Straight Talk Interview: George Gardner

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GEORGE GARDNER

FA: Where and when were you born?

GG: I was born in Allen Park, Michigan on February 27th 1928.

FA: What was your family life like growing up?

GG: We were a very close knit family, I had one sister who is still living. My Grandparents emigrated from England. When Dad was growing up he was not a hunter, but loved to fish.

George - rosy cheeked.

FA: What were your school days like, did you excel in any particular sport?

GG: I was a good student and got along very well with my teachers. When ever a question was asked in class, I was the first kid with my hand up. As far as sports go, I played football but my love was baseball. I was a pitcher and worked hard at being the best I could be. In fact I could have signed with the Detroit Tigers, but I chose to go into the Navy and join my buddies instead.

FA: When did you first discover an interest in archery?

GG: When I returned from the service in the 1940’s my two close buddies at the time, Bob Pfiffer and Jack Edwards asked if I would like to go hunting in northern Michigan. We started out with a rifle, but later I tried the bow and arrow, and that was when I knew archery hunting was the only way I wanted to capture game animals.

In the Navy.

 

FA: Who was your mentor?

GG: I would have to say Fred Bear, he was a mentor to many.

George with Papa Bear and far right, Jim Dougherty.

FA: Who are your archery heroes? Those you have met or admire?

GG: Through the years I would have to say two of my closest friends and heroes were the two Jim’s, Jim Dougherty and Jim Easton, My first real hunt was with both of them. We went to Catalina Island and hunted Goat and wild Boar. After I returned home I was so surprised to receive a package from Jim Easton. In it was a mount of one of the goats we took on that trip. It was the first mount I put on my trophy wall and still remains there today.

Flanked by Jim Easton (l) and Jim Dougherty.

FA: Who do you feel has made the largest contribution to the sport?

GG: There are many but if I could only name a few, I would say again, both the Jim’s, Dougherty and Easton, Ann and Earl Hoyt, Fred Bear, Ben Pearson and Ann Clark.

In good company with the two Ann's, Clark and Hoyt.

FA: You were in World War II. What branch and how did this affect your life?

GG: I was in the Navy, stationed at Boca Chica off the Florida keys, One thing I still remember was the day my path crossed with President Truman. His winter White House was at Key West and there were different times that we had the opportunity to see him. I always thought he was just a little wimpy kind of guy. But up close and personal my whole opinion changed, he was quite the opposite. It was quite an experience.

FA: You were involved in tournament archery. Describe you most rewarding event.

GG: Being part of the organizing of the Ben Pearson Open in the 1960’s, and later founding the Ann Marston Memorial Tournament. The Marston holds a special place in my heart. We became very close friends with the Marston’s over the years. They really had no family in the states so we became their extended family and would spend most holidays together. When Ann passed the bond became stronger and to be part of organizing an event to honor Ann was very special to both Betty and me. Both tournaments were very successful and were part of the Professional Archers Association tour for a number of years.

George with Ann Marston's Mother Florence and her father Frank.

FA: You must have a funny story involving bowhunting or the industry. Can you share one?

GG: This is probably one of the funniest I can remember. In the 1950’s I met Fred Bear at one the local dealers and that day we spent helping many of the different customers that came into the archery shop. That was the beginning of a great friendship that lasted until Fred passed away. Some time later the Lincoln, Michigan Bowmen were holding their annual banquet which included a casino night. I was asked if I thought Fred would like to come to the event. He was very happy to attend the dinner and was so impressed by the casino night that he asked the Lincoln Bowmen if they would come to Grayling and host the same type of event for the NFAA Nationals. We were all very honored and so off to Grayling we went.

With all of our gaming machines, it seemed every archer at the tournament was there that night, what fun everyone was going to have, that is until we were raided by the state police. I think every law officer within a hundred miles emerged on our casino night, and we were all carted off to jail in paddy wagons. Later Fred said that was one the most memorable and fun events they ever had.

With the PAA

FA: You started your archery career as a sales rep for Ben Pearson Archery. When and why did you decide to start your own sales Rep group?

GG: I left Ben Pearson because I wanted to be able to do more and moved to Evansville, Indiana and became National Sales Manager for Indian Archery.

FA: Of your many hunts, local, United States, Canada, Alaska, Africa and Europe. What do you consider your favorite hunt and most rewarding trophy taken?

GG: I can tell stories about many of my hunts but I would have to say the African Safari’s were the most memorable. Taking a Lion, a Leopard and the Cape Buffalo were the most rewarding. All in all I have over 50 mounts and can tell you a story about every one of them.

A most memorable hunt for lion.
Cape Buffalo, never easy, simple or safe for a bowhunter.
Rounding out a spectacular African hunt George smiles over his spotted trophy.

FA: Your trip behind the Iron Curtain hunting Bear in Czechoslovakia was another thrilling adventure. Tell us about that.

GG: Actually we didn’t take any game in Czechoslovakia, but it was thrilling just to try.

FA: You have made many successful trips to Africa. One in particular you have had involved an encounter with a hippopotamus. Tell us about that experience.

GG: That was a good one. It was on a hunt with Bob Eastman from Gametracker. I remember the day like it was yesterday. Bob was hunting for Hippos but I didn’t have a Hippo tag so I was after Zebra. Toward the end of the day we spotted six or eight zebra in a cut not to far from our camp. The guide and I decided we would continue hunting in that particular spot in the morning and see if we might be able to be successful in our zebra hunt. Bob wanted to continue on his hunt for Hippos so he went his way and my guide, trackers and myself decided to hunt the area where we spotted the zebras the day before.
I stationed myself in a spot about 30 yards away from where I thought they might cross. I sat for 30 minutes and saw nothing.

The trackers then decided they would try and push the zebra out of the thorny area. It worked and as soon as I thought I had a good shot I released the arrow. I heard a thud but something didn’t feel right. I was using the Gametracker but I thought I shot too low and missed so I asked the trackers to retrieve the arrow. As they followed the blood trail they discovered I had shot through the zebra resulting in the kill and the string of the GameTracker broke.

Then all of a sudden from out of nowhere a hippo, that had apparently been lying in the underbrush appeared and started up the cut directly toward me. He was snorting and stamping the ground. I swear I could feel his breath as he came toward me. I remember how scared I was and thinking I was too young to die. I tried to hide by backing into the bushes, the only problem was the thorn bushes grabbed on to my easy breathing camo and I was stuck and couldn’t move. Bob yelled,” Let’s go George”. I remember whispering” I’d love to but I can’t, I’m stuck.”   (Note: More humans are killed by Hippos than any other animal in Africa.)

I literally could not move. All of a sudden the hippo stopped and turned and went the other way. “Whew, that was a close one”. Come to find out, the guide had his rifle pointed toward the Hippo all the time and would have saved me if it got to that point I was in danger. I was really happy to be alive when we arrived back in camp that night.

Africa, not your average bowhunt.

FA: You have held office in many Archery associations, you were among the first to join Pope and Young during the formation years in 1958. You were also one of the first to be involved with the Professional Archers Association and you also became a director in the formations of the Bowhunting division of Safari Club International and remain an active member. With all you have done, can you point out your most satisfying accomplishment?

GG: To me, just being a part of these great organizations and helping to get the job done were all the satisfaction I will ever need. I was never known for being ‘just a follower’.

George's Hunting Group: (LtoR) Richard Smith, Bob Brockwell, George, Ted Nugent, Phil Grable, Dave Borgeson, Gary Marshall and Sam Grissom.

FA: Hunting for many years with the world’s best known bowhunters, becoming close friends with all. You’re known as one of the best liked, most informed, caring archers, never too busy to give of your time and generosity to all clubs and associations in need of support both monetary and archery equipment to help the sport. Why do you continue to be so involved when you could be resting on your laurels, you have paid your dues. Tell us why, so others may follow your example.

GG: Because of my love and driving passion of the sport. It’s just that simple.

With Horton founder Bernard Horton.

FA: You had a lot to do with new products coming into the industry. One was the Game Tracker. It was controversial in the beginning but you stuck with it, still feel it has value?

GG: Oh yes, definitely, There are many people that would not be hunting today if they couldn’t have used the Game Tracker It allowed people to be able to recover game they may have lost.

Dale Gray, Papa Bear, George and GameTracker and Eastman Outdoors founder Bob Eastman.

FA: The Lady Bowhunter’s The Diana’s never fail to mention you with great affection and appreciation. You played a huge role in helping this wonderful group through out the years. What did you see in these ladies in the beginning, why did you spend so much of your time to help them and what did you think the effect would be for our sport?

GG: The Diana’s, named after the Goddess of the Hunt, were formed to help give women the same opportunity to hunt as the men. To be able to hunt not just with a gun, but with a weapon of choice. I could see the love of the sport in so many of their eyes when talking about some of the hunts I had been on. Fourteen women signed up to go on the first all women’s hunt at Bob Eastman’s Camp “Tens or Better in Michigan. The Diana’s began in 1988 and continues to this day.

The Original Diana’s were chosen by Ann Clark and myself for publicity purposes and invited to Ten’s or Better Game Tracker Camp with all expenses from host Bob and Ann Eastman. They consisted of:

  • Ann Clark, OH Champion archer and exhibition shooter. Contributor to the sport.  Member Archery Hall of Fame 1984
  • Ann Hoyt, MO. Most famous female archer in the world, champion, contributor to the sport.  Member Archery Hall of Fame, first member.  Wife of Earl Hoyt, Bowyer.
  • Marilyn Nicholas, MI. Archery Lanes and Pro Shop Owner. Dress code co coordinator Professional Archers Association.
  • Cathy Beutler, MI Television with Fred Trost, Outdoor Show. Wildlife cook. Hunter
  • Kay Richey, MI. Outdoor writer, Hunter, Bow hunter and gun.  Coached by George Gardner, Wife of outdoor writer Dave Richey
  • Jan Bobseine, NY.  Champion Turkey caller, hunter,  Husband, New York Conservation Officer
  • Peggy (Barcak) Murray, TX.  Outdoor writer, Hunter
  • Betty Walker, CA. Outdoor writer, hunter, wife of Doug Walker The Western Bow hunter. California Bow hunter Hall of Fame
  • Vickie (Snyder) Mountz, OH. Charter Boat Captain, Lake Erie.  Coach, George Gardner bow hunting.  Rifle & shotgun.  Writer
  • Jean (Dunn) Richman former wife Dennis Dunn writer and Danny Lloyd Archery Professional, writer for Bow hunter Magazine.  Hunter
  • Donna Klutz NC. New Hunter, marketing Michelson Company.  Game Tracker representative
  • Carol Borg, NY.  Friend of Bob Eastman long time hunter and educator.
  • Loral I Delaney MN. World Champion Trapshooter.  International Dog Trainer, Sport Show Personality.  Hunter, Fisherman and artist, plus wood, and bone carvings.
  • Patty Brady, MN.  Writer for Archery World Magazine.
George with the Diana's. Back Row. Jean Dunn Richman, George Gardner. Marilyn Nicholas. Bottom row, Dorine Easterbrook, Ann Clark, Marilyn Bentz and Ann Hoyt.

FA: Now you are heavily involved in crossbows and Ten Point Crossbow Company. Another controversial area so why did you become involved, how and what do you see for the future of crossbows?

GG: I believe the crossbow has its place in the sport of archery, the same way the compound did back in the 1970’s. Crossbows have allowed those people who were unable to continue to hunt because of limitations to continue to enjoy the outdoors and hunt. Because of the crossbow, more and more people have started to take up bowhunting. Last year 100,000 more license were sold. Many of these contributed to the growth of the crossbow.

Crossbows certainly have a place in the hunting sport and this black bear proves their effectiveness.

FA: You are acquainted with the majority of Hall of Fame members, you have hunted and shot with most of them, your longevity and association with the Industry has established you with such notables as Fred Bear and Ben Pearson to name a few. How does it make you feel being grouped with these legends?

GG: Very humble. When I was inducted into the Archery Hall of Fame in 2008 there were very few dry eyes in the house, including mine.

An emotional evening as George is inducted into the Archery Hall of Fame by friend and presenter Rick Bednar of Ten Point Crossbows.

FA: After 31 years of pursuing your love of the sport you were inducted in 2008 into the prestigious Archery Hall of Fame. I attended this event and your acceptance speech touched everyone. Your emotions were real and you received a standing ovation from the room. If you had to pinpoint one thought that night, what would it be?

GG: I was overwhelmed and still can’t believe all the people who came from all parts of the country to honor me. I couldn’t find the words then, and I still can’t. It was just an emotional evening that I will never forget. What an honor it was to be inducted into the same class with other greats such as Hall of Fame Founder, Dave Staples and legendary hunter, Chuck Adams.

Archery Hall of Fame Induction 2009: George, Julia Body, Chuck Adams and HoF founder Dave Staples who had sadly passed away in 2008.

FA: We read recently that you pledged a large sum of money to the Archery Hall of Fame and Museum, can you tell us about that?

GG: I have believed in the Archery Hall of Fame since its inception in 1972. I recently found out that it is totally supported by donations from people like you and I. It is our legacy and if we want it to continue and to have a museum like the one being constructed in Springfield Missouri then we must step up to the plate and help to carry on that mission  to honor those outstanding members of the Archery  community and preserve the history and  tradition of Archery  and Bowhunting for all generations to come.

FA: You are noted as a good archery instructor, have taught many to shoot and become successful hunters. Would you name a few?

GG: My wife Betty, Kay Richey, Doreen Easterbrook, two of the Diana’s and of course my grandsons are just some of those who have become successful hunters.

FA: The state of Michigan and the legislature recognizes you as a major factor in the continuing effort for bowhunter recognition and maintaining the right to hunt with weapons of choice. Any further comments?

GG: It was definitely a chore attending all meetings of the state association. What we went through in our state was certainly a challenge but the end result was worth it and now, many who would not be involved in our sport are hunting today.

FA: What more do you think we, as an industry, can do to encourage archery/ bowhunting as a family sport?

GG: I believe the crossbow has and will continue to help keep archery a family sport within the hunting community. Many of the older generation who used to hunt with a bow, but now cannot because of some limitations will be able to use a crossbow but the important thing is more people will be able to continue to hunt with a bow and not a rifle.

George with long time friend and fellow HoF inductee Bill Bednar.

FA: What do you see as the future of the sport and our biggest challenge?

GG: The biggest challenge is to keep grandparents, parents and children alike, interested and involved and to share each others experiences, whether it is to sit down at night together in your living room or over a campfire after the days hunt.

FA: Is there anything you would do differently if you could in respect to your personal or business life?

GG: Hunting is definitely my passion; I would have planned more hunting trips and made the most out of every minute of every day.

The Gardners: George and Betty at the Archery Trade Association Show.

FA: You have played an important part in the sport of archery so what advice would you give to today’s archer?

GG: Put your heart and soul into the game. Learn to shoot the right way and then practice, practice and practice some more.

FA: What would you like for people who know you to remember you for?

GG: I hope they will remember my contributions to the sport and the industry. I would like my legacy to live on in those who love our sport.

6 Responses to "Straight Talk Interview: George Gardner"

  1. Jean Dunn Richman   2011/12/11 at 11:29 am

    Dear George and Frank, This interview brought both joy to my heart and tears to my eyes! Such a wonderful tribute to an exceptional Sportsman and a great hunter! George has a very special place in my life. He has been a great mentor through the Diana’s and has promoted hunting to all women and youth that has seen tremendous growth in the shooting industry! I am grateful to count George Gardner as a true friend and “hunting buddy”. Sincerely, Jean Dunn Richman A Diana. LOVE THE SOUND EFFECT!!

  2. Kay Richey   2011/12/11 at 1:31 pm

    What a great interview of a great friend. I will always be great-full to George for teaching me archery. I would not have become the archer I am today if it wasn’t for the many hours he spent with me. He has been the Diana’s back bone for going on to 25 years. We all love him. A wonderful man and a true spokesman for archery. Love you, George! Kay Richey

  3. Dave Keaggy Sr.   2011/12/11 at 6:22 pm

    I knew George many moons ago–Great photos and an excellent interview. Tell George hello and I could use his help–started to shoot my recurve again at age 85.
    Regards, Dave Keaggy Sr.

  4. Ottie Snyder   2011/12/12 at 8:01 am

    What a wonderful source for an interview (there’s still enough unwritten for a couple of books). George, my friend, archery and bowhunting is what it is because of pioneers like you. I’ll always look forward to our next campfire together. Love ya’, Ottie

  5. Rich Walton   2011/12/12 at 12:10 pm

    One of the most emotionally charged events in my life in archery was the Archery Hall of Fame Induction when George was introduced by Rick Bednar. George was right when he said there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. I’ve known George for quite a few years and I have to say I’ve met few in the industry who care more for the sport and who are as humble. I think too that that induction with George and my friend and mentor Dave Staples joining the past greats was an event I’ll never forget. Thank you George for making sure that night was an emotional, stand out evening.