Skip to main content

Why Fred Bear Is the Greatest Bowhunter of All Time

Fred-Bear

Few names are as synonymous with bowhunting and the outdoor industry as Fred Bear's.

Widely considered "the Father of Bowhunting," Bear's legend has only grown with time due to his unmatched skills in the field, as well as his role in creating one of the leading bowhunting companies in the world.

No bowhunter has ever influenced the sport as much as Bear did, and it's likely no hunter ever will.


Born March 5, 1902, in Waynesboro, Pa., Bear originally set out to work for the automotive industry in Detroit, but turned his attention to the great outdoors after being inspired by the great Art Young and his film, Adventures in Alaska. In 1933, Bear was still in Detroit producing advertising materials for auto companies, but made archery an after-hours trade, learning to craft his own bows, arrows and strings. Soon enough, that after-hours project would become Bear Archery.


Bear became a pioneer in the archery world, earning patents for tools like the Razorhead broadhead, the modern shooting glove, fiberglass bow backings and the bow quiver, tools that are used by bowhunters around the world.

Perhaps one of Bear's most impressive inventions was the Take-Down traditional bow, a design that took 20 years for Bear to perfect, beginning in 1947 until its debut in 1967, during which time Bear field-tested numerous prototypes until he was satisfied with a product that would be affordable to the average bowhunter.

"You need to make sure you're listening to the customer, and Fred Bear listened to the customer as good as anybody," said Neil Byce, director of operations for Bear Archery.

"If you walk through the facility today, you'll see on the walls ... Fred Bear's 10 Commandments, and we still live by them today," said Jack Bowman, president of Bear Archery. "And we do believe that the customer is No. 1."


Along with helping design and produce revolutionary archery products, Bear proved himself to be one of the top archers in the country, taking Michigan's target archery championship in 1934, 1937 and 1939. Bear made a name for himself in the Great Lakes State, helping to create Michigan's first bowhunting season in 1937, prompting other states to follow suit.

"He was a guy that had a way to mold politics and nature in a way that he didn't offend anybody," said Don Dvoroznak, CEO of Ripcord Arrow Rest. "He was a gentleman at everything he'd ever done. He was respected. He was looked upon as a man of honor, and I think that ethical way that he promoted the sport, and the ethical way that he showed the sport when he started filming I think was very instrumental in the way it's carried on today. I think he set the stage for doing it right."

Bear's bowhunting prowess would also break grounds cinematically. In 1942, Bear traveled to the Upper Peninsula with Jan Van Coevering of the Detroit Free Press. Van Coevering brought a movie camera along for the hunt, and Bear became the first Michigan bowhunter to take a whitetail on film. The footage would later be used for Bear's first hunting film, making him a household name.


"He understood getting it out there and showing people how it was done, and the excitement and the thrill of being in the woods, was a way to get people involved," Byce said. "And then, of course, when he videoed some of his large game that he took from Alaska — like his brown bear — just awesome video, and people really thought that was the pinnacle of what they might be able to do. Fred Bear led the way in videos and going to tournaments, being a tournament winner, and also being an innovator in products."

Over the years, Bear would become an international bowhunting legend, tackling all manner of dangerous game with his trusty bow and arrow. Bear broke six different archery world records for various big game species — Alaskan brown bear, barren-ground caribou, mountain caribou, Canada moose and stone sheep.

His hunting prowess also proved deadly to more elusive species around the world. In 1963, he took a Bengal tiger during a trip to India. The following year, Bear dropped a 4-ton elephant at 40 yards during a trip to Africa. He returned to Africa in 1965, taking the second male lion ever shot with a bow and arrow — the first was taken by none other than Art Young — as well as a Cape buffalo. Finally, in 1966, Bear was able to take a polar bear, his third try at the elusive beast, during a hunt that was later featured on ABC's The American Sportsman

In 1970, the Fred Bear Sports Club was founded, and was made open to the public two years later. In 1973, Bear was named an inaugural member of the Archery Hall of Fame, along with Howard Hill, Ben Pearson, Ann Weber Hoyt, Maurice Thompson, Russ Hoogerhyde and Karl Palmatier.

Bear's archery expertise proved to be a valuable resource for aspiring archers and hunters, who took in Bear's wisdom through his series of outdoor films, TV shows, books and magazine articles.

Though Bear passed away 1988 at the age of 86, his legend remains as looming as it did in decades past. Today, sportsmen remember him fondly as a pioneer for bowhunters worldwide. The title, "the Father of Bowhunting," is a fitting tribute to an outdoor legend, and his example is one that should be revered by outdoorsmen around the world.

Check out this clip from Fred Bear: The Father of Bowhuntingairing 10 p.m. Eastern on Thursday, Sept. 12, on The Sportsman Channel — featuring never-before-seen clips and photos.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Spot-and-Stalk Texas Hog Bowhunt

Spot-and-Stalk Texas Hog Bowhunt

Bowhunter Equipment Editor Tony J. Peterson spot-and-stalks hogs and whitetails in Texas.

Tree Saddle Hunting: Best Saddle Options

Tree Saddle Hunting: Best Saddle Options

Most of these saddle options are offered in kit form with lineman and tree tether ropes plus carabiners, some with MOLLE-attached storage pouches for ropes, aider, drink and accessories.

Elk Bulls Abound in Colorado

Elk Bulls Abound in Colorado

Bowhunter team member Rudy Bachraty gets his chance to take an elk with Cross Mountain Outfitters of Colorado.

Canyon Ranch Roundup Part 2

Canyon Ranch Roundup Part 2

Bowhunter TV's Derek Mleynek and Equipment Editor Tony J. Peterson head to Texas for a late-season mixed bag hunt in a truly target-rich environment.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

The advantages to using a binocular bivy system are many, and they go well beyond providing full protection for your glass.Why You Should Use A Binocular Bivy System Field Tools

Why You Should Use A Binocular Bivy System

Joe Bell

The advantages to using a binocular bivy system are many, and they go well beyond providing...

Curt Wells and Randy Ulmer [video] explain the importance of momentum and penetration when choosing heavy vs. light arrows for bowhunting.How to Choose the Best Hunting Arrow - Heavy vs. Light How-To

How to Choose the Best Hunting Arrow - Heavy vs. Light

Curt Wells

Curt Wells and Randy Ulmer [video] explain the importance of momentum and penetration when...

This venison kebabs recipe marinates for a full day to take the already flavorful Asian bulgogi sauce to the next level.Grilled Korean Bulgogi Venison Kebabs Recipe Recipes

Grilled Korean Bulgogi Venison Kebabs Recipe

Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley

This venison kebabs recipe marinates for a full day to take the already flavorful Asian...

See More Trending Articles

More Big Game

Here's how to make it happen, plus tips to better your odds for success.Bowhunting Sitka Blacktails on Kodiak Island Big Game

Bowhunting Sitka Blacktails on Kodiak Island

Frank Noska

Here's how to make it happen, plus tips to better your odds for success.

My introduction to Buck Country Outfitters in Goodsoil, Saskatchewan, came courtesy of Mossy OakThe Bears Of Buck Country Big Game

The Bears Of Buck Country

Brian Fortenbaugh

My introduction to Buck Country Outfitters in Goodsoil, Saskatchewan, came courtesy of Mossy...

Most Midwest and Eastern hunters want to travel West to hunt something other than whitetails atA Deer Hunter's Antelope Guide Big Game

A Deer Hunter's Antelope Guide

Tony J. Peterson - August 03, 2017

Most Midwest and Eastern hunters want to travel West to hunt something other than whitetails at

C.J. Winand and his daughter tag a pair of Texas aoudad rams in the Hill Country.Aoudad Double in Texas Hill Country Big Game

Aoudad Double in Texas Hill Country

C.J. Winand

C.J. Winand and his daughter tag a pair of Texas aoudad rams in the Hill Country.

See More Big Game

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Bowhunter App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Bowhunter subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now