During a blizzard, Fred Bear was born in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, USA on 5th March 1902. A few days after his 21st birthday, he left the family farm and headed for Detroit where he found work as a patternmaker for the Packard Motor Car Company. In 1928 Fred saw a film Alaskan Adventures on the bow hunting adventures of Art Young and that outing changed his life as it ignited a fire in Fred's imagination. Soon he was learning to craft his own bows, arrows and bowstrings under the tutelage of Young himself.

FRED BEAR article continued
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FRED BEAR article continued

It took him six years to harvest his first deer by bow and arrow. In 1933 Fred and his friend, Charles Piper, worked at a tyre company which burned down, putting them out of work in the midst of the Great Depression, but the two decided to pool their savings of $600 and go into business producing advertising material for the car industry. They bought a couple of second-hand sewing machines and some other equipment and rented a small garage.

In his spare time, he crafted archery equipment for a growing circle of friends who appreciated his workmanship. Within six years, the archery business demanded Fred's full time attention and he launched Bear Products Company and archery became his life-long passion. Fred was an energetic archery pioneer and inventor. This self-made man registered archery patents as early as 1937. He experimented with and found practical applications for materials like fibreglass and machined aluminium that have become the building blocks of modern archery.

With a deeply engaging personality, Fred promoted his business and the sport of archery around the world. Part of his success was due to his ability to surround himself with lifelong, supportive friends and bowhunters like Dick Mauch and Bob Munger. Fred was instrumental in promoting a bowhunting season in Michigan in 1936. An expert marksman, Bear won the state's target archery championship in 1934, 1937 and 1939. He was a regular on the sports show circuit, inspiring experienced bowmen and novices alike with his natural shooting skills.

A major part of Fred's success however was entirely due to his own promotional genius. In 1942, Fred and Detroit Free Press Editor, Jack Van Coevering journeyed to Michigan's Upper Peninsula to produce the first of several films featuring Fred's bowhunting exploits in the wild. These films, along with features in outdoor magazines and Fred's grass roots kinship with other bowhunters, fuelled an interest in the sport and in Bear Archery products. Being a rather tall man, Fred was instantly recognisable for his distinctively weathered face and trademark felt Borsalino hat. Fred taught himself to write and published a widely acclaimed book, Fred Bear's Field Notes. In the '50s and '60s, he appeared frequently on television and became a widely sought after speaker.

Fred and his company hosted international events and he led parties of intrepid bowhunters on one adventure after another around the world with equipment that he designed and built in his Michigan manufacturing facility - Africa, India, South America, British Columbia and Alaska. For this shy Pennsylvania farm boy, his list of accomplishments is nothing short of phenomenal. Fred always seemed to be completely at ease, whether on Fifth Avenue in New York City or in a tar-paper hunting shack on the Alaskan Peninsula. Bear Archery moved production to Grayling, Michigan in 1947 and over the next two decades, Fred travelled the world on bowhunting and film making expeditions.

On one outing, radio and television personality Arthur Godfrey witnessed Fred down an African bull elephant. Godfrey later recounted the experience for his international radio audience. Such publicity, as well as a feature on Fred in Life Magazine, enhanced Fred Bear's international stature. In 1968, Fred sold his company, Bear Archery, to Victor Comptometer and he founded the Fred Bear Sports Club and passionately promoted his company and all of archery. In 1978, Bear Archery moved to Gainesville, Florida and the Fred Bear Museum was opened in the public tour area of the new plant. The Fred Bear Museum was sold to Bass Pro Shops in 2004 and has become part of their incredible complex in Springfield, Missouri.

Fred remained active in designing products and promoting bow hunting until his death in 1988. In June 2003, Escalade Sports, a publicly listed company which started as the Indian Archery Company in 1927, announced the acquisition of substantially all the assets of North American Archery Group, LLC which included Bear Archery and Escalade has been very successful in turning the former giant archery concern around and regaining the market share it once enjoyed. Fred Bear, the great American bowhunter & story teller, a legend in his lifetime, establishing records, inventing, innovating & thanks to Fred, bowhunting came of age. Fred Bear will be remembered always for his tremendous personal contribution to the sport he loved and a legacy of products that perform well above price.

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