The Inspiration

MARQUEEBHN1Sponsored by: The Pope & Young Club


By: T.J. Conrad
By: T.J. Conrad

It has been 50 years since Glenn St. Charles’ vision of the Pope and Young Club came to fruition. Many hours of thought and time were spent in the formation of the Club, its recording system, and its goals. And when the time came to choose a name, Glenn and his able-bodied crew chose to use the namesakes of our forefathers: Saxton Pope and Arthur Young.

Like the Boone and Crockett Club, named after Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett, they sought to name the new organization after two influential bowhunters. They had to look no further than Saxton Pope and Art Young. Here were two individuals with whom the bowhunter could relate. But who were these two men, and how did they come to be such an inspiration to bowhunting in North America? To understand this, we need to look at the life of these two unique and adventurous bowmen.

Although Maurice Thompson ignited archers’ interests in bowhunting through his classic work The Witchery of Archery, it wasn’t until Saxton Pope published Hunting with the Bow & Arrow in 1923 that bowhunting started to gain widespread interest.

Saxton Temple Pope was born at Fort Stockton, Texas, September 4, 1875. His father, Benjamin Franklin Pope, was an army surgeon, a career that the younger Pope would follow later in life.

Saxton’s elementary education was acquired haphazardly, as his early years were spent moving from one camp to another as his father’s garrison constantly changed its duty station. His companions were a strange mix: Indians, half-breeds, cowboys, and others he met along the way. Because of his lifestyle, he developed an independent quality that would shape his entire life. He also loved to hunt, fish, swim, and shoot guns.

Art Young and Saxton Pope at one of their deer camps.
Art Young and Saxton Pope at one of their deer camps.

Even though he spent much of his youth constantly moving with his family, he eventually graduated in 1899 with honors, receiving a degree in medicine from the University of California. After his internship he moved to Watsonville, California south of San Francisco. There Dr. Pope established his practice and married another doctor, Emma Wightman. The Popes raised four children: Saxton Jr., Elizabeth, Virginia, and Willard Lee Pope.

Saxton spent about 12 years in Watsonville before he was offered a job as Instructor of Surgery at the Medical School of the University of California in 1912. Within a few years he was promoted to Assistant Professor, and then to Clinical Professor of Surgery. Even though Dr. Pope was active in the medical organization, and conducted intensive instruction for hospital units during the war, he still found time to publish over 32 scientific papers.

Ishi, the last Yahi Indian
Ishi, the last Yahi Indian


That same year he met Ishi, the last Yahi Indian, who was living next to the Medical School in the Museum. Ishi and Pope became close friends and Pope learned how to make and shoot Indian bows and arrows from Ishi, who called the doctor “Popey.” In return, Pope saw to Ishi’s needs, whether medical in nature or cultural. Many times Ishi had come to the Pope household for dinner and was always a man of good manners, never looking or speaking to Mrs. Pope, or any other woman, as that was considered rude in his culture.

Saxton Pope met William “Chief” Compton and Art Young in 1915. The three of them, along with Ishi, soon became good friends and spent their days making archery tackle, shooting at the range on the University grounds, and hunting both big and small game as far away as Humboldt County in northern California. In 1916, Ishi died from pulmonary tuberculosis, but the three remaining archers continued to pursue their love of bowhunting for many more years.

Art Young with William "Chief" Compton.
Art Young with William “Chief” Compton.


Describing his hunting with Ishi, Pope said, “Although Ishi took me on many deer hunts and we had several shots at deer, owing to the distance or the fall of the ground or obstructing trees, we registered nothing better than encouraging misses. He was undoubtedly hampered by the presence of a novice, and unduly hastened by the white man’s lack of time. His early death prevented our ultimate achievement in this matter, so it was only after he had gone to the Happy Hunting Grounds that I, profited by his teachings, killed my first deer with a bow.”

Saxton Pope and Art Young spent several years hunting northern California where they succeeded in taking deer, bear, cougar, and elk. Most notable was their trip into Yellowstone National Park. In the fall of 1919, after receiving a permit to enter Yellowstone in the attempt to secure several bears with their longbows for the California Academy of Sciences Museum, the two men started to organize their campaign for the following spring, with Ned Frost of Cody, Wyoming, as their guide. Frost was a man known to be the best grizzly hunter in America.

The following May, Pope, Young, and Frost, together with Pope’s brother, G.D. Pope of Detroit, and Pope’s friend, Judge Henry Hulbert, also of Detroit, entered the park on their quest for grizzly. The bowhunters had shipped their archery equipment ahead of time, which consisted of two bows apiece and “ … one hundred and forty-four broad-heads, the finest assembly of bows and arrows since the battle of Crecy.” One of Young’s bows was 85 pounds, the other a proven veteran of many hunts, Old Grizzly, which weighed in at 75 pounds. Both of Pope’s bows were 75 pounds, one his favorite, Old Horrible, a bow that was sweet to shoot and hard hitting, as well as Bear Slayer, a fine-grained but crooked bow that was used to take the duo’s first black bear in California.

Over the course of the spring the group looked for grizzlies, finding them scarce until the elk moved back into the park and began to calve. Their first encounter ended up with a ragged sow and a fine younger bear, although the latter too big for the museum’s needs. As the days turned into weeks, the group began to dissipate as each member returned to work and civilization. In the end, Frost packed both Pope and Young to a new camp, stocked them with enough provisions for a few more weeks, and left to guide other hunters back in Wyoming.

For a over a week Pope and Young had been seeing a magnificent bear they called the Monarch of the Mountain, and finally decided to set an ambush in a perch of rocks above a trail the bear had been using. After several nights and close encounters, their opportunity came to fulfill the museum’s request.

The two men headed to their blind about an hour before midnight, with the moon near full. A few hours later, a beautiful sow and three cubs made their way up the trail. When they were in range, Pope gave the signal and the two men loosed their shafts at the cubs, hitting one apiece. At the hits, the big sow roared and searched for the cause of the disturbance. She saw the two men and started to charge. At that very moment the big Monarch appeared; now there were five bears in front of the men.

Pope whispered to Young to shoot the big boar, while he sent an arrow deep into the sow as she charged. Pope’s arrow turned the sow sideways where she roared, stumbled, and fell within sight. The old Monarch was growling and pacing back and forth not more than 65 yards away as Young sent three arrows his way, Pope getting off two arrows as well.

Dr. Saxton Pope with a black bear.
Dr. Saxton Pope with a black bear.


After the men had settled down, they began skinning the sow by flashlight. They recovered one of the cubs at daybreak. The other cub was not to be found. Retrieving their arrows, they found that one of Art’s was missing. They followed the direction the boar had run and soon found blood. After an exhaustive search that took most of the day, they came upon the big bear where he had fallen and died. “There lay the largest grizzly bear in Wyoming … One great arrow had killed him,” Pope later recounted.

The Monarch of the Mountain. One arrow did it.
The Monarch of the Mountain. One arrow did it. Photo Courtesy: Archery Library

Five years later the two men took the challenge of hunting Africa with the goal of securing the feared African lion by means of their primitive weapons. In February 1925 they set sail, arriving in Africa on April 6th. They spent the next four months traveling and hunting across what is now known as Kenya and Uganda, taking several specimens of African game including wildebeest, eland, waterbuck, kongoni, reedbuck, and Thompson’s gazelle, as well as geese, rabbits, hyrax, and guinea hens, securing enough meat to feed the camp for the entire trip.

Pope and Young also shot several lions, but many had to be finished off with a gun at close quarters by a rifleman at the ready. This bothered the two bowhunters. “No matter how many lions we shoot with the bow, somebody is always taking the joy out of the jungle by saying, ‘Yes, but you couldn’t do it without being backed up by the big boys with the guns!’ ” Pope wrote in The Adventurous Bowman. But this would soon change.

It was August 18th, 1925. Pope and Young had found an old boma, or blind, that had been built a year earlier by their professional hunter Leslie Simpson. A kongoni was shot and drug all over the country, finally being wired to a tree 15 yards in front of the boma. The first night the men stayed in camp while a lion had come and eaten part of the bait and left behind a large track. The following evening the two men sat in the blind, thinking of the absurdity of what they were doing, waiting for the lion to return. Pope later wrote, “Sitting in a clump of thin, rotten thorns, waiting for a lion to come up and mess about you, is an emotional novelty act. You sit there, holding your breath, hoping that he does come, and fingering your arrow heads and bow string, wondering if you have done the right thing in leaving your nice warm bed and crawling into this miserable bunch of little sticks, so close to him.”

The sun had set and a cool breeze blew as they lay back in the sweet jungle grass and waited. But the lion didn’t wait long. A low grunt oozed in from the dark outside the boma, but the men could not hear any footsteps. The two bowhunters sat in the back of the boma, trying to arrest their heavy breathing, as the lion slowly made its way to the bait and finally, once it felt the situation safe, began licking and tearing at the kongoni. Art stole a glance from the blind, saw the lion lying broadside, and motioned Pope forward. They studied the beast, braced their bows, nocked arrows, and settled themselves to shoot. With a whispered count, they let their shafts fly.

“There was a grunting roar and in one bound the lion stood before the aperture in our blind, his mane standing erect, glaring at us with green eyes like two X-ray tubes. He was so near I could have touched him with my bow. I saw the shadowed outline of a feathered shaft deep in his side,” Pope later recounted. The lion took off into the night. They heard him stumble and fall, biting at the shaft protruding from his side. He gave a long, low moan, and then all was quiet.

The men stayed in the boma until daylight whereupon they found the lion, very much dead, facing toward them as if to defend himself. Young’s arrow was buried to the feathers, through the chest above the heart. Death was quick. “After being hit, he had not lived 15 seconds. One arrow had killed him … There lay the finest maned lion in Africa killed with the bow and arrow. It was a wonderful sight!” Pope wrote. The adventures of Saxton Pope and Art Young in Africa are well documented in Pope’s book, The Adventurous Bowmen. The famed hunter and author Stewart Edward White also relates these stories from a different perspective in his book, Lions in the Path.

Pope and Young with a bowkilled lion.
Pope and Young with a bowkilled lion.

Unfortunately, the African safari was to be the last bowhunt Saxton Pope and Art Young would enjoy together. Soon after Pope returned to California he contracted pneumonia and passed away in 1926.

TOMORROW: The Inspiration: Part II For more please go to: P&Y Columns and The Pope & Young Club.

This story is an excerpt from  Bowhunting Big Game Records of North America, 7th Edition.


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