March 22, 2022
By Jeff Waring
As the Bowhunter Magazine & TV team heads into its 18th season of video field production, it’s the perfect time to look back and count our many blessings when it comes to our sponsors, partners, and friends — the folks who have made it possible for us to enjoy success in the field.
Without a doubt, our bowsight sponsor, Spot Hogg, from Harrisburg, Oregon, has been a rock-solid contributor to countless great days afield, whether during preparation and practice, or on hunts across this great country, or even far-flung international adventures.
As any hunting archer can attest, there’s no better feeling than arriving at a hunt destination, pulling the bow out of the case, giving everything the once-over, and then sending an arrow downrange, spot on. A bowhunter with confidence that his sight picture is true, is a happy bowhunter, and one who is far better equipped to succeed. Add to that the security of knowing a bombproof accessory is attached to the bow makes things even more comforting, especially with the knowledge that at some point even the most conscientious hunter likely will be removing grass and sticks and even caked-on mud from tackle.
While Spot Hogg didn’t get its official start until the late-‘90s, the popular brand’s story began much earlier when machinist Steve Johnson developed a thumb-activated, relaxed release aid called the Cascade. He had teamed up with fellow freestyle shooter and bowhunter Ron Miller on the concept, and Steve began to build the release in themachine shop where he worked while Ron helped market and promote the release on the range.
The enterprise quickly became a full-fledged family effort with Steve and wife, Gloria, running the operation from the kitchen table and back of the garage, while sons Cabe and Josh helped keep an eye on their younger siblings, Logan and Quin. While initially the family was able to keep up with Ron’s word-of-mouth sales effort, eventually orders began to outpace production, and when Steve came up with the Premiere arrow rest design to replace the old flipper rest of the time, it became clear that bigger things were in store. Steve bought out Ron’s share and soon the family was staffing a booth at the Vegas Shoot.
That’s where Bowhunters Hall of Famer Freddie Troncoso from Golden Key-Futura first caught sight of the Premiere rest, stuffed it in his pocket, and pulled Steve aside. In short order, they came to an agreement where Steve’s Center Spot machining would build archery accessories for Golden Key, and that outstanding arrow rest was renamed the Golden Premiere.
Before long the Johnson family took out a loan, bought a used CNC machine, and moved to the outskirts of Harrisburg into a little farmhouse to start up shop and build products. Their first order was for 5,000 units. “Dad and Mom were blasting away in the shop while Cabe and I helped with assembly and kept an eye on our brothers,” Josh told me. “And the next thing we knew we had a 10,000-unit order come in! Steve needed to get help, and he turned to local lumber mill legend Arlin Brewer. From that point on, things really started hopping, and Steve had to hire another machine shop operator, and then additional folks to help with assembly. Before long, there were a half-dozen folks working for them, and they had to add an evening shift, and then a midnight shift, just to keep up with orders.
The Premiere rest series had expanded to the Rover, Platinum Premiere, Super Star, Ultra Trac, Spring Master and more, and led to a host of other archery accessories, all marketed under the Golden Key brand. And by the mid-‘90s, the Johnson Family had to move their operation into a bigger facility in Harrisburg proper.
Everything was moving along smoothly, and according to their agreement, until around 1998, when Steve Johnson took his idea for the first consumer-targeted shooting machine to the folks at Golden Key. A diehard archer, Steve built his original shooting machine so that he could measure bow performance. What he discovered was a game-changer for bow-tuning, but the folks at Golden Key were not interested, so the Hooter Shooter was the first product released under the Spot Hogg brand, and it remained the sole product for five years or so.
“Up until that point, we were kind of invisible,” Josh Johnson confided, “because although we were designing and building products, we were marketing solely through Golden Key.” But Steve Johnson wasn’t done creating innovative, problem-solving archery tackle, nor products that would challenge the Golden Key team’s vision.
“Cabe was working in the shop, and I was still in school, but we were hunting a lot,” Josh continued. “And we were breaking stuff.” Seeing firsthand what his sons were doing to archery gear, Steve set out to build a better bowsight that would stand up to the punishment. He soon introduced the Hogg-It, a ruggedly constructed bowsight that the Golden Key folks also passed on because they thought it was too expensive.
Now with two solid products, Steve hired Doug Shanklin to attend trade and consumer shows and events to promote the Spot Hogg brand. With Cabe continuing to help in the shop and Josh beginning to take on some marketing assignments, the team soon was overwhelmed with calls to fulfill product orders.
By the early 2000s, the Golden Key operation was in transition, and the Spot Hogg brand entered a new chapter, handling not only manufacture but sales of the Premiere line of rests. “We had to change some of the product names,” Josh explained, “but we produced everything but the prongs anyway. Fortunately, we were able to locate and purchase the remaining parts and moved forward with Premiere series rests, the Hooter Shooter, and the Hogg-It sight.
Like their father, the Johnson boys enjoyed shooting competitively, and given the tuning insights gained from their Hooter Shooter, Cabe and Josh soon proved quite successful. “We’d mastered various tuning techniques and, frankly, we were employing some mechanical advantages that other folks didn’t know about,” Josh confided. “That’s about the time I headed over to Wayne Endicott’s famous Bow Rack to shoot leagues, and incidentally that’s also where I first met Cameron Hanes.” Soon Wayne was shooting a Hogg-It sight and stocking Spot Hogg products, and that relationship proved to be tremendously positive.
“Our time on the shooting line taught us that folks want options; they don’t always want the top model, or the most expensive — but they always want the most durable,” Josh said.
It was that inspiration that led Josh to an idea for a new sight, and his dad was more than happy to take on the design challenge. Steve soon had a prototype in hand. “This is the strongest sight you’ll ever see,” he told Josh. Then his son put it on the ground and stomped on it and broke it. Undaunted, Steve picked up the pieces and headed back to the shop. Weeks later he showed up with an improved design, and try as he may, Josh just couldn’t break it. “That was The Real Deal,” Josh told me, “And it had micro-adjust, too!” Now that was a sight built for a new breed of Western bowhunter. Cam Hanes wanted to shoot that sight!
From The Real Deal came a number of similar models — a complete line — starting with the Hunter, the Hoggernaut, Hogg Father, Tommy Hogg, Boss Hogg, and eventually leading to products like the The Grinder and Fast Eddie sights.
The Bowhunter Magazine & TV team began working closely with the folks at Spot Hogg around 2009, when Founder Steve Johnson was stepping back and Cabe and Josh were beginning to assume leadership of the operation. Without a doubt, it has been our pleasure to watch this dynamic team add to the Spot Hogg legacy, with more and more innovative products in the sights, rests, and release aid categories, not to mention revolutionary advances like their new Triple Stack aperture. As the brand heads toward its 25th Year, we offer a heartfelt tip of the Bowhunter cap!