November 04, 2010
This innovator won't appear with many trophy animals on TV or in magazines, but his bows will.
Few bowhunters would recognize him. In a hunting camp, on the street, or walking his own factory floor, he wouldn't typically elicit a second look, even from those bowhunters who faithfully use the products he creates. It's highly unlikely you'll see him on television grinning over a freshly arrowed big game animal, or in the pages of a hunting magazine. Although he has had a huge impact on archery and bowhunting, he keeps a very low profile.
That's exactly the way Matt McPherson likes it.
"I don't care to be well-known. I'd rather be sitting in a café somewhere and overhear a bowhunter talk about how much he likes his Mathews bow," said McPherson, 51, founder of Mathews Solocam. "I didn't set out to make the most bows, or to make the most money making bows. I wanted to make the best bows.
"Money is secondary to me. That's a function of my upbringing. While growing up, we didn't have a lot of money and we were always worried about losing what we had. I grew to hate the stuff, because we always needed it."
The second of seven kids, Matt McPherson was the son of a pastor who liked to hunt.
Curiously, his mother hated guns, so to keep Mom happy, the clan took to hunting with bows and arrows.
"Dad would take my brother Randy and me into the woods, and I loved it," McPherson recalled. "Because we couldn't afford to buy a lot of things, I had to learn to make my own. When I discovered I could get a bow-making kit from Bingham Archery, I was ecstatic.
"Eventually, I started making my own compound bows in junior high shop class, using a lathe to fashion the wheels. It took off from there. In fact, in the December 1973 issue, Bowhunter Magazine had a photo of me with the first-ever compound with recurve limbs. I was 16 years old. I built my first compound bow about 1970."
McPherson designed bows all through junior and senior high school in shop class, and he also worked at a body shop where he learned about creating lines and artistic shapes.
Eventually, his passion grew into the largest bow company in the world in terms of gross sales.
But he does not forget his roots. Several years ago, after being invited to Las Vegas to receive an industry award, he contacted his junior high and senior high school shop teachers and took them along. You see, they were his only formal education. No engineering degrees hang on McPherson's office wall. He had no college education at all.
"I've always had an aptitude for engineering. I learn by seeing much more than by reading. I see things like a cam design in 3-D vision, and I'm able to rule out a tremendous amount of engineering before I even get to the computer. Then I just put down what's already in my head. I'm also a guy who doesn't settle for good enough," McPherson explained.
The list of innovations borne of that vision is long. When asked which gives him the most satisfaction, the answer comes swiftly.
Matt McPherson and his wife, Sherry, are deeply committed Christians who support more than 150 indigenous missionaries in Africa, Romania, and Russia, as well as other humanitarian causes.
"The Solocam design," he answered. "That's the one that stands out for me."
That, then, brings up an obvious question: Why is Mathews making a two-cam bow in 2009?
"Well, I've been making two-cam bows longer than single-cam bows, since 1970," he said with a set-the-record-straight tone. "I'm always keeping a close eye on the industry, and I've often thought I could make a faster two-cam bow than what was out there. Then someone else did. So, I said to myself, 'Alright, game on!'"
The result of that self-initiated challenge is a new bow line, the McPherson Series, and its inaugural bow, the Monster. This full-blown two-cam bow, built for speed, features AVS, an acronym for Advanced Vectoring System, a cam design protected by a 60-page patent.
"I knew we'd take some grief for coming out with a two-cam bow," McPherson conceded. "But I felt we could do it better than anyone else, and I think we've done that. Additionally, our dealers wanted to be able to offer their customers a two-cam option. Still, I know single cams are a superior product."
McPherson, who designs all the cams himself, also spent a lot of time building more speed into his single-cam bows for 2009. The new Reezen is the fastest single-cam bow available. Of course, arrow speed demands a price, usually in the form of a more radical draw-force curve, a lower brace height, and the general "hand shock" common to high-speed bows.
"Personally, I think arrow speed is highly over-rated, but some archers seek it, so we try to give it to them," McPherson said.
"Technically we're reaching the apex of efficiency, simply defined as energy in versus energy out," McPherson pondered. "I never thought we'd see the efficiency we are seeing today. We're excited when we add a half percent. Of course, we're splitting hairs here, but my goal is to be as efficient as possible."
What about limb materials? Can these be improved to increase speed?
"The best limb material today is glass. There's "E" glass and the more expensive "S" glass, and we use both to varying degrees, with a combination of the two in our high-end bows. If there was a better material out there, I'd be using it.
"In fact, the Holy Grail of chemistry right now is to synthesize spider web material! If that could ever be done it would revolutionize many industries, including ours, because of its tremendous strength-to-weight ratio," McPherson said with a faraway look in his eye.
Socially, Matt Mcpherson is doing more than his share to ensure the future of archery and bowhunting. McPherson is passionate about the National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP), and Centershot Ministries, which will teach archery to more than one million youngsters in 2009, and the long-term affect is already being documented. In Kentucky, the state where NASP was first introduced in schools, the sale of youth bows has taken a noticeable jump. Kids are getting into archery and s
ome are sticking with it.
"We know NASP works, but it is becoming a little frustrating," McPherson mused with some trepidation. "Lots of people talk a good game when it comes to promoting archery and youth recruitment, but few are actually doing something. It almost seems they're content to sit back and watch me invest in the future. I've given well over $1.5 million of my own money to NASP. My goal is to get more of the industry to work with this program. It's changing their future also!"
Because Matt McPherson keeps such a low profile, few know about his hunting interests or even if he bowhunts. So here's the scoop.
"I'm a deer hunter at heart," McPherson admitted. "However, I've taken elk, bear, coyotes, squirrels, raccoons, and chipmunks (ha), etc., but I love to hunt deer. I've taken some good bucks, but I've never had one officially scored. I love the process of hunting, but it's not my goal to be the next great hunter. Sitting in a treestand is refreshing to me.
It helps clear my head. I've also been able to work out complex bow designs in my head while still enjoying the entire hunting experience."
A deeply committed Christian, Matt McPherson believes in sharing the hard-earned fruits of his labors. At this writing, he and his wife, Sherry, support more than 150 indigenous missionaries in Africa, Romania, and Russia. They also donate to organizations that build churches and even help provide clean water to parts of the world that can't take it for granted as we do here in America.
"What drives me is knowing someone, somewhere, is happier today because of something we have been a part of. And because I hated money growing up, it's much easier for me to give it away to such causes," McPherson said with considerable thought.
"It doesn't make me feel like a great person. It makes me feel like a fortunate person. A lot of people have the heart to do the same thing. They just don't have the means to do it.
"Someone once told me, 'Be faithful in the little things and you'll be trusted with much.' I've tried to stay true to that statement."
So, the next time you're in a café bragging up your Mathews bow, or at the pro shop making sure everyone in earshot knows how much you like your Reezen, Hyperlite, DXT, Drenalin or Monster, look around. If you see a guy who's keeping to himself but wearing a satisfied grin on his face, it could be Matt McPherson.
If, instead, you have a problem, or you're looking for some new innovation in a bow, look around quickly because that same guy could be headed out the door with a three-dimensional vision of a solution to your problem floating around in his head.