The hunting industry has lost a dear friend and one of its most innovative entrepreneurs with the passing of Bob Walker, 62, on February 25. Diagnosed with leukemia two years ago, Walker was able to beat it back for a time after a bone marrow transplant, but this past December he got a virus, pneumonia and the flu. His immune system just couldn't fight it all off.
A highly skilled whitetail and turkey hunter and best known for his company, Walker's Game Ear, Bob and I were friends since he began the company back in 1989. Though small in size, Walker had a big personality and a mind that was constantly thinking outside the box. A former Pennsylvania-licensed hearing healthcare specialist, Bob's years of hunting experience and understanding of the physiology of the hearing process convinced him that hunters were subjecting themselves to certain hearing loss each time they discharged their firearm. His vision became Walker's Game Ear, the industry's first compact hearing enhancement and protection device to prevent that loss, as well as amplify high frequency sounds, the kind most game make in the wild.
It took time for his products to catch on — after all, what "manly man hunter" is going to admit he can't hear worth beans? — but once they did, the company continued to grow on the strength of new product innovation and a superb marketing program based in no small part on the friendships Walker made with many key industry media members.
After 17 years of running Walker's Game Ear, Bob decided he needed a new challenge, and he sold the company to GSM, best known for its Stealth Cam line of products. By then Bob had become the host of a cable television hunting show that aired across the country. For the past few years Walker had discovered how much fun shooting and hunting with the modern crossbow is and, once again sensing an opportunity to combine his passion with a solid business venture that would capture a rising market trend, he started Slayer Crossbows.
I will never forget the first time I met Bob Walker. It was a large writer's turkey camp, and it was chaos. All the press guys were jockeying for position to hang with some of the "big name" professional gobbler getters and manufacturers, but for some reason Walker and I just hit it off. His company had been around for a few short years at that time and was just starting to gain traction. He gave me one of his early Game Ears to use, but being a little too full of myself and a tad too hard-headed, I poo-pooed the thing. Until I took it to the woods, and started hearing sounds I had not heard for 20 years.
For the last decade or so I have done most all of my hunting with the aid of a Walker's Game Ear. As the years have gone by my hearing — never my strength — has not improved a whit. So when I saw Bob in passing at an industry trade show a couple years ago I had the chance to tell him once again how much his vision had helped me enjoy the woods over the years. He smiled and said, "Told you. Now, how about these new crossbows?" That was vintage Bob Walker, always going a million miles an hour, full of life, smiling, ready to tackle the next challenge.
Bob Walker, you had a good run, and you made a difference. And you will be missed.