PAPA BEAR: Chapter 6, Part 1

i remember papa bear

What could we do to follow up our successful “Fred Bear Secrets of Hunting” record promotion and our new Super Kodiak bow introduction of 1967? That sales promotion campaign had paid off big because it directly tied into our Bear Archery 6,000 dealer network and brought thousands of hunters into their archery and sporting goods shops to purchase the record and look at our new product line. We needed another similar idea for 1968.

During World War II my uncles in the service had sent me their Army unit patches. I was 9 when the War ended, and I still have those patches after all those years. They have always fascinated me.

 fred bear patches
These were the award patches given out to bowhunters by The Fred Bear Sports Club when they had their trophies authenticated by their local Bear Archery dealer.

Remembering those WWII patches, and the desire of all hunters to share their hunting experiences and the critters that they had harvested, naturally led to the idea of starting some sort of Bear Archery animal patch system.

Then, too, there was the need for an organization of bowhunters to work on the national level to protect and promote bowhunting. The fine National Field Archery Association (NFAA) and National Archery Association (NAA) already existed at the time, but Fred, Kelly and I felt that they were pretty well tied up in their own organizational structure, programs and goals. We believed that no one was really representing archers and bowhunters in Washington D.C. and on the national stage with the professional wildlife community and other shooting sports organizations on a consistent basis.

So the idea of setting up a Bear Archery-led group of bowhunters was three-fold—rewarding bowhunters for a successful hunt, thereby creating dealer store traffic, while at the same time representing them on the national level to ensure the health and future of the sport. Obviously, this not only would benefit all current and future archers and bowhunters, but also Bear Archery and the entire industry.

Banding Together

In my original doodles on this 1968 campaign, I titled this new organization the Fred Bear Master Bowhunter Club. But both Fred and Kelly were afraid that that moniker would send the wrong message and shut out the normal day-to-day bowhunter, archer and prospective customer. Hence, The Fred Bear Sports Club was suggested by the group in Grayling and adopted. However, due to budget cuts at Bear Archery at the time, there was no money available to start the Club in 1968 the way we all felt it should be done. So the entire project was shelved.

For many years, Fred had been an important supporter of national archery tournaments. Matter of fact, in 1958 and 1960 the NFAA tournament was held in Grayling, the first time in NFAA history that the event had been held twice in one location. In 1958 Fred had even put up a $5,000 purse for a money-shoot following the tournament, the first such shoot in archery. And in 1960 Doug Easton, the aluminum arrow manufacturer, added another $5,000 to the kitty to make that year’s money-shoot following the NFAA championship worth $10,000 in prizes. That was a lot of money for our sport in those days. And, frankly, it still is!

 So when it became a matter of someone stepping in to financially support the annual Cobo Hall Indoor Archery Tournament in Detroit when Ben Pearson Archery could no longer do it, Fred and Kelly decided they would keep that mid-winter event going. Although tournament archery sales were only a small part of overall bow sales, they felt it extremely important to help preserve this opportunity for America’s archers to compete.

As their advertising guy, still at the agency in Ft. Wayne, it was my job to try to come up with some ideas to perk up the tournament. At the same time, Doug Morgan and others in Grayling were doing the same from their end. Eventually, Fred invited astronauts Joe Henry Engle and Walter Cunningham, along with the astronauts’ trainer, Joe Garino, Jr., to shoot in the tournament. Doug Morgan worked with Chuck Bowman, an archery enthusiast out in Hollywood to make sure that William Shatner (“Star Trek”)  and James Drury (“The Virginian”) also attended and shot on the Bear Archery team.

I tipped off Sports Illustrated about the event, hoping that they would do an article about it. However, all we ever got out of that effort was a small blurb in the publication showing a photo of astronaut Walt Cunningham shooting his bow. Archery has always had a difficult time getting a lot of coverage in the mainstream media. An exception to this, of course, was the wonderful five-page article written about Fred’s grizzly hunt in British Columbia that appeared in the Nov. 8, 1963 issue of Life magazine. It was written by Don Moser and photographed by Robert Halmi (who would later go on to become a famous television producer).

Since Bear Archery was now the sponsor of the Cobo Hall Tournament, known as the Bear-American, I thought it would be fun to have a life-sized bear walking around the event, this was in the early days of mascots at sporting events. So I rented a huge bear “suit” from a costume supply firm in New York, and we enlisted one of the Bear Archery office staff, Tom Prill, from the computer room, to wear the thing. I’m sure Tom lost a lot of weight that weekend of the tournament. It was awfully warm inside that suit. But Tom was a magnificent “bear,” and everyone had a lot of fun with the thing.

By then Fred and Kelly decided to give The Fred Bear Sports Club a kick-start. It was decided to announce The Fred Bear Sports Club at the Cobo Hall Tournament. Our group of celebrity archers: Joe Engle, Walt Cunningham, Joe Garino, Bill Shatner, and James Drury, would be included in the announcement of the membership. We could also capitalize on the fact that members of the Bear Archery advisory staff and some of America’s top tournament archers would be there: John Klemen, Vic Berger, Frank Gandy, Vince DeLorenzo and Clarence Kozlowski. All competed with our “Tamerlane” bow. They were all photographed with Fred at Cobo Hall wearing special Fred Bear Sports Club jackets that had been ordered for the occasion.

FBSC Grabs Hold

That was pretty much all there was to The Fred Bear Sports Club for the next two years. Naturally, we sent our photos of this Cobo Hall event to all the outdoor and archery publications, but nothing more was really done to expand the organization.

Then in 1971, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, our advertising agency in Ft. Wayne lost its largest account when North American Van Lines moved its corporate headquarters from Ft. Wayne out to Arizona. Naturally, they wanted an agency closer to their new location. The end result was a round of layoffs at the agency, starting with most of the vice presidents and higher-paid managers first. Eventually they also got down to my level, and I found myself “laid-off,” a nice way to say “fired.”

I ended up moving up to Grayling at Fred and Kelly’s invitation late in 1971 to finally plan out in more detail, and then start The Fred Bear Sports Club, as well as work in other special promotional areas for the company. My wife was still teaching, and our three children were still in school, so for six months I lived alone in Grayling which gave me lots of day and evening time to plan out the organization. Alice and I took turns driving to see one another on the weekends so that we maintained our family dynamic.

Finally, by that summer, we issued our first Fred Bear Sports Club newsletter, “The Big Sky,” announcing that the Club was now open to the public. Here are the objectives of the FBSC, as well as its creed that I wrote and published at the time. Also, the traditionally accepted rules of fair chase that we picked up from our fish and game folks.

FRED BEAR SPORTS CLUB OBJECTIVES

The Fred Bear Sports Club is an organization composed of North America’s finest outdoorsmen. Its goals are the protection of outdoor ecology and the proper wildlife management of the woods, fields and waters of this great land.

The members of The Fred Bear Sports Club pledge to uphold the rules of fair chase, the state fish and game laws to which they are bound, the preservation of our natural resources, and the honest fulfillment of the restrictions under which they compete in all outdoor sports.

THE FRED BEAR SPORTS CLUB CREED

  • We believe that man has a right to use our natural resources, but that he has a duty to use them wisely, carefully and with reverence.
  • We believe that wildlife of all sorts must be intelligently managed in a natural environment, and we will work to make it happen.
  • We believe that clean, pure water is essential to the well-being of all creatures, and we will not pollute it.
  • We believe that clean air is vital to the survival of all, and we will constantly be alert to those who would have it otherwise.
  • We believe that litter and waste are spoiling our heritage, and we will not tolerate it.
  • We dedicate ourselves to those goals for our own generation and for the generations to come. For we believe this to be the fulfillment of the American Dream.

RULES OF FAIR CHASE

Any animal taken under any of the following circumstances shall not be considered taken under the rules of fair chase:

  1. Helpless in or because of deep snow.
    B. Helpless in water.
    C. Helpless on ice.
    D. Helpless in trap.
    E. While confined behind fences, as on game farms, etc.
    F. In defiance of game laws or out-of-season.
    G. By “jack lighting” or “shining” at night.
    H. From power vehicle or power boat.
    I. Any other method considered unsportsmanlike bythe directors of The Fred Bear Sports Club.Obviously, Fred and Kelly’s fingerprints were all over the above statements. We always worked together discussing stuff like this, and then I’d go back and write it up and we’d all three edit it.

In our first issue of “The Big Sky” we also announced our Big Game Patch Awards, and the other items in our membership kit. Here’s the list:

FBSC BIG GAME AWARDS

  1. 1. Elk (Yellowstone, Roosevelt)
  2. Deer (whitetail, mule, Columbia blacktail, Coues’)
  3. Bear (black, grizzly, Alaska brown)
  4. Moose (Wyoming, Canada, Alaska)
  5. Ram (Dall, Stone, desert, bighorn, Rocky Mt. goat)
  6. Antelope
  7. Wild boar (wild boar, javelina, collared peccary)

We later added patches for wild turkey, caribou, small game and bowfishing.

Our Fred Bear Sports Club members also received a Member’s Certificate signed by Fred and me, an FBSC bow logo, plastic numbered membership card, an FBSC patch, an FBSC car/window decal, and a year’s subscription to our quarterly, “The Big Sky.” All of this stuff was put together in just six months—designed, produced and ready for the public. I was a busy beaver, but got a lot of help from everyone in the Bear Archery marketing department, as well as from Fred and Kelly. My artist friend, Jack Powrie, from my hometown of South Bend, was a huge help in all of this.

We began featuring conservation issues in our second issue of “The Big Sky.” Here are some of the topics we covered those first couple of years: “To Hunt or Not to Hunt,” “U.S. District Court Upholds Role of Hunting in Conservation,” “Mississippi Flyway Threatened,” “Rare & Endangered Species … Is Hunting To Blame?” “The Hunting Controversy: Attitudes and Arguments,” etc.

Those first couple of years we also designed and distributed two other award patch series. One was for a FBSC field round, the other series was used in indoor lane league events by the Archery Lane Operators Association. There were three groups of five patches each in the field round: Michigan Round, Canadian Round and Alaskan Round. This never really took off the way we hoped it would. But the FBSC/ALOA round was very successful, helping to keep bowhunters sharp during the winter leagues in snow country. There were nine patches in that series covering four levels: Bowhunter, Tracker, Stalker and Expert Bowhunter.

American Archery Council

I had been attending the American Archery Council meetings for several years, just as the Bear Archery representative, when one day in 1976 Fred and Kelly called me in to talk more about it. Our bitter UAW strike was going on at the time, and I was already buried in the work of the five-man strike committee. And, of course, I still had to take care of my regular job duties creating and producing the Bear Archery advertising, catalogs and films, and in running our Fred Bear Sports Club.

Up until then I had assisted the AAC in regular updates and reprints on their two booklets that many of the manufacturers gave away free with each bow purchased, the “ABC’s of Bowhunting,” and the “ABC’s of Archery.” Between 1978 and 1983 Bear Archery distributed more than 1.6 million copies of the “ABC’s of Bowhunting.” We attached this free booklet to each Bear bow that we shipped. I had also helped produce a series of films for folks to use in promoting the sport.

But Fred and Kelly felt that, in view of the attacks on our sport by the anti-hunters and anti-shooters, that the AAC needed to do much more to be “proactive.” I hate that now overused word, but that’s what was needed. They asked me if I would be willing to take on the job of spearheading the AAC to “make this happen,” as Kelly always liked to say. They also felt that the AAC needed to focus more on the consumer archery organizations and get away from being perceived as a manufacturer-dominated organization. Fred felt that the AAC had not yet reached its full potential, and that this was very important for the future of our sport.

I am not sure how many quiet calls Fred or Kelly made to the other members of the American Archery Council clearing this idea with them, but all of the AAC and AMO members worked very cordially with me in my role as volunteer executive director.

In effect, I became the non-paid executive director of the American Archery Council for many years. My assistant, Pat Wiseman-Snider (known affectionately as Putts by her friends, due to her love of golf), and I ran the AAC out of our Bear Archery office. I couldn’t have done it without her help.

Putts had known Fred since she was a little girl in Grayling and had lived just around the corner from the Bear’s rental house at 603 Michigan Avenue before they built their beautiful home next to the plant on the backwaters of the Au Sable River. After a stint in college, she had worked in the plant helping to make bow quivers, then had moved up into the office and into the sales department.

When I moved to Grayling, she soon was assigned to help me run the new in-house advertising agency, and the new Fred Bear Sports Club. We soon moved out of the main building to the old house we called “The Swamp,” which was located next-door. Putts was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in those early days, but bravely worked on like a real trooper. Luckily her disease has since either gone into remission or it was a false diagnosis. She and I both got active in the Northern Michigan Chapter of the Multiple Sclerosis Society during that time period, as did Bob and Jeanie Kelly.

The Archery Manufacturers Organization (AMO) that Fred had helped establish in the 1950s had actually set up The American Archery Council in the 1960s to be its promotional arm. Sort of like the American Dairy Council or the Beef Producers Council represents the “producers” or “manufacturers.” The belief was that it would be better for the AAC than the manufacturers to promote the sport. Otherwise some might accuse the AMO of simply being motivated by profits for its members.

Of course, those manufacturing pioneers needed to profit, but their primary motivations were the continuation, health and growth of the sport that all of them loved so much. Almost all of them had been bowhunters and/or target archers before they became manufacturers, the best example of that is Fred Bear.

In those days the archery manufacturers always had the majority of seats on the AAC by virtue of the fact that they provided 100 percent of the funding. It was a loose organization of manufacturers and representatives of the national archery organizations that existed in those days—primarily the NFAA, NAA, ALOA, AMO, and Pope & Young Club.

For those unfamiliar with our archery organizations, the National Field Archery Association (NFAA) represented both bowhunters and field or roving archers. The National Archery Association (NAA) is the organization based in Colorado Springs and affiliated with the U.S. Olympic Committee serving target archers. The Pope & Young Club represents bowhunters and the record animals they harvest. Former Bear Archery salesman, Glenn St. Charles, was the driving force behind starting the Pope & Young Club, named after Dr. Saxton Pope and Art Young. Dr. Pope befriended Ishi, the last of the Yahi Native Americans, while Art Young, his hunting partner, had also been a friend and inspiration for Fred Bear.

The American Indoor Archery Association (AIAA) had been founded by Bob Kelly and at the time we’re speaking of it had been incorporated by Gordon Bentley and his wife, Mimi, then archery dealers in Madison, Wisconsin into their Archery Lane & Operators Association (ALOA) program. Gordon was ALOA’s president for many years. AIAA looked after the interests of indoor archery and those dealers who provided these necessary facilities, especially in the North where winter’s snow greatly curtailed the practice and enjoyment of our sport.

Gordon and Mimi also founded the Archery Range & Retailers Organization (ARRO) somewhere around 1981. These fine folks did an unbelievable job over the years for the health and future of our sport.

The Archery Manufacturers Organization (AMO) had been founded to provide an organization to set archery standards and to provide a way for the struggling young archery industry in those days to promote its sport and activities. One of AMO’s greatest early challenges was simply to standardize bowstrings so that an archer could walk into a sporting goods store or archery pro shop and buy a string to replace one that he or she had cut, broken or worn out.

No small task when manufacturers did not have standards and made bows of many varying lengths. Earl Hoyt and Chuck Saunders were always very active on our AMO Standards Committee and were the real spearheads in that group even throughout my days at AMO.

After Fred died in 1988 I became the first full-time president of AMO and finished out my 35-year archery career by running AMO for almost 10 years. My desire to take such a post certainly had been influenced by my many years with Papa Bear.

to be continued: 

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