Following the Bear
The old adage "Fred Bear Showed Me How" rings true to this day. Even though Fred passed away in May 1988, many of us who knew and liked Fred are still following those large tracks he left. I certainly have in my career in many ways. Ted Nugent will also tell you that he still finds Fred "in the wind" during many of his quiet moments in the outdoors. Ted's done a great job of keeping Fred's memory and legend alive with today's youth with his song "Fred Bear" and the vintage Bear footage he shows during his rock and roll shows. I remember tears streaking down my cheek the first time I saw it. Ted's eyes will moist up too if you see him sing this song one on one. Ted has been one of the most loyal and dedicated friends of Bears to help keep his name alive. An unlikely duo, an older legend and a young, long haired rocker. I think even then Fred saw Ted's potential to reach people none of the rest of the sport of archery could. Fred was always ahead of the game, even back then.
Fred Bear was the face of the sport of archery and bowhunting for so many of us. He promoted the sport in a way no one ever had or has since. He got celebrities involved, he worked to get bowhunting on national TV on shows like ABC Wide World of Sports, and he published books, videos, and pamphlets designed to give archery a boast. You have to remember he came along just as archery was taking off. His legend and reputation grew and so did Bear Archery.
Stories and books tell many stories about Fred Bear the bowhunter. There are a number of good books out, and a few that really didn't do the man justice. Those of us that knew him know the difference. I can tell you he sure was kind to me. He probably should have ran me off but somehow tolerated me sitting at his table at trade shows when I was 10 years old or so. My parents would know where to find me and I would take off to find that huge Kodiak bear, because I knew Fred would be holding court nearby telling hunting stories, swapping jokes, signing autographs and having snapshots taken. I just sat and took it all in. We'd talk some when there wasn't a crowd, which was rare. Fred drew people from all backgrounds and of all ages.
As I grew up I started talking to him more and we'd swap funny jokes and he would tell me stories. Some of these I have never seen in any of the books I have read, including the time a guide's rifle blot was jammed and all they had was Fred's pistol and his bow. I also enjoyed Fred telling my mother and I the story of how he did exhibitions in his early years to trade sport show promoters a show for booth space when he couldn't afford a booth. He'd started out making leather goods. Rather than buying an expensive booth at a trade show, Fred would go to the show and invite people to his hotel room. There after the show he'd open up his room and have his leather goods across the bed. Then he developed a shooting routine that he could swap promoter's a booth for. He'd do a show to pay for his booth space. These were amazing stories.
I have some mementos from Fred that mean a great deal to me. One of his business cards, a signed arrow he sent me in 1985, and a special blonde colored Kodiak that he signed and had sent that I never strung. I also have some signed books, and stickers and a belt buckle. The Kodiak bow remains on my desk this day, unstrung. I will often put it in my hand and feel it and then lay it back down. It's a quiet reminder of my friend and a great man. I like it near me when I am writing in my office.
I wish some of the video hunting celebrities today would take a cue from Fred. His video work always had class. It gave you the whole experience of bowhunting like the background of the area he was hunting and information on the species, and he would usually slip some humor and adventure in. The shot was there but there was a lot of substance with it. Sometimes I think we've wondered off the beaten path when I see some of the stuff put on screen today. It doesn't do bowhunting or our sport justice and gives non-archers the wrong impression. We aren't playing football and it seems silly to me to jump up & down like a football player that just scored a touchdown when an animal dies. Like the Indian, we should show proper respect and humbleness about the events that just took place. After all, if you are a good hunter this won't be the last trophy you bag so why act like it?
Gary Bogner's videos are very similar to what Fred produced and I've told him that a number of times. Bogner has become an ambassador for archery all over the globe and he presents very educational, entertaining hunting videos that show misses and all. Although he hunts some exotic locales that many of us will never travel to, he is able to make us feel like we are there with him and may just someday want to try it. He "gets it" and produces some very classy work.
I won't preach here but in my opinion we could all take notes from Fred Bear. Almost everything I do in my career is inspired by my old friend Fred. Whether getting the Governor of our state set up with a bow, doing a show on behalf of President George W. Bush, a private show for country singer Toby Keith, or giving country singer George Strait a bow. These are things I think Fred would have done. I also think he would have been crazy about the internet's ability to promote the sport 24/7 all around the world. That is amazing technology. And when you take that technology away, it comes back to a single person with a bow, in a hunting camp, around a campfire, laughing and swapping tall tales around the campfire circle. Yeah Fred, you really did show us how. Thanks, I miss those skinny shoulders rocking with laughter and that grin of yours.
Until next time, Adios & God Bless.
Frank Addington, Jr.
The Aspirin Buster