I was glued to the station wagon window as
we cruised up highway 75 that beautiful October afternoon in 1955. With
my handstitched leather backquiver full of handsome natural turkey feathered
cedar arrows and my little Osage longbow placed strategically against the side
window for all to see, I was constantly checking every other northbound vehicle
for evidence of a fellow bowhunter.
When another quiver of arrows or bow
was sighted, a smiling face and friendly wave of hands indicated the ever
growing BloodBrotherhood of SpiritWild bowhunters in my homestate of
Michigan in those early days
of the sport. Even at the tender age of seven, I was already hyper giddy about
allthings bows and arrows and outdoors and critters. The powerful
healing qualities of the Good Mother Earth had already entered my bloodstream
way back then, and even young Ted knew he was onto something bigger than life.
The smell and taste of the autumn air, a primal scream within, the exploding
colors, a palpable eagerness of entering the big timber of Up North, the
titillating possibility of actually encountering a whitetail deer in the
mystical forest, and the dream of actually coming to fulldraw, and maybe, just
maybe, sending my arrow into the beast. WOW! It was all a bit too much for this
young American Dreamer. But dream I did.
If ever I was in
danger of self implosion, it all came to a DefCom1emotional high when my dad
wheeled the old Ford Country Squire into the little gravel parking lot of the
small, garage like white prefab shop on the edge of the woods outside Grayling
Michigan. I could hardly stand it, for inside would be a figure larger than
life itself; the tall, lanky, gentleman, living legend of the fall and
allthings mystical flight of the arrow, the one and only Fred Bear. We made it a
point to stop and visit with Fred each October, and he generously showed us all
his newfangled archery inventions and contraptions that took my fascination with
archery, bowhunting and nature to an ever intensifying higher level.
I remember his
excitement and the constant experimentation with his obsession for a better Bear
Razorhead, the first Bear bow riser cutting machine, the pungent aroma of
cooking glass and wood in the makeshift laminating presses, goo and glue oozing
out from delicately arched, beautiful wooden composite recurve bowlimbs. And of
course the ever tantalizing taxidermy mounts of stunning big game animals from
around the globe. It was sensual overload for sure, and the fact that Fred
was so hospitable and friendly made every visit so very special as to have a
huge guiding impact on my life forever. Ya think?
Eventually, fate would put my
dad, Warren Henry Nugent, and Fred into a business relationship where my father
sold Swedish blue-tempered, rolled spring steel to Fred for use in producing the
bleeder blades for Bear Razorheads. Dad even got to join Fred on annual Bear
bowhunts Up North. How cool is that?
Often, we would all go to the Grayling
Restaurant and have lunch with Fredís and my favorite cherry pie and milk for
desert. You donít think these memories remain a driving force in my life, do
Fred and Ted. Two true Friends of the Wild.
Well, life rolls on,
and though I never missed a hunting season through the years, I rarely kept in
touch with Fred. Upon graduating from high school and embarking on a nonstop
touring schedule with my rock-n-roll band the Amboy Dukes, I finally made it a
point to stop in Grayling in the fall of 1967 to visit with my hero and role
model once again. We would visit on and off during the tumultuous, nonstop
rock-n-roll touring years.
Fred was at first somewhat suspicious of the maniacal
music world in which I dominated between hunting seasons. After awhile, he came
to understand that the uninhibited intensity of my hardcore musical performances
and imagery were completely harmless. In fact, Fred was intelligent and
sophisticated enough to come to grasp and appreciate the vital dynamic of my
constantly promoting conservation and the discipline of the shooting sports
in my unabashed energetic style to this critical youthful demographic via my
music career. Magnified by my militant stance against drugs, alcohol, tobacco
and other such irresponsible behavior, and my consistently standing up for
family values and environmentalism as best I could, Fred came to be a major
supporter. We both knew how important it was to stand for the right things,
particularly as a celebrity in the otherwise leftwing world of
entertainment. Unfortunately, many in the shooting sports were too stupid to
figure it out.
Fred and I carried on anyway.
A powerful highlight in my life
was the invitations from Fred to join him and his Bear Archery associates at his
beloved Grousehaven Hunting Lodge in Rose City, Michigan each fall. It was a
laid back, casual affair, where like minded bowhunters in the industry would
share a campfire with their hero and mentor. I seldom actually hunted and never
killed a deer on these hunts, as I was hopelessly committed to spend as much
time as possible with Fred. He didnít really hunt much in the years after 1985
or so, and we were able to hang out together more and more back at camp to talk
and discuss the state of world affairs, hunting and bowhunting in general, but
most importantly, specifically about the ever metastasizing cultural war
against our cherished hunting rights.
It was on our last
hunt together there in October of 1987, to be his last hunt at
CampEarth, that our
BloodBrother bond and friendship culminated in the closest time ever spent
together. It was truly moving. Fred was an exceptionally bright,
witty, sophisticated entrepreneur, and surely this superior level of awareness
showed him the ugly anti-hunting writing on the wall way before anyone else that
was growing toxic antiAmerican steam as early as the 1950ís.
Those of us who
knew Fred were well aware of his serious concern for the attack against manís
God given rights and our natural, spiritual relationship with nature. His
hardcore dedication to fight against the animal-rightís terrorists was
gathering support each year. We talked of this new war often, and his brilliant
take on it guided all who were privileged to hear his wisdom and smart enough to
assist. In a nutshell, he knew the hunting community and industry simply had to
fight back by beginning to communicate the heart and soul of hands-on
conservation, our wonderful wildlife management successes and to emphasize
the natural tooth, fang and claw of the real world of nature in a friendly,
sincere, believable fashion to all we possibly could at every opportunity. Ya
On this last hunt
together, strolling along the most stunning wilderness road, autumn leaves aglow
with great spirit, skies alive with migrating waterfowl and a tangible taste of
nature in all her glory in the forest air, Fred and I talked. With his ever
present oxygen bottle at his side and that trademark hat slightly tilted on his
head, Fred told me how much he appreciated my standing up for hunting and gun
rights, and to keep doing exactly what I was doing. He emphasized the pivotal
importance of my penetrating a youthful demographic with the unique energy and
passion of my musical career and imagery, and for me to ignore my critics who
just donít get it.
Without question, this moment in my life touched me deeply,
and guides my dedication to fight constantly as I do to this very day almost 20
years later. In fact, it was Fredís sincere vote of confidence in my approach
to promoting conservation and the shooting sports that guided me to create our
beloved Ted Nugent Kamp for Kids charity as the specific vehicle by which other
dedicated sporters could join forces to reach out to the kids who need
discipline and nature the most. Going into our 17th year, this 501C3 nonprofit
charity has cleansed the souls of thousands of kids and their families to be
better Americans, better sporters, better conservationists, better hunters,
better bowhunters, and to be a force of positive peer pressure to reckon with.
All in the name of Fred Bear. I am certain Fred would be proud.
I shoot my bow
everyday within sight of old Bear recurves and Bear cedar arrows, many of which
bear the signature of my hero. My precious daughter Sasha recently created a
most moving photo album for a special Fatherís Day gift that includes photos of
Fred and I from way back when. Powerful stuff. I sense the presence of the great
man everyday in my life. He remains a guiding light in many aspects of my life.
Every arrow I shoot, every interview I conduct, every child I teach archery to,
Fred is at my side. Like the song sayís, ďIn the wind, heís still alive.Ē
Nugent - American Rock at its Best!
For the ultimate
history of the great Fred Bear, Fredís longtime friend and employee, Dick
Lattimer has written a brilliant book, ďI REMEMBER PAPA BEARĒ that I highly
recommend. It can be ordered by calling iHunt Communications at 866-837-3135 or
original 1990 book, BLOODTRAILS-THE TRUTH ABOUT BOWHUNTING
has been newly edited and reissued! It is
loaded with more than 100 bowkill stories to educate and motivate. For information or to order this book visit TedNugent.com or call Toll Free 800-343-4868.