May 25, 2021
The number of people who have made a positive impact on my life are too numerous to mention. The great Fred Bear is one of them.
The first time I read “Fred Bear’s Field Notes,” I was blown away. As a boy, it was the only book I couldn’t put down, and one that I read over and over. His stories just made sense to me, and I could relate to Fred’s excitement over seeing amazing things afield. Fred had an amazing way of telling stories about the hunt, but also about the places he went and the people he met. His passion for archery and bowhunting sparked a fire in me.
I first met Fred Bear at the Gainesville Mall in Florida, when he was signing copies of “Field Notes.” I was nine years old, and my mom said the only thing I told her was that Fred was very nice, but older than I thought he would be.
The next time I met Fred Bear was at his archery range in Gainesville. I was shooting an old used bow with my dad, and I walked up to him. Despite being with other people, Fred stopped what he was doing and signed that bow for me, which made me feel special for a second time.
The third time I saw him was at Shands Hospital in Gainesville. He was walking with his wife, Henrietta. He looked frail and was wheeling an oxygen tank that helped him breathe. I walked up and said, “Really good to see you, Mr. Bear, I enjoy your videos and books.” He thanked me, shook my hand, and started a conversation with me. Again, he made me feel special. Sadly, Fred passed away not long after that.
As many know, one of my first jobs in the archery industry was working at Bear Archery. I worked in the pro shop and gave tours through the museum. I also put mineral oil on the claws and noses of Fred’s animals, and got to touch the polar bear, grizzly bears, brown bears, black bears, and even the Bengal tiger Fred shot in India. I knew the stories behind the animals, and even had some unpublished information that Frank Scott had shared with me.
I proudly wore my nametag. It represented a man who had a dream of introducing people to the joys of shooting and hunting with a bow. Fred was a great representative of the sport and helped grow it into what it is today. I can’t imagine how many others he impacted. He also surrounded himself with some great people, and I got to work with many of them, like Frank Scott, Bob Munger, Joe White, and others at Bear Archery.
Although Frank Scott had given me a Bear Custom Kodiak recurve when I left Bear Archery, I started my serious traditional shooting with a Palmer recurve and used it to take the Super Slam. Then I shot a Hoyt for years, and helped Hoyt design the Buffalo and the Satori. I recently came full circle and started shooting a Bear recurve again.
For my first few animals, I hunted with the original magnesium B riser that was almost 50 years old, and new Bear 40-pound takedown limbs. It just felt neat to be using the takedown latch that Fred had designed.
My first goal was to take an elk with it. When a big cow elk came by at just over 20 yards, I drew and released. The Muzzy-tipped arrow buried deep in the cow’s chest, and she only went about 80 yards before dropping. It was a special moment for me: Coming full circle and taking an animal with a Bear recurve that combined old and new. I am tickled to see Bear Archery remembering their namesake and continuing to honor him by republishing Fred’s “Field Notes,” and by reintroducing the old metal riser and calling it the Mag riser out of tradition. The first ones were magnesium, but the new ones are aluminum.
I hope we all strive to impact others’ lives in a positive manner, just as Fred Bear did for so many people. I know that I will continue doing my part by introducing as many people as I can to the great outdoors and our hunting lifestyle.
For more information, visit fredeichler.com, and don’t miss Fred’s new show, “Everything Eichler,” every Sunday at 12:30 P.M. on Sportsman Channel.