This Oct. 9 will mark the 28th anniversary of the death of Richard A. Wolters, an American icon in the gun-dog world and a leading light and inspiration to many contemporary scribblers of hunting and fishing tales.
Wolters isn’t discussed as much as he should be these days, making him an anomaly: a best-selling author without a Wikipedia page in this lay-it-all-out-there, connected, digital age. His books continue to sell because they are good. Book by book, article by article, Wolters built a reputation as a knowledgeable and trustworthy champion of the sporting life, and nearly 30 years after his passing, he remains a trusted authority among sportsmen and outdoors writers.
A writer and an outdoorsman
Wolters was an interesting character, enjoying a long and active life, both as a writer and an outdoorsman. His love of dogs and his enthusiasm for dog training — not to mention his appreciation of a good laugh — inhabit his work to a degree that even the captions beneath the instructional photographs in his books are a joy to read.
Wolter’s passions and personality permeate his writing. For me, finishing one of his books feels like concluding a conversation with a friend. Perhaps this is why so many beaten up and heavily earmarked copies of his books populate the bookshelves of outdoorsmen the world over.
Hunting dog manual
It is not an exaggeration to say that Wolters’ books are akin to “founding documents” in the estimation of many modern gun-dog enthusiasts. I own a copy of Wolter’s first book on dog training, Gun Dog, which was published in 1961; it is a book that, to my knowledge, has never been out of print.
However, his most widely read book is Water Dog (1964), which is likely the most popular book about training a good hunting retriever ever written.
After graduating from Penn State, Wolters worked for the U.S. Government during the development of the atomic bomb. He was also a lover of aviation and a parachutist. In addition to writing books, Wolters worked as an editor at Sports Illustrated for years. He was highly respected in his time, and his writing about training hunting dogs has, if anything, grown more popular since his last book was published in 1985.
Wolters died while piloting an ultralight aircraft near his home in Hanover, Va., on Oct. 9, 1993, at age 73. Soon, more copies of Wolters books will have been sold in the 30 years since his passing, than in the 24 years between his first book and his last.
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