“In the wind he’s still alive
In the wind, I hear, I hear Fred Bear.”
No one in the hunting industry is as well known for both traditional archery hunts and ethics as Papa Bear. He is a legend that lives on to this day, both in the legacy of his company Bear Archery, and in those who continue to be inspired by his photos and stories.
Fred Bear lived in a world where there was no “traditional bowhunting.” It was just “bowhunting.” The world has evolved and changed with technology, as is to be expected.
The hunting Industry has also changed in many ways since Fred was alive – some ways for the better and some for the worse.
Which makes me wonder: what would Fred Bear think of modern day hunters and today’s hunting industry?
Many of us like to think that old Fred is smiling down on us as we sit in our stands or with our backs against a tree stump, bow across our laps. Traditional bowhunters, in particular, often feel a certain kinship to Fred, as if they are carrying on his legacy in using a stick and string.
I think Fred would smile if he knew that so many hunters to this day are inspired by what he left behind. But I don’t think that it would particularly matter to Fred whether people were using traditional bows or not. So many like to think that Papa Bear would roll over in his grave at the idea of crossbows and compounds taking over the archery world. And sure…that’s a possibility.
But I think that if he was still alive today, he may have evolved with the times like so many other people have. Compound bows started gaining popularity shortly before Fred’s death, and Fred did indeed shoot one. The first (and only) compound he ever shot was the Bear Alaskan. He was thrown off by the difference in draw cycle, as he was a snap shooter.
Even early compounds shot far differently than a traditional bow did. Fred wasn’t crazy about shooting it, and never hunted with it, but he posed for some marketing photos and understood the advancement in bow technology. Compounds would certainly attract more hunters.
However, here’s where it gets interesting. Compounds became legal in Michigan in 1970, but they were required to be unstrung when transporting them (as were traditional bows). This was such a hassle that it really detered many people from using a compound. When Fred attempted to unstring the Alaskan, he was extremely frustrated with the process and I strongly believe that it is partly what led to him not wanting anything to do with compounds.
The ease of modern day technology has changed compounds drastically, and with the aid of a release Fred may have indeed changed his mind on how easy it was to shoot one.
His longtime friend, Neil Byce, was once quoted saying, “Fred Bear is archery. Fred Bear didn’t care about compound vs traditional. He cared about the sport. That’s just my take.”
Bear Archery is still a thriving company, selling all types of bows, and I think that Fred would be proud of that. Knowing that his bows are a household name, whether they know who he was or not. Many people have worked hard over the years to keep the Bear name and company relevant, and I believe that’s something that would make Fred feel honored. It’s “The Fred Bear Way,” the company states. And they have done well in keeping the tradition alive.
There are various articles online and statements talking about Fred as a businessman and marketing man, and how he did very well. He knew the power of filming and television, and took advantage of that to reach a higher number of hunters. Fair chase and conservation were important to Fred, and it was something that became obvious through his films.
There’s no doubt Fred knew his audience and how to appeal to them – it’s how his company grew. He was smart; he knew what hunters and archers wanted to see.
I think he would likely understand many things about the modern day hunting industry, and how each new generation has brought something new to the table. Social media is something that can be used for good or evil. And when used for good, I think Fred would agree on its merits from a business standpoint.
It’s hard to Imagine what Fred would really think of the industry and the many people who go out to the woods to gain some sanity every season. There aren’t too many people who can claim they genuinely have an idea what he would have thought. Many of his friends have passed on. However I like to think that many of us – the every day hunters who enjoy everything about just being in the woods – would incline Fred to shake ours hands. And of course, talk a little hunting.
“The history of the bow and arrow is the history of mankind.” – Fred Bear