FA: Sherwood, let's start this interview backwards and you tell me what you are doing these days... where you live, what you do with archery, and any pet projects you have at this time...
At 72 years of age, I now live retired in a log cabin in Sullivan County, Pennsylvania, a place that for many years was my hunting camp. I am involved with numerous civic activities and community projects. (We actually have an annual outhouse race on founders day in Dushore...true), A very special event to me, the Pennsylvania Bowhunters Festival, www.pabowhunters.com is in its 50th year in '06. I have served on the Board of Directors for the National Archery Hall of Fame and Museum for the past two decades. I bought a dozen Genesis bows, plus arrows for the scouts a couple years ago and helped get that program moving. The latter are all a pay back for all that the world of archery gave to me, but mostly because bows and arrow flight are somehow in my soul.
FA: Ok, now we'll backtrack. Tell me about your life as a kid. Where were you born and where were you raised?
My childhood life was a bit different from many of my era. I was born in rural Boyertown, Pennsylvania, second oldest of seven children, son of a dad who was a truck mechanic and a mother who was a housewife who was kept busy having and raising kids. We lived in a very rural setting back a long dirt road through the woods with no electricity and no running water. We mostly lived off our own raised hogs, chickens, and the eggs they produced. Small game and venison were no small part of our sustenance either.
FA: When were you first introduced to hunting?
Hunting was always part of my life. I was born in 1934 so when WWII came along, I was only in second grade. There was a shortage of everything, rationing was in affect. It was required for a family, especially a rural one such as ours, to live off whatever was available. Game animals were available. My dad was a hunter and always had a shotgun in the house. My uncle provided a .22 for us, and although ammo was hard to get during the war, pop always got enough rounds to teach me and my brothers to shoot at a very early age, and shoot we did. By the time I was 12 years old, I could shoot as well as any of pop's hunting buddies or relatives that came around. Legal age for hunting came at 12, but by then I had a lot of experience. We rounded up enough money from our trap lines to buy me a bolt action .410 shotgun when I was 11 years old. I shot my first deer at age 12, with that shotgun loaded with pumpkin balls. I was out checking my trap line when a doe stuck her head over the wrong mountain laurel bush and we had some more meat on the table.
FA: What about archery?
In grade school we read the book Robin Hood. I was totally fascinated and taken by the story in that book. I wanted a bow and I wanted arrows. I wanted to go split arrows like Robin Hood did. We had very little money and buying one was not possible. So pop cut three hickory limbs, peeled them, let them dry out, then tried to fashion three self wood bows, one each for himself, myself, and my next brother just one year younger than I. We tried to make our own arrows, but couldn't find straight enough limbs to cut for them, but we shot the ones we had anyway. We didn't even have feathers on them. I learned the heavy end had to be forward…my first lesson in archery physics.
Needless to say, we were not splitting arrows with that kind of equipment. But we did learn to use them enough to be accurate at very close range. I talked my brother Poky into trying his skill on one of our chickens. He did, and he hit it in the rear and the chicken ran off squawking. He got a licking for that while I hid. My own best and most accurate home made arrow finally climbed up a tree in the posterior of a squirrel. I never got it back and I didn't get the squirrel. Brother Poky was eight; I was nine years old at that time. My first real bow I bought while in high school. It was 1951 and PA was having its first archery only deer season, bucks only, for one week in special areas. I did not shoot my first deer with a bow and arrow until 1955 and it was a doe which was legal by then. I probably missed a dozen deer before I hit one. And the one I finally got, while hunting with my best hunting buddy Henry Fulmer (who later was a Bear Rep and also with my rep company), who I dragged into archery, in Potter County, PA. I remembered my earliest lesson when I shot the squirrel....I had to be really close to hit what I was aiming at. I was lying flat on my belly in tall grass, right up against a wire fence when the doe walked up the other side of the fence. I rose up just enough to hold the bow parallel to the ground and sent the arrow into her just 8 feet away. I didn't miss that time!
FA: Pennsylvania is one of the biggest states or perhaps the biggest state for bowhunting license sales. Why do you think that is?
I once had a friend from Utah named Jim Pickering, who was a national archery champion and a rep for Bear Archery Company. Jim visited me in Pennsylvania and he made a comment that stuck with me. Jim was amazed at how rural Pennsylvania was. He thought my state was all foundries, steel mills, and ribbons of highways, because that was what he learned in school. It's not like that. Except for our two large metro areas of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, we are mostly mountains and trees. In fact, I now live in Sullivan County, where the total population at last census was near 6,000. The game commission believes we have 8,500 deer in the county. We have more deer than people. Somewhere around 1.4 million hunters bought hunting licenses in the state at its peak, although it is down slightly now. About one out of four also buy a bowhunting license. We have thousands of state owned acres of wilderness that allows hunting and that is a large part of it. Without a place to hunt, hunting does not thrive. We have places to hunt.
FA: . In those early days, tell me about archery and what it was like then... the equipment, people, etc.
My most vivid recollection of earliest archery was we were not very proficient. Remember, I had visions of splitting arrows like Robin Hood. We were having trouble keeping arrows on the straw bale backstop for our targets. My first real bow was a Par-X, an aluminum limbed bow, with a slight recurve. It kicked like a mule and had no center shot. We used wooden arrows, with helical fletch, and a good thing they were. Because the bows and the arrows of the time simply were not very compatible, as I learned years later when I became better educated in the use of both. Broadhead hunting tips were not much better at that time. In 1954 I saw a Bear Kodiak Special bow at Sands Sporting Goods in Boyertown and I knew I had to have it. It was beautiful, made of polished wood, with laminated recurve limbs. I bought it a dollar week until it was paid for, then I could have it. Little did I know at the time, that one day I would be working for and with the famous maker of that bow, Fred Bear.
FA: When did you get into the archery business to earn a living? I understand you worked at an archery magazine in the 1960s. Tell me about some of the people you met at that time that had an impact on you.
A. Boyertown Publishing Company was in my home town in 1964. They printed The Archers Magazine (TAM) on contract by its publisher. The publisher fell behind on printing payments and BPC took over the magazine. They were looking for an ad salesman for the magazine. I was working for the local Ford garage selling Fords. The ad salesman for the local Boyertown Times, which was also published by BPC, who knew I was wrapped up in hunting and archery, told me to apply for the job. I did. I got it. Within two years I was both Editor and General Manager of the magazine. A gentleman that I was to become closely associated with for many years was the Technical Editor for TAM.
1st Place, Expert-A Class PA State Championships 1964
His name was Tom Jennings. Tom lived in North Hollywood, California and sent his monthly columns to Boyertown. Others I met, first by talking with them on the telephone and later in person at the trade shows or at their business place included: Ben Pearson; Doug and Jim Easton; The Kolpin Brothers; Bob Lee (Wing Bows); Frank Scott (Colt bows); Rollie Bohning; Chuck Saunders; The Cravotta Brothers (Blackhawk bows); Henry and Babe Bitzenburger; Earl Hoyt; Gale Martin; Larry Whiffen; Bob Swinehart; Roy and Frieda Hoff (Archery Magazine); and I am sure there are more I can't think of just now. I also met many of the finest archers of the time, many of whom were in the industry somehow. It was truly a training ground for me…much of which set the stage for the rest of my life.
FA: . When did you leave the archery magazine and why?
Most people that know me from the business end of archery probably have no idea I was a very proficient archer in the mid 60's. I won my first Pennsylvania state title in 1964, class A, instinctive. The following July I won the National Field Archery Association's Instinctive Amateur championship at Watkins Glen, NY.
1965 NFAA Amateur Instinctive Champion
That was the first time I ever met Earl Hoyt in person. I was shooting a Hoyt Pro Medalist bow at the time and Earl congratulated me after the awards were handed out. Al Dawson, the area sales rep for Fred Bear was there too. Al lived in PA, and I had met him before. He invited be on to the Bear Shooting Staff. Within a year I was shooting a Bear Tamberlane bow. I left the magazine in 1967 to become a salesman for Bear Archery Company. My first territory was Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana.
FA: How did you first meet Fred Bear and what was your impression of this man?
Soon after the Nationals Dawson invited me to take a trip with him to Grayling, Michigan to Fred Bear's manufacturing plant to get acquainted with the equipment and meet those involved with producing the bows. I met Fred on that trip. He was a tall gangly man, with big hands and an even bigger smile. Fred put anyone at ease very easily. Although not the plan, that trip to Bear plant actually set the stage for my future. Time after time, things fell into place that all contributed to what I would be able to do in archery.
1966 Team PA, Sherwood, Jim Stametz, Emil Lehan adn George Slinzer team up to winn the Nationals at Cobo Hall, Detroit.
FA: Why was Fred so successful in convincing gun hunters to "Become a two season hunter" and take up archery?
First, any gun hunter was the best prospect to become a bowhunter. Bowhunting season was a season onto itself in some states, including Fred's own Michigan. It was a very natural situation. A hunter could get more hours afield, doing what he loved to do if he added bowhunting to gun hunting. Fred forever tried to enlist others to take up archery. Second, I am not at all sure the "Become a Two Season Hunter" as a campaign was Fred's personal idea. I think that idea was brought forward by Bonsib, his ad agency. The Bonsib agency employed a gent whose name has become almost synonymous with Fred Bear's. His name is Dick Lattimer. I think Dick could fill in the spaces for us on that subject.
With Good friend Dick Lattimer after Dicks popular book, I Remember Pap Bear was released, 2004
FA: How long were you a sales rep with Bear? What did you do after leaving Bear?
I spent my first 18 months in the south for BACO. Then I was moved to Wisconsin to become their Midwest sales Rep. I then covered WI, MN, ND. SD. IA, and IL. I enjoyed selling Bear's equipment; it was the top of the line. The company was purchased by Victor Comptometer in 1967. Victor Comptometer was a successful company that was diversifying their interests. Apparently they liked leisure time equipment manufacturers. They bought Daisy Air Rifles, Heddon Fishing equipment producer; Valley Pool tables; and Bear Archery Company. It was a new broom, and new brooms sweep clean. I was opposed to a sales program that I felt was abandoning the company's core supporters, loyal archery dealers. Further, I was asked to adjust my territory so that some of my major accounts were to be served by Heddon Reps. None of that suited my opinions, so I packed my bags in November 1969 and headed back to Pennsylvania.
Nov 1968 with WI buck.
I honestly believed that the new programs as ordered would create a large opportunity for anyone that would step in to service the archery dealer network. It proved to be that way. My brief case and I headed out on the road as a contract sales rep for Kinsey Archery Products, My Joy, PA; Damon Howatt Bows, Yakima, WA; and Berger Buttons, the latter being a story unto itself. There were other companies I was talking with, but that is where I started.
FA: How many companies had archery sales reps back when you first started?
Lots of companies had salesmen, but I took to the road strictly as a contractor, with no expense to the manufacturer. I can't honestly tell you if anyone ever preceded what I did, but I can say I know of no one else. We had a gent here in PA by name of Clayton Shenk that did sell bows for both Ben Pearson and Fred Bear, and he was not employed by them, but he was expensed by them frequently. He told me so. Further, it was never his sole living income, mine was. My deal was a simple one: I would hunt down an order, book it, send it to the manufacturer, who would fill it and invoice it, provided the dealers credit checked out OK. When the invoice was paid in full, I would get my commission from the manufacturer. It was a "No lose" situation for the manufacturer, so many were willing to talk with me. To protect my ground work I contracted for sole rights to the territories I was working. Every reorder belonged to me as well as the initial order. That was absolutely necessary to make it work out fiscally.
FA: Ok, we are up to around 1970. Was the compound on the scene yet and if so was it very popular?
Wow, the compound bow! That is the biggest thing of my archery life. There is lots to say about it. I must start by backing up to my magazine days. In 1966 Hollis Allen, patent holder of the compound bow, contacted Archery World Magazine (I renamed the magazine from TAM, The Archery Magazine to Archery World in 1966). He wanted a feature article published about his new invention. I agreed to take a look at it but made no promises on publication. He sent a bow to my office in Boyertown. I opened the box, took a long look at it, and was overwhelmed. I quickly decided this needed more expertise than I had. I called my Technical Editor, Tom Jennings in California. Tom had done considerable bow testing in the past and had developed equipment to do testing. Tom did test it, was very excited about its possibilities, did write an article, and I did print it. That was my first exposure to it all. Tom eventually worked out an agreement with Allen to get a license to build compound bows himself. Tom was already a well established bow manufacturer. He made the famous Smithwick Citation bow, which won the world Championship at one time in the hands of Joe Freeze, a California shooter. Tom saw lots of possibilities to improve the limbs and performance of the bow he tested and wrote about.
1971 First home of Jennings Compound Bow, Hollywood, CA.
FA: What was your role in helping get the compound onto the market?
Because of Tom's article, and because of my belief in Tom's opinions about the bow, I continued to pay attention to the progress of the compound bow. Mr. Allen tried to get every bow manufacturer in the country to take on his product and was turned down. Tom was the only established bow maker that was licensed early on. Soon other small companies came on line too, but none of the big companies were willing to take on the task of building and developing the compound bow as a product for themselves. I had a very good friend and dealer in Rochester, New York by name of Dick Vance. Dick was a very intelligent guy that I enjoyed discussing ideas with. We often talked about different things in archery and bow hunting, and the compound bow always came up in those conversations. Shortly after one of our conversations, I was scheduled to travel to Las Vegas to shoot in the U.S. Indoor Open (I turned pro in 1966 and was shooting on the circuit continuously since then). I called Tom Jennings an asked to meet with him in Las Vegas. I wanted to see my old pal for sure, but I also wanted to talk to him about the progress of his bows and sales of them. We met, we talked, we agreed. At the conclusion of the tournament, I traveled to California with Tom in his old beater of a van. We had to stop every now and then to get rid of the front end shimmy. Over a six pack or two, for many years we joked about that trip. I spent the rest of the week at Tom's shop/plant in North Hollywood, California. I stayed with Tom at his home during that visit, so we got to talk and talk about the bow, what possibilities there were for it, what its future might be and so on.
Archery Magazine Editor Roy Hoff with Sherwood and Tom for the Las Vegas Indoor Championship 1974
Tom had put his version of the compound bow into the hands of some very talented shooters, who were already winning tournaments wherever they showed up, including a National Field Archery championship. Which brings up another subject, the bow was doing so fabulously well, that organizations were starting to rule against its use! My own Professional Archers Association had already ruled against it so strongly that it was considered a violation of their code of ethics if a PAA member showed up anywhere and shot the compound bow in competition. That was a ruling that I challenged by shooting the compound bow in the U. S. Open in Las Vegas in 1974 and got ejected from the PAA for it. What a paradox. I was one of the very few members of the PAA who actually made a full time living being a professional archer, and they threw me out. I wrote a strong letter in return telling them that there were two kinds of shooters in the world. There were the ones that already shot the compound and the rest of them that eventually would.
Jim Pickering shooting the new Bear Tamerlane prototype as Sherwood and Owne Jefferies head bowyer look on. 1967
Today the PAA is out of business, while I succeeded in mine. Go figure for yourself. One thing I definitely learned in my week long visit, while I was getting acquainted with the compound bow, how it worked, how it shot, how to take it apart and put it back together, how to tune it and adjust, etc., etc. was that an educational program had to be undertaken. The compound bow was a complex product with great potential. But until the buying community in archery recognized what it was and what it was not, it could not succeed.
FA: I understand you had a program to educate dealers and "Sell" them on the compound bow. Tell us about this.
Immediately after returning to PA from CA I started to put together an idea and a method to educate potential compound bow users. I brought a bow back with me. I took it apart and I put it together, then I did it again. There was no established nomenclature for the bow and how it worked. In order to communicate you need a language. So I set about creating a language. I had learned a great deal about bow tuning and bow shooting in the previous 7 years, even though they were recurves. I learned how to select and make arrows that matched the bow and the shooter. That learned information was invaluable in creating instructions and nomenclature for the compound bow, because no matter what else, the machine had to launch a missile (arrow) to an intended destination (target).
Because of training I got in the military years earlier I was familiar with some the physics involved in calculating stored energy, efficient return of energy, stresses and strains, free flying beams (basically and arrow is a free flying beam), mass in motion, kinetic energy, etc., etc. Here came another chance to put to practice what I had been educated on.
But I needed a language. I home made one. When I put the bow on a scale rig I created (and later sold several thousand to dealers and consumers) I could draw it inch at a time and construct a draw/force curve on graph paper. This was an easy thing to show to folks, as I always had someone from the crowd do the actual measurements while I plotted them on a blackboard I carried with me. Each inch of increased draw provides an increase in draw weight until the cam (eccentric) reaches center fulcrum. The leverage is increased and the bow begins to require less force to continue with the draw. Simple as that. When plotted on the black board, to my eye it looked like the peak of a mountain which dropped off into a valley, and as the eccentric leverage ran out, draw force suddenly stopped relaxing and increased very rapidly, thus a Wall. So my home made language was "peak" weight, "relaxed weight", "Valley" and eventually the "wall". When the eccentric reaches full leverage position, the bow draw is said to be in the "valley"…which is maximum relaxation, and it looks like a valley on the chart. Part of my program showed users how to index the eccentric by putting a piece of tape on the side of the eccentric and then mark it while the bow was in the scale rig. Then when they shot it, they could have someone check to see if they were correctly in the valley. In the next year or so I saw hundreds of bows with tape on the side of the eccentric. Soon manufacturers were stamping eccentrics with index marks permanently in place. And thereby came the language.
Charts help explain the peaks and valleys of the compound bow.
This is not rocket science, and did not take a lot of brain power to put that together, however, to this day that nomenclature is used in instructing and conversing about compound bows. All together at least a dozen words and terms were created to improve communication that is still standard language when talking compound bows.
FA: How did your sales go?
Before the sales, we had to take my "Dog and pony" show on the road. We had to take it to interested parties. I called my program Compound Bow Appreciation, because it was designed to do exactly that. I set up 13 locations in the states that I was traveling as a rep. I then invited every dealer I knew about to come join us for a seminar. I had as few as six, and as many as a full room attend. Tom Jennings had a business partner by name of John Williamson, who had been a ballet dancer. John tore up a knee while performing in Las Vegas. John collected insurance when he became disabled at his profession. He invested with Tom to help get Jennings Compound Bow Company started. John was many things. He was very intelligent (Menza member), was a performer, and had become a very good bow shooter and competitor. John joined me on my first tour to educate dealers. Between us, we stumbled through our training sessions, improving as we went along. After each one we critiqued each other, made notes, and continued to learn while we taught.
Shows consume a reps year and here is Sherwood at yet one more.
I had purchased a chronograph to back up my performance statements. We invited all to bring whatever bow they owned and whatever arrow they used in that bow, and I would shoot that same arrow faster out of my bow at the same peak (there is one of the words…peak) weight as their bow. That was very convincing. Although I started out by saying I would shoot their arrow through the chronograph with my bow, I never did. Instead, I let them shoot my compound bow through the chronograph after they shot their own bow, and that always closed the deal. I won over everyone that ever tried that. I would like to add, that my Compound Bow Appreciation program was later done for me by Larry Wise. Larry is a long time personal friend and I later hired him to do the shows for me because I could not keep up and still work my rep business, which is where my income was at.
Larry Wise with Tom and Sherwood
Larry was and still is a very good bow shooter (both national and world champion…hard to get any bigger than that) and he was also a high school math teacher. With his teaching ability and training, along with his understanding of the physics and principles involved, and his shooting ability, Larry continued to improve and add to the initial program. He eventually wrote several books that are available to this day in the industry and they are well worth the price. I want add, that although the initial show trip was 13 locations, those that attended were asking for more and wanted it directed toward their consumers (my program was directed toward dealer interests mostly). Within the time span of my first dealer show and the next nine months, I probably did my program for several thousand archers and bow hunters. Finally, back to your question, how did the Sales Go? When I tripped to Tom's plant with him in 1971 he had sold 1,200 bows. In the next 15 months, we took orders for 8,500 bows. The less expensive, and easier to use, Model Tee came on the scene two years later and we sold 65,000 of them within 15 months of introduction. Sales went terrific.
FA: How did you know Tom Jennings would be so successful? Tell me about those early days with Tom and what he was like as a business man and bow engineer... Tell me about some of the folks you worked with at the time of these early days of the compound? Who helped you?
Frank, you asked a lot of questions in one question. I did not know if Tom Jennings was going to be successful. I did not know the compound bow was going to be successful. I did not know if I could carry my end of the load. I had faith in all of it, and I had lots of confidence in the whole package, but it was a tough climb. There are many obstacles when a product as new and as undeveloped as the compound bow came along. Every day was another day in development. And with sales increasing so rapidly we had a hard time keeping up with supplies. We got the cables from an aircraft manufacturer near St Louis, and we soon were using more length of cable than the entire aircraft industry. We all have heard the saying "It is hard to remember you came to clean the swamp when you are up to your ass in alligators." Well, we spent lots of days up to our chins in alligators. Tom Jennings is a genius at solving mechanical problems. His focus was there always and he was good at it. Sometimes he and I fought like cats and dogs. For instance, Tom built very heavy mass weight bows. I wanted lighter weight bows, because I was being asked for them by consumers. Further, I was more for form, tom was all for function. He was always mad at me for asking for pretty things. In one of our office meetings I told Tom I knew why he made his bow handles out of aluminum….because he learned that was heavier than concrete! He got so pissed off at me, he went home that night without me. John had to take me home.
At Tom's wedding to Hazel Cavanaugh 1989 with Doug Kittredge and Lou Shine
I still stayed with Tom at his home, where he lived only with his daughter Lisa. His wife was a missing person at that time. She had gone to the grocery store one evening and never returned. I think Lisa was about 17 months old at the time. Tom raised her as a single parent. Anyway, lots of problems came along, but there always came a solution with it on the eleventh hour. Once again, I must say I feel there was always a guiding hand on our shoulders, helping us do what we did. Many things happened that I cannot explain, it certainly must have been destiny.
Tom with his daughter Lisa
FA: How did you find reps for your new venture? Who were some stand outs? Also, name some stand outs as shooters for your products? When I was a kid, Jim Brown was someone I admired because he shot and won tournaments with no sights. He did use a gap system but he was still an early hero to me. Wasn't he a Jennings shooter?
I worked my company alone until 1974. During that time I was constantly on the road, spending usually a week a month at Jennings factory, then back on the road in my territory. I brought two guys in at the same time in November 1974. One was my old pal Henry Fulmer who left Bear to come to me. I had gotten him connected with Bear years earlier and he was very successful with them. He loved archery, bow hunting, and everything that went with it. I tried to pick guys that were not necessarily salesmen, but guys that had a good attitude, loved archery, knew how to shoot a bow very well, and had a competitive nature. Not everyone worked out, some worked for a while, then got either burnt out or worn out. Under my program, a rep worked about 3,000 hours a year. A normal work year is 2,000 hours. So they had to be very dedicated. Reps work weekends much of the time. There were years when I worked 40 weekends a year…weekends is when stores have grand openings and special consumer events, and weekends is when consumer shows take place. State tournaments are on weekends and we maintained a presence. Our life was tough on marriages. I know it sank mine and I know of several other failures for the same reasons.
Sherwood with rep Steve Kaufman
My stand out reps were Steve Kaufman (who now has a very successful rep group of his own) Jim Roe, Larry Smith, and everyone loved Henry Fulmer. At my peak I had 14 reps and 36 states. That was too much to handle at the time. I think with electronic measures available, it would be easier to handle that much area and I could probably do it with less reps. Shooters: There is a bunch of them. The ones that were really special were Jack Cramer, Larry Wise; Ron Lahoun and Jim Brown. There were others in my territory that were very good but only for a short time. Persons not in my territory that were special would have to include Dean Pridgeon from Missourri. They were all Jennings shooters. They were also very special people to me, not only shooters, they were friends.
FA: My father has been in the archery business a long time. You impressed him and that's pretty hard to do. I've often said that you were at the top of the game when you had your own rep group. What made you and your team such stand outs?
First, I am glad I impressed your Dad, he was one of the best at his business too, so I guess we have a mutual admiration society. I don't know for certain if your Dad ever attended one of my early compound bow appreciation seminars but I think he did. There we so many, I can't remember them all. I know they were a milestone in my career; it's the only thing I ever hear much about 10 years after I retired…I quit in 1995. What probably made my group special was attention to detail, something I always found lacking by many others in the business. I insisted upon immediate follow up on every phone call, every request, and insisted upon promptness and courtesy. Further, I made sure every rep knew the lines we had and how to put the products to best use. We worked a formula with accounts. There are three ways to have contact with a customer: 1) phone; 2) personal) 3) mail…now we might consider a fourth and call it electronic. I taught them to build a triangle…lose any side of the triangle and it loses its strength. I asked for balance. We had an annual schedule set up for when we would call, visit, and mail. My good reps followed it. The bad reps had to look for another place to work. I always asked me reps to stand before an account and feel like his manufacturer was standing exactly along side him. I asked for them always to sell quality, benefits and stature, never price. I always told them, nothing is priced too high if it is good enough to command the price. I asked them to live up to that standard as a rep.
FA: .How long were you actively a sales rep/agency owner?
I started my own repping in November 1969 and I pulled the plug in September 1995. I sold the company to some of my sub reps. I wanted them to be able to continue working as always with me gone. They did something then that I still fail to understand. The first thing they did was change the name from Sherwood Schoch Representatives to Premier Reps. We spent 26 years building a strong reputation and a strong following. We had recognition among manufacturers throughout the industry. This may sound egotistical but it sure isn't meant that way. I really didn't care if my name was on the company or not, I was retired. But I think it was a drastic error on their part. It saddens me deeply to this day that within five years they were looking at failure. The company no longer exists. I hear excuses, and things like the industry changed and it was different, but the fact remains many of our competing rep groups, all that followed the path I/we mapped, are still doing business very successfully. The only thing constant is repping is change, I don't think they were mentally prepared to handle the day to day business with manufacturers, in spite of all the training and leadership they had been exposed to.
FA: Jennings was a top company, and seemed to be what all the champions used. I've often said that Tom Jennings was his era's Matt McPherson, that he was an innovator and way ahead of the game. Do you agree?
All you have to do is look at Matt's slogan….Catch me if you can! I love it. That was exactly the way Tom Jennings viewed his products. He resisted patents because he said they were too costly, took up too much time, and his real protection was to stay out in front. Matt is truly a genius and he has one of the industry's very finest working with him in Gary Simonds. Gary engineered for Bear for many decades. Gary also worked with Tom for a dozen years while Jennings was under Bear's umbrella. There are some commonalities.
The Father of the Compound with Sherwood
FA: When Jennings sold out to Bear Archery, what was your impression of that move?
First we must establish, Jennings never sold out to Bear. Bear bought the Jennings label and assets from a bank. The bank got to own Jennings Compound Bow after Jennings lost a patent litigation with Patent holder Allen. That litigation was in court for five years. Jennings contended the patent did not rightfully belong to Allen. The court said it did. The court decided on a very large settlement payable by Jennings to Allen. A law agency showed up at Jennings Valencia plant and padlocked the doors until the assignment was paid. Jennings could not possibly raise the kind of money assigned, so Jennings turned the company assets over to the bank. Jennings compound bow never declared bankruptcy, in spite of rumors to the contrary. It affected me dramatically and financially. At the time of closure my group had commission's receivable in excess of $100,000. We never saw a penny of it. Personally, it came close to sinking me as well. I had already paid about half those commissions to my sub reps. That is a double hit. I paid, did not get paid! I was saved by the fact that although Jennings was a large and valuable part of my business, it was never 50% of my action, even though they were my single largest income. I was repping Six other companies at the time.
Tom, Fred and Sherwood under the shadow of Fred's Bear
FA: What's Tom Jennings doing these days?
Tom Jennings is living on Roatan Island, a property of Honduras. That is about 600 miles southeast of Cancun, Mexico in the southern Caribbean. He and Step Son (his wife Hazel passed away in 2005) built a very lovely resort facility there. It is the sea diving capital of the world I am told and they entertain divers from around the world. It is a very primitive island with no utilities. They have their own diesel generator for power. There is no road access, you can only get there by boat. They have a web site, www.royalplayaroatan.com
FA: Tell me about some people in your career that impressed you. Sherwood, what makes a good archery retailer?
There are many who impressed me but I know most of them for several, yourself included. I have known you for more than 20 years. The folks that stick with it, always loyal to our cause impress me. There will be new ones coming, there is an endless supply. As far as dealers, the best policy that I observed in the past 40 years is honesty, personal warranty (by that I mean they are always available to their customers), and product knowledge. Say it only if you mean it, and stand by your convictions.
A good time with bowhunting great Jim Dougherty on a MI hunt, 1983
FA: You have a project that's dear to your heart there in Pennsylvania. A bowhunter's event. Use this space to tell us the history of that event, some of the people you have had there, and about this year's event.
The Pennsylvania Bowhunters Festival www.pabowhunters.com is celebrating its 50th year in 2006. It is by far the most continuously successful bow hunter's event in the country. I have been to them all, seen them all, and this is the granddaddy of the bunch. The founder was a small archery club in Sullivan County, Pennsylvania, named sul-bow-buck. The Holcombe brothers were largely responsible for its inception. Vel Holcombe developed three dimensional, life size, hand painted targets that looked realistic. They so attracted every bow hunter that saw them, they then decided to hold a club shoot with all 3-D targets, what I believe to be the first in the country. That was in 1954. It was so popular, that by 1956 they took it to the country fair grounds and invited anyone who wanted to come for a slight shooting fee. Thus, the Pennsylvania Bowhunters Festival was born.
Still hunting, still putting bucks down
Dick Holcombe, a creative inventor of moving things, then built a running deer set up that ran off an electric motor and was controlled by an Oldsmobile hydromatic transmission which is still in use with alterations and repairs. About 10,000 arrows are fired at the running deer in a three day event every September. There are a hundred more three dimensional targets set up over 90 acres, and the whole county fairground area is consumed by it. The festival attracts 3,000 registered shooters each year and twice that many spectators who come just to be a part of it and take in the Saturday night show in the main grandstand. You know about it, you were our celebrity personality there two years ago.
We have had Howard Hill, John Smith, Larry Wise, Dutch Wambold, Bob Swinehart, Ben Rodgers Lee, M.R.James, Glenn St.Charles, Stacey Groscup, John Williams (Olympic gold medalist), yourself, and a host of other personalities for benefit of our audience. It is run totally by county volunteers and all proceeds are passed back into the county in form of scholarships, to Fire companies, scouts, little league ball park, ambulance association, civic groups, churches who help with concessions, etc. In its life it has turned almost $1 million back into a county of only 6,000 population. . We will have industry support this year to help celebrate our golden anniversary from Mathews, Hoyt, Easton, and Limb Saver. We have never turned to the industry before this year. Also this year, one of the founders, Dick Holcombe, Sr, who is 90 years of age will receive the coveted Archery Hall of Fame and Museum Karl E. Palmatier award for his creative genius. He will also be receiving a state citation for his achievement, to be presented by state representative Tina Pickett, Saturday night of the event. Yes, it is very dear to me. I have had an active part in it since 1963.
FA: Sherwood, finish this sentence... "Ted Nugent is...."
Ted Nugent with Sherwood
Ted Nugent is a very positive force to all blood brother bow hunters everywhere. His relentless pursuit of what we stand for is unmatched. He is my hero.
FA: Tell me a funny anecdote about Fred Bear.
There are many. Fred was truly a personality. I will tell you about one time while I was helping at Grouse Haven, Fred's hunting camp near Rose City, Michigan. I spent the better part of a month at his hunting camp in October each fall from 1982 through 1986 helping move hunters around and doing whatever duties came up in camp. The persons he invited each year were a mixed bag of dealers, buyers, celebrities, press people, and friends, a total of nearly 60 through the course of each season. We took the hunters out to tree stands about 3 PM and picked them up at dark, about 6:30. That always provide some quiet time during those periods. Fred loved to chat about things. He also liked to trip to one of his favorite lodges nearby on a lake.
It had a bar/restaurant and was a very rustic, neat place. On one occasion he, and his best buddy Bob Munger and I tripped to the lodge during afternoon hunt time. We went in, sat at a table and ordered a couple beers, Bob had Vodka, his favorite. There was a guy sitting at the bar that may have been a pulp cutter or maybe a near by farmer. He looked very outdoors! He kept staring in Fred's direction (something that happened frequently in public places). He must have been certain he knew this tall man in the felt hat. After while, the guy walked over to the table and asked Fred if he was Fred Bear. Fred, without a glimmer of smile, asked the guy, who he was asking for.
The guy repeated asking if he was Fred Bear. Fred calmly replied he had been asked that question before and was curious just who this Fred Bear guy was. The visitor began a litany on who Fred Bear was. Fred chuckled and went along with it all. And finally told the guy he would be watching in case he ever saw the fellow that looked like him. With that the guy went back and took his seat at the bar. We finished our visit, then Fred went to the bar tender, told him he wanted to buy the guy a drink, and gave the bar tender a card to give to the guy. Fred wrote a brief note on the card and we walked out. To this day I wonder what that guy had to say later. But there is a glimpse of Fred Bear and his subtle sense of humor. He was a very special man.
FA: You were lucky enough to share hunting time and camps with Fred Bear. That is awesome. Tell us about that.
Well, I just talked about some of it. Lattimer's book, 'I Remember Papa Bear' tells it just like it was. Fred would gather up the crowd every evening after dinner and tell another of his many stories. It got so I knew the next line that was coming, but nonetheless, I loved every minute of it. Fred always liked to see the deer hung on the game pole and seldom did he miss another one being brought in and hung up. Fred made sure he had a picture taken with everyone that visited Grouse Haven. We set up a spot on a picnic table with a nice autumn backdrop and one at a time each visitor would take a place along side Fred and we would take a photo of them. I took many of them during my time there. Then I would have them developed and let Fred pick the ones he liked well enough to enlarge to 8X10's. Fred would then mount the photos on a board, autograph each and date it, and then put a poly finish on it and send it to the person he was photographed with. Fred did this work himself. He treated every person like they were somebody because to Fred, they were somebody.
With Papa Bear and astronaut Gen. Joe Engle
He was that kind of a gentleman. Fred slept in his own little cottage out behind the main lodge building where we all ate. We had a full time cook and had superb meals. We had happy hour every evening before dinner with lot of great snack. Shrimp was one of the favorites. One time we had a guest that loved pizza. Fred had me go pick up a pizza in late afternoon and deliver it right to the tree stand at exactly the best hunting hour. At the time I had a Cadillac El Dorado and Fred asked if I minded delivering the pizza to the tree stand in the Cadillac. I drove the caddy right up to the ladder to the stand, got out, climbed up with the pizza and departed, and Fred had another chuckle. During Fred's last year there, Bob Munger and I set up a special tree stand for Fred. It was an active spot, and was easy to get to. So Fred did climb into it. I hauled his oxygen bottle up to him and hung it on a tree step where he could get at it easily. I took a picture of that and still have it. It was only a snap shot by a cheap throw away camera but I can assure you it was the last tree stand Fred ever sat. I also have a similar snap shot of his last ground blind. Hap Fling, his long time sales manager set it up for Fred and I went along out when Hap delivered Fred to the blind. Neither arr good photos but they are the real thing. That was the last year Fred was to Grouse Haven.
FA: Tell me your favorite quote:
To Hell with the torpedoes, full speed ahead….
FA: Ok Sherwood, tell me what your legacy to the sport of archery is....
Most things I ever did in archery were things I should have done. Doing them was my job. I worked hard, did have ideas that worked, stuck with it, but most of us did. It was expected of us and we were paid to do it. Few know the whole story except myself, and I have told much of it earlier in the interview. Hollis Allen spent years trying to get the industry to recognize and accept his patented product, the compound bow. It really was not going anywhere. After Tom Jennings started building compounds, and some shooters did so very well with it, people did begin to take notice…but not all of it was good. Archery associations began to law against it use, saying it wasn't really a bow. Many states hunting regulators saw it as a contraption that wasn't really a bow. Some were writing hunting rules and laws to forbid its use. My own state of Pennsylvania, the state with the most bow hunting license sales, was one of them.
The Incredibles - astronaut Gen. Joe Engle, Tom Jennings, Papa Bear, Gen Chuck Yeager and Sherwood.
And this is where my true legacy begins, if I have one. The educational seminar I took to the road and to retailers throughout the east, truly turned the industry around. The momentum that one year of special promotion caused set the whole industry on alert. Let us recall that Tom Jennings was building bows for five years and had sold only 1,200 from 1967 through 1971. Reps and dealers everywhere were begging their preferred manufacturers to get on the band wagon. I got attention that gave birth to the compound bow period in archery history. We took orders for 8,500 bows the first year, and 16,000 bows the second year after my shows. My program continued for several years. I took it to archery clubs, and game commissions, and game law regulators, always trying to enlist support. Sometimes I got it, sometimes I did not. In the end, everyone got the message, and you all know the rest of the story. I think if not for the educational program that I took to the road in 1972 the path of the compound bow would have been greatly altered from what is now historically proven.
Obviously I needed the product, I needed support, I needed help, all of which was given to me. No one does anything like this alone. But what I did in that summer of 1972 set the industry in a new direction. And now that I have established myself as a legend in my own mind, I want to add to it that almost anywhere in this country if you use my name along with $2.50 you can probably buy a draft beer.
FA: Any advice you care to give to anyone who is thinking about getting into the archery business as a dealer, rep or shooter to make a living?
Get ready for a long, hard climb. Yes, it can be done. Yes, it will take dedication and commitment. The industry is a rather small one and don't expect the kind of rewards from it persons may get in baseball, football, basketball, tennis, and many more. But the rewards are there. Be ready to accept change and move quickly with it so you don't get left out. Stay educated on what is going on in the industry. Tune in to Web sites like bowhunting.net, read archery magazines, go to archery functions. Many of the most successful persons I know of were very good bow shooters. This is not an absolute prerequisite, but it sure helps. Wanting to use the equipment properly and successfully is great motivation to learn. And, never stop learning.
FA: This space is for you to leave us with any parting words of wisdom.
Perhaps it is not wisdom but I feel I have something I need to to say. During my time in the industry I met and loved hundreds of people. I was always warmly received. However, most of the people I was associated with in the industry know nothing about me except the years I was present at archery events and functions. And that is totally understandable, why should they know? I continue to feel I was destined to do what I did. I feel that my whole life was pointed in one direction. Each phase was a stepping stone to the next phase, and at each new phase I had to recall heavily upon my prior phases. I started hunting and trapping at a very early age.
My first true attraction that I can recall was Robin Hood's bows and arrows. I learned to shoot archery equipment with only a few other persons around involved to help. Because of the Draft that was in existence in my late teen years, I joined the U.S. Navy so as not to be drafted into the army, at the suggestion of my uncle, who served throughout WWII in the Navy. In the Navy I kept a clean slate and soon was moving up the ladder.
LTJG with the F8U Crusader he flew to join the Chance Vought 1,000 mpg Club, May, 1961
I earned a meritorious appointment to The Naval Air Training program in 1958 at Pensacola, Florida. While there finished third in my class of 168 cadets during basic ground training. I continued on into flight training and continued to climb the ladder of success. At each stage, only the top graded cadets got to move up to the most valued positions. I was fortunate enough to get into the first full jet training program the Navy ever offered during basic training. Thirteen were selected out of hundreds. After 260 hours of jet flight training, I successfully qualified aboard the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Antietam, being in he first class to ever do so. I then was promoted to more advanced jet fighters in Kingsville, Texas. I qualified a second jet aircraft aboard the carrier four months after the first. Again I earned a move up and only 7 moved ahead to the final stage of advanced, high performance jet fighter training. In January o6 1960 I earned my Navy Wings of Gold and was commissioned Ensign. During all the latter and advanced training stages we were schooled in bombing, rocketry, missiles, and gunnery. Ground school went with it. We had many classes in physics, principles of flight, and aerodynamics.
Although I did not realize it at the time, I was learning lots about how to direct and stabilize a free flying beam….an arrow. In 1963 I left the Navy and became a civilian again. In early 1964 I began shooting a bow competitively. I spent lots of time trying to calculate the best possible way to stabilize an arrow leaving the bow. With the help of many, I did learn how to do it. I used Earl Hoyt's Pro Flex Rest which offered features that later gave birth to the creation of the cushion plunger. I learned how to weight alter arrow points, how to adjust center of gravity location on arrows (beam), How that affected stabilization as the arrows passed the bow window. I was given an idea by Gil Frey of Gaithersburg, MD, on how to use a bare paper test. To my knowledge, Gil developed that system of his own doings. It was one of the things I later used in my compound bow seminars, again calling back on a stepping stone. Today I am not sure who lays claim to that idea, but I credit Gil, a creative tinker who loved archery. My own learned shooting skills came in handy to do the testing and developing of each new idea. Eventually the compound came along and all that I had learned and been schooled on came into use. So that is why I feel destiny put me here. Every part of the puzzle fits in my mind. And here in my seventh decade, I am still putting it all to use. I will be setting up my new hunting bow, with new arrows, with new broad heads this week. I will be employing and drawing back on the whole package. It has been a good trip.
FA: Thanks Sherwood my friend. I'll leave you with this. If you could have one dream hunt anywhere with anyone from the sport, past or present, who would be around the campfire with you and where would it be...
With life long friend and hunting partner Bob Fratzke 2004
My dream hunt would be with my best hunting pal, Bob Fratzke. I almost always bowhunted in twos. If I was adding more, of course I would have Mr. Bear himself, and blood brother Nuge. I will not go any farther because there are hundreds who earned that next spot and I don't want to leave anyone feeling badly.