alive today.

As we led the Unknown Soldier into Central Park there was a thunderous 21 Cannon Gun Salute - notice smoke in the background. Doug is circled.

FA: After you left the military, where did you settle and what did you do for a living?

 A few months after my discharge from the service, I married my high school sweetheart, Betty, and we settled in Stockton, California.  Being a veteran of World War II, I went to law school on the G.I. Bill of Rights.  In 1950 I met E. C. Sylvia, the manager of a large, national insurance company and also a well known attorney.  Gene was a guest speaker for one of our law classes and we became good friends.  He was spear-heading a new program and wanted me to be a part of it, he was training special casualty adjustors to legally settle out of court injury claims directly with plaintiffs or with plaintiff's attorneys and over 10 years I settled hundreds of cases out of court.  In 1960 none of my attorney and insurance friends could understand why I would give something like this up to sell bows and arrows??  So they gave me a going away party and said, "Don't worry Doug, you can always come back with us."  Many are my friends today and two went on to be judges.

FA: What was your first job in or around the archery business?

Fred Bear's first factory reps, Doug, (top row center), Dick Mauch, (far left), Al Dawson, Tommy Thompson, Glenn St. Charles, (left of Doug). Bill Tutt, Nicholson, Ralph McCoy and Bob Winquists, (seated), Clayton Shank, Mitchell, Bill Stewart (Fred's bowyer at the time), Fred, Charles Kroll and Dan Cook. Shoppenagun Hotel Grayling Mi. Fall 1961 BC, (Before compounds)

I started to work for Fred Bear in 1960. This was when Fred owned the company - you could say he offered me a deal I couldn't refuse.  Fred wanted someone to help setup the pro shops at the archery lanes being developed out here in the West.  In 1961 I became his full-time Factory Rep, covering the southwestern states and this continued on through to 1969.  Like I said, this is when Fred owned the company.  I call those years "The Golden Years of Bear Archery Company."  I also worked with Fred here in California on his own films and become Fred's leg man for the ABC American Sportsman TV Shows.  We worked hard and played hard, during those years I joined Fred on two different Alaskan hunts, with Fred and I both taking moose and caribou.

When Fred sold the Bear Archery Company to Victor Comptometer, Fred knew I wanted to start up a bowhunting-type magazine and with his good words and with advertising, support from many other companies like Doug Easton, Chuck Saunders and all the other large companies at that time joining in with ads the Western Bowhunter was off and running.

FA: You also hunted with Fred.  Tell us about that.

Doug's moose, hung from this tree during the night by pranksters Fred and Ken Oldham and guides. Picture won P&Y First place photo contest. Fred Bear would say, "How often do you see a moose in a tree?"

 During the early 1960s, I hunted with Fred at Grayling, Michigan, near one of Fred's favorite hunting spots and that was around the Grayling Armory.  Later in 1966, I joined Fred on the "North to Adventure" hunt, where we both took moose and I took my first Pope & Young caribou.  I hunted with Fred again in 1967 and those two Alaskan hunts were made part of my "Let's Go Bowhunting" books I and II.  This is when Fred took his largest moose.

And then there was the Grousehaven hunts (1983 to 1987) during the 1986 hunt I felt it was time to videotape an interview with Fred.  Others wanted to do this also, but most didn't know that Fred never liked to work with a script, lights and a lot of fuss.  During the 1986 hunt at Grousehaven, I got some great footage of Joe Engle flying his jet over Grousehaven.

Doug with his third caribou taken on this hunt.

The next morning I came into the Hunting Lodge and Fred was having a late breakfast.  We started talking about some of our good times hunting together when I said, "Hey, Fred, we talked about doing an interview - how about now?!"  I had been videotaping deer and turkey that morning and left my tripod in the Jeep, but noticed a six pack of beer at the other end of the table, so I just set my video camera on top of it, lined up the viewfinder at the other end of the table where Fred was sitting and with a few notes I had we were winging it.  We almost forgot the camera was on.  Nothing was pre-planned.  Then Bob Munger (Fred's longtime friend and hunting buddy) walks in - this really made it magical as they started telling stories on each other.

Fred, Doug and Astronaut Gen. Joe Engle, Grousehaven, 1986

I am going to include that video interview separate, but as part of my hard bound new book "Autobiography of a Bowhunter - Doug Walker," so anyone ordering the deluxe hard bound copy will also have this video interview in a DVD format.

FA: What's the funniest Fred Bear anecdote you know?

Fred and Doug swapping hats.

At one of the big shows in Chicago, Fred had on display his double life-size mount of his African lion and Cape buffalo, as a bunch of Fred's enterprising reps we laid down on the floor lion and buffalo tracks from the front door back to the Bear booth.  The next day the show management screamed "You can't do that." After the show we had to scrape them up.  Fred said, "You got them down, you can get them up."  About 11:00 p.m. we finished and Fred, with a big smile, had taxi's ready and we all had dinner at the famous Stockman's Steak House.

Bob Munger, Fred Bear and Doug at Grousehaven, Oct 1986

FA: You crossed paths with another famous archer, Howard Hill.  What was it like to spend time with him?

Howard Hill giving Doug his favorite hunting bow, 'Little Sweetheart'circa 1963. Many times Howard told his wife, "I wouldn't take $10,000 for my 'Little Sweetheart'.

Doug Easton introduced me to Howard Hill in 1959 and he wanted the two of us test a new hunting shaft he had developed called a "2219 SRT" and during the early 1960s we did just that. In fact one of the animals I took during the test was a large cougar, that picture was later used with Easton's very first advertisements for a hunting shaft.  Howard was probably one of the best story tellers around and I have no doubt that they were all true, he had a special way of telling a story with his Alabamian drawl and I never heard him tell the same story twice.  In my new book "Autobiography of a Bowhunter" I have some pictures of Howard Hill and I, one I will always remember was taken at a going away party for Howard in 1963. 

Howard decided to retire and move back to Alabama.  As he walked up to the podium everyone noticed he had his "Little Sweetheart" his favorite hunting bow with him, and at the end of his good-bye speech he said, "Hey, you probably noticed I brought my 'Little Sweetheart' with me, well I'm going to retire it too and there is no one I'd rather give it to than Doug Walker."  All of our legends were there at this special going away party, Doug and Mary Easton, Babe and Henry Bitzenburger, and many, many others.  And they were as surprised as I was with Howard's gesture of friendship towards me by giving me his 'Little Sweetheart.'  He said many times he wouldn't take $10,000 for his "Little Sweetheart".

Doug took this cougar with Easton's 'then' experimental 2219 SRT.

FA: Was Hill really a good shooter?  Did he use a point of aim system?

I would have to say "Yes" and "Yes".  Howard not only did a lot of exhibitions, made some movie shorts and his movie "Tembo" for the motion picture industry, but he was also one of the top tournament shots around.  Howard had his own special way of shooting an arrow from his bow.  He called it his "indirect imaginary point" method.  Howard was also very fast at getting an arrow off.  Howard used to love to hunt wild boar, cottontail rabbits, and just about any other big game animals that would cross his path.  But I think one of his favorites where cottontails (and I talk about that in my latest book "Autobiography of a Bowhunter") wherein I have a complete chapter about some of my early day hunts with Howard Hill.

FA: When he retired he presented you with a special gift.  What was that?

Howard Hill's 'Little Sweetheart' bow and antlers of Big Blue are Doug's most cherished possessions. Note the tape is still on the lower left end.

The next day, after Howard gave me his "Little Sweetheart," I was at his home in Encino, it was our last meeting and that's when he gave me Big Blue's antlers.  Howard had an entire chapter in his book "Hunting the Hard Way" about hunting Big Blue.  As the Pope & Young Big Game Chairman, I had it measured (146.0) and it's the only animal Howard has in the Pope & Young Record Book.  Howard wasn't one to use taxidermists.

  FA: What's your best bowhunting trophy and why?

I intercepted this buck one morning as it was working it's way to a bedding area.It made P&Y new velvet with points to spare. Aug 15, 1968.

They're all my best - cougar, moose, caribou, bear, and many others that are in the Pope & Young Record Books, but I think it's got to be the mule deer.  I've actually spent more time hunting them than any other species that I know and one can tell by looking at the Pope & Young Record Book that a bowhunter does not come by a trophy mule deer easily.  The number of recorded records in the Pope & Young Record Book shows pages and pages of whitetail deer, but only a few pages of mule deer records, that pretty well tells anyone that they don't come easy.  Besides mule deer, I have several blacktails listed in the Record Books.

FA: Who else from the "old days" had an impact on you in archery?

Roy Hoff, Doug Easton, Doc Smalley, there were many others during those post-WWII days, I call the B.C. Days (Before Compounds) I was lucky enough to know and hunt with most all of the legends of that day.  I have some great stories about a lot of our early day legends in my new book "Autobiography of a Bowhunter."

FA:  When and why did you retire from Bear Archery?

As I said previously, I worked for Fred when he owned the company, after he sold the company it became part of a corporate conglomerate.  Victor Comptometer was a great company, they also owned Daisy BB Guns and Heddon Fishing Equipment, but they also had their own sales reps.  The setup that Fred and Bob Kelly had with me before Fred sold the company was a completely different setups and the writing was pretty well on the wall as far as I was concerned I (personally) felt the new corporation would never be able to match what Fred was giving me and that setup stayed the same from 1961 through 1969.  I was making a very good commission on everything shipped into the southwestern states, whether I sold it or not, a car allowance and expense account and I just knew that this would soon be a thing of the past.

FA: When did you begin writing about archery?  Which came first, your magazine or your books?

All during the time I worked for Fred, copies of his field notes and pictures were sent to me with his permission to use and keep for my own personal story writing.  Fred knew I could get such stories out to the public by way of other magazines through my writings.  Two of my best stories went on to the newsstands "North to Adventure with Fred Bear" the other "Tip Toe Through the Moose Man" and as a publisher I later printed many of them in my Western Bowhunter and National Bowhunter publications all issues copyrighted. Through the 1950s, I was also writing things for Roy Hoff's Archery Magazine and the old Pacific Coast Bowhunter.  My stories and pictures were also used with Fred's field notes and a few special pictures and letters that Fred would send me for my own use to help to promote not only all of bowhunting but Fred and the Bear Archery Company.

FA: How long have you been producing a bowhunting magazine?  

When I bought the Pacific Coast Bowhunter, it included all the rights to it back to and including the first issue in 1955.  Each issue was preserved hard-bound and is something I have kept up to last year 2006.  

I bought the old Pacific Coast Bowhunter and changed it to the Western Bowhunter and later updated it to the National Bowhunter, where it is today.  So its been 36 years now.

FA: What was your basic goal in producing your own magazine?

When I left, Victor Comptometer (after Fred sold the company) my goal at the time was to promote bowhunting, I had a pretty good teacher with Fred Bear and over the years I have produced two of the greatest bowhunters get-togethers, the first "Doug Walker's Javelina Bowhunters Get-Together" that ran for 13 years and "Doug Walker's Texas Safari" which ran 12 years.  I think every bowhunter in the nation knew about those hunts and many of them came out and joined me for the hunt.  Lots of game, great hunts and a fun time for everyone.

FA: What was your low point, and your high point in publishing Western Bowhunter/National Bowhunter?

It's all been a high point for me - unlike all the other magazines that were owned by large corporations who printed other non-archery or bowhunting magazines or those magazines who had several partners to share the pot with, I was the sole owner of a nationally recognized publication. The other magazines didn't know how to take me - here I was back then printing 12 issues a year to their 6 issues a year.  My ad cost was half of what they charged, but I was coming out with twice as many issues a year as than they were - you figure it out.

Subscriptions came right away as several western states paid me per member's mailed to be their newsletter.  This plus all my regular subscribers and added to advertising income, the Western Bowhunter was a first year profit maker and still continues to be with the National Bowhunter.

FA: How can someone get more information about your magazine and how to get it?

New subscribers pay $12.00 a year and can sign up a Buddy for only $6.00 a year - been doing this for several years now and its doing real well.  Send check or money order to:  National Bowhunter, PO Box 511, Squaw Valley, CA 93675.  We also take credit cards - just phone us 559-332-2535.

FA: I understand you have a brand new book coming out, can you tell us about it and how we can obtain a signed copy?

It's not going to be just a Doug Walker book, it's filled with stories and fun stuff as I seem to have a story about a happening with just about all of our past and present Legends.  For more information on this book use the above address and phone and read about it in my National Bowhunter publication.

FA: Isn't bowhunting a family affair for the Walker family?  

Yes and my new book has chapters on my wife, Betty's involvement with the sport and other chapters are on how the entire Walker Family has been involved with bowhunting. 

FA: Tell me about a couple memorable camp fires you've sat around in your days afield...

All my hunts with Fred Bear were memorable.  The same for all of my hunts with other friends.  Some are gone now and they too are very memorable.  Hunting with Howard Hill and listening to some of his story telling, with that Alabamian drawl, was something else.  I have a lot of fun stories in my upcoming book "Autobiography of a Bowhunter - Doug Walker" and I'll share one of those with you now. 

Packing out my moose. The same hunt Fred Bear took his biggest moose. Alaska 1967. Another Award winning P&Y Photo contest picture.

Back in the early 1960s and later during the ABC American Sportsman Show era, Fred really enjoyed coming out to California.  His trips out here always started with a phone call, "Hey Doug, meet me at the LAX (or San Francisco) Airport."  If it was San Francisco, it meant getting together with Bill Wright at his Vikings Sporting Goods Store on Market Street.  Fred would say, "Don't tell Bill I'm coming out."  Why, well that week Bill was having his own special show that he was advertising going on at his sporting goods store, one wherein he had his world record moose on display. 

Fred didn't know it, but a TV crew was at the shop and as Fred came through the door, hands cupped calling like a moose.  It was all picked up by the TV crew and played throughout the Bay Area, that later included an interview with Fred Bear.  After that, everywhere we went, including dinner, everyone recognized Fred and Fred would cup his hands and call out a moose call.  Wherever he went they would say, "Here comes the moose man," and Fred loved the attention.

FA: As an exhibition shooter I like to talk with others that have put on archery exhibitions through the years.  Tell us about some of your experiences doing exhibitions...

Doug circa 1963

I think Howard Hill gave me the best advice ever on exhibition shooting.  Howard liked to refer to his shooting before the public as "Exhibition Shooting" and not "Trick Shooting."  His best advice was when you're putting on a show make sure every shot is a hit, make sure the hits make a lot of noise, have a little gift for gab, and the audience will love you.  Don't try and be too accurate like blowing out a candle flame and things like that as you are apt to miss and you quickly lose the interest of the audience and they would walk away saying, "Did you see him miss?"  With Howard that just didn't happen.  Howard has a nephew, Jerry Hill, who also shoots exhibitions and is also one of the top present day exhibition shooters around.

FA: Since your experience in the archery industry is vast, what have been some of the products or innovations that have impacted our sport the most?

The bow quiver, broadheads, and the aluminum and carbon arrow shafts.  And don't forget the compound bow.

FA: Can you tell us about what it was like to be one of the original members of Pope and Young Club?

At the time I didn't really think that much about being one of the original members of the Pope & Young Club.  Our main goal was to help Glenn St. Charles get this fantastic club off the ground.  Working for Fred at the time, along with some other great reps, we pretty well spread the word and as I said many times at the closing of many of my guest appearances or writings about the Pope & Young Club "that it is the finest organization of bowhunters in the world."  Being one of the very first regular members, with my membership card stating I had joined as a member March 28, 1961 (I believe that's the month that the Pope & Young Club finally became incorporated and started processing regular members.)

I was later the first elected Big Game Chairman and also elected as one of the first Board of Directors of the Pope & Young Club.

 FA: What about the great Glenn St. Charles?  Have any good stories about Glenn?

I have a lot of stories about Glenn, none of them bad, all of them good and in parts of my new book "Autobiography of a Bowhunter" includes Glenn and my association with the Pope & Young Club.   Also have a lot of chapters on the good old B.C. Days (Before Compounds).

FA: Any exciting projects on the horizon for 2007?

 Just getting my new book out "Autobiography of a Bowhunter" I am now working on including a DVD of Fred Bear's Last Interview that I produced at Grousehaven.  I'm told this is the only video interview around of Fred.

FA: How long do you plan on owning/working with National Bowhunter Magazine?

I'm in good health and feel I have been retired ever since I started working for the bowhunting industry.  I think they call it doing what you want to do.

FA: How would you like to be remembered Doug?

Two Caribou taken in Alaska.

My new book "Autobiography of a Bowhunter" pretty well covers my continuous 58 years of involvement with this old bowhunting world.  But the book is not all about Doug Walker - but about most of our Legends that I have known and hunted with.  Besides Fred and Howard Hill, I have stories in the book about Bob Munger, many of the early day Bear Reps, Lee Pope (son of Saxton Pope), Hugh Rich, Ben Pearson, Doug Easton and many, many others.
Many involved in the sport know about my wife, Betty, and I have a full chapter about Betty within the book.  She shot tournaments in the early 1950s and was even on the cover of Archery Magazine in 1952.  She was the first lady bowhunter to take a deer, a nice 3x4 buck, in California and the first lady to qualify with five species of big game to be accepted as a regular member in the CBH and Big Game Club.  Betty was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1988 and then in 2004 the state's highest honor was presented to Betty the CBH and Big Game Club Lifetime Achievement Award.

Also have another chapter on the Walker Family.  Scott, Mike, Pat and their involvement with bowhunting.  Scott was the 9th recipient of the NFAA top bowhunting award, the Grand Masters Society.  Not bad, out of a membership of 25,000.  I say all this as I have had the support of my entire family and they have had my support and once you read just those chapters you will realize all I have accomplished was because of such a supporting and involved bowhunting family.

FA: Any last words of advice for our readers?

All and all I would say getting involved and being an involved bowhunter is what its all about.  I would also like to say how and what organization you get involved in really doesn't matter, but get involved.  Keep in mind uppermost that your intelligent personal choice of legal hunting tackle is your choice, and that choice be it traditional, compound, or whatever should be respected as much as any other bowhunters choice of tackle.  Bowhunting to me is for everyone and everyone should be for all of bowhunting. 

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