These eight great Americans are much more than Hollywood royalty, authors, or hall of fame baseball players, they’re legends. All of them. Men of great myth who not just slang a bow or gun but helped win wars, create industries, governed people and shaped the very culture of the America you see before you today. And in their spare time, to catch a short breath of the cool autumn air before conquering their respective worlds, they hunted.
Ted Williams – Much more than just a hall of fame baseball player, “Teddy Ballgame” was the last man on earth to hit over .400 in a single season in the majors. But forget his baseball career for a minute and remember Williams was also a fighter pilot during World War II. After winning the Triple Crown in 1942, Williams interrupted his baseball career to serve three years in the armed services. He did this again in 1952 for the Korean War, returning to baseball shortly after to finish his legendary career. In his spare time and nearly every chance the great ballplayer had, he enjoyed all things wild. Williams was an avid fly fisherman and hunter. He chased everything from bone fish in the Florida Keys to Cape Buffalo in Africa and was a regular in the duck blinds of Arkansas.
Ernest Hemingway – Hemingway was perhaps one of the most influential American authors of the last century, having won both the Nobel Prize in literature and the Pulitzer. That may seem boring to some, but don’t forget he also served during wartime and was badly wounded on the Italian front during World War I. Despite those wounds, the young Hemingway would receive the Italian Silver Medal of Bravery for saving another soldier’s life. He was also a war correspondent during World War II and even lent his own services to the U.S. Navy to search for submarines off the Cuban coast while he was fishing. Off the battlefield and away from his writing, Hemingway was a great hunter. He loved to chase the wild birds of the western United States and go on African safaris stalking lions twice as big as himself. But don’t tell Ernie that. He was a boxer too.
George S. Patton – If you don’t know who Patton was you should probably dismiss yourself as an American. General Patton was so feared by the German military during World War II that they based their entire European defensive at the wrong place, expecting Patton to lead the invasion against them. Of course that never happened, the Allied forces used Patton’s reputation as a decoy and landed at Normandy instead. To add insult to injury, the Allied forces then released Patton back into the war to do what he did best – wallop the Third Reich. Of hunting, Patton was an enormous fan of fox hunting and believed all newly recruited officers should be taught the sport.
Larry Benoit – While Benoit’s accomplishments may appear incomparable to the men above, his reputation follows the great line of frontiersmen that helped forge this nation, following such footsteps as Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett. The Vermont deer tracker’s humble beginning is what gives him such genuine honesty in a sport that, at times, seems filled with dishonest men. Born into the Great Depression, Benoit learned to hunt the biggest bucks in his woods not out of envy, but out of necessity. In those days the annual deer limit was one, so Larry set out for the biggest buck he could find simply because they supplied the most amount of meat. Along the way, he learned the subtle art of tracking and became widely known for his skills at doing so. In 1975, he released his first book, “How to Bag the Biggest Buck of Your Life”. With it, generations of hunters would learn that there is much more to this sport then just pure.. dumb.. luck. Larry was our teacher.
Teddy Roosevelt – Our nation’s 26th president is considered by many historians to be one of the greatest we’ve ever known. Leader of the Progressive Republicans, war hero during the Spanish-American War, writer, Nobel Peace Prize winner, Medal of Honor recipient, hunter, the list goes on and on. Teddy projected to the American people what masculinity was and should be, teaching us all to “speak softly and carry a big stick”. Under his care, our nation gave force to the National Park system, more than doubling its size under his care. In his spare time, he founded the Boone and Crockett Club. A lover of all things natural, Teddy loved to hunt and could often be found in the Dakota Badlands, on the savannahs of the African plains or in the jungles of the Amazon.
John Wayne – Although Wayne never actually was a police officer or a marine, it is said that his films were once shown to young recruits in order to show them how to act while patrolling our nation’s streets or handling themselves on the battlefield. Wayne was arguably one of the most patriotic entertainers in American history, and is often noted as winning the war at home when America entered World War II and Korea. Because of his efforts for our troops both on and off screen, Congress awarded him the Congressional Gold Medal. Just after his death, then President Jimmy Carter, would give him the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Both awards are the highest honors a civilian can receive. To get away from thve rigors of entertaining, Wayne fished and hunted. Roy Weatherby, founder of Weatherby Rifles, was a close friend, and the two embarked on several hunting trips with each other. Off set and on location provided Wayne with ample opportunity to chase deer, elk, and migratory birds. All of which he loved. During one such hunting trip with famed director John Ford and fellow actor Ward Bond, Wayne accidentally shot Bond in the posterior. An ailment the men would joke about for years. Although very few pictures exist of “the Duke’s” hunting prowess, it’s really not that hard to picture him smiling behind one of his real life kills.
Henry Ford – A visionary, Ford would bring the automobile to the middle class. While he didn’t invent the auto, he made it possible for them to be built quickly and efficiently on the assembly line. Because Ford wanted everyone to have the opportunity to own one, he paid high wages to his workers and basically invented the 40 hour work week. Utilizing his new automobile, Ford embarked on a ten year adventure across the United States with his mentor and good friend Thomas Edison. According to historians, hunting was a very popular pastime during these trips, and Ford loved to fire off his rifle. His 31,000 square foot home even included a hunting lodge.
Fred Bear – What would a list of great American hunters be if it made no mention of this man, the father of bowhunting. Born in Pennsylvania in 1902, Bear didn’t even begin hunting until he was nearly 30 years old. It was actually a movie entitled, “Alaskan Adventure”, that peaked the curiosity of Bear. The movie followed the exploits of then famed archer Arthur Young. Young would soon become a close friend, teaching Fred the art of crafting a bow, string and arrows. Within a few years, Fred’s part time hobby soon grew into a fulltime career. Fred would launch Bear archery, mass producing some of the finest bows on the planet and giving new birth to an ancient tradition here in America. He began filming, producing documentaries of his hunting exploits across the globe. Along with Glenn St. Charles, Bear pioneered the Pope and Young Club, becoming one of its first Board of Directors. He wrote articles, traveled the world and did everything in his power to promote not just his archery company, but the entire sport of bowhunting. His accolades in the sport of bowhunting are mind-boggling and done with the most primitive of bows. It’s hard to believe that any man has meant so much to the sport of bowhunting as this humble Pennsylvanian. A man who took six years of hunting before bagging his first big game animal. It was Fred who started it all.