Memories With Fred Bear

May 31, 2017 | « back

By: Ted Nugent

pic162As we bide our precious time between hunting seasons with family, friends, work and the whirlwinds that are life, it is always good and wonderful to reminisce of hunting days of old.

So as we jettison into summertime 2017, I thought you would enjoy my exciting celebrations of magical time in the early days of bowhunting in America.

Lord knows I was there!

It’s like it was yesterday. On our annual trek north, my family pulled into a small gravel driveway on the outskirts of Grayling, Michigan in early October 1955 and parked our Ford station-wagon at the front door of what was basically a small yellow cinder block garage, the way I remember it.

Though I was only 6 years old, I was wild-eyed with nearly uncontrollable excitement as we headed to my beloved, mythical “Up North” for another fall weekend of bowhunting fun.

I had a little wooden longbow and a makeshift leather backquiver with a few feather-fletched arrows, and in my young mind there was no way you could convince me that I wasn’t officially and seriously bowhunting to kill a deer. Or at least a squirrel or raccoon, or a chipmunk or something!

Dad and I exited the car and opened the door with the Bear Archery sign hanging overhead and entered what unbeknownst to me at the time, could very well have been the bowhunting dream epicenter of planet earth.

The tall lanky gentleman with a contagious warm smile greeted us with a friendly handshake and welcomed us into his archery shop.

Dazzled by the many beautiful turkey feathered shafts everywhere and the gorgeous handcrafted bows hanging about, for this little 6 year old bow and arrow addict it was borderline sensory overload.

The pleasant aroma of slightly burnt, freshly worked wood heightened my olfactory radar, and the stunning big game animal mounts on the wall was almost more than I could take.

Dad carried on a conversation with the nice man about bows, arrows, broadheads, shooting gloves, deer, the Au Sable River, fishing, campsites and the upcoming controversial 1955 firearm doe season.

In the middle of the small shop was a large vice-like contraption that held layers of curved, colored strips of wood with beads of melting glass oozing from the edges.

We joined the man on this and future encounters at the Grayling Restaurant for some lunch and a piece of cherry pie and a glass of chocolate milk, then bid him farewell as we headed to our Titabawasee River log cabin campsite to get on with our family bowhunting weekend.

It would be a few years before I came to grips with just who this man was and the unbelievable joyous opportunity I was so privileged to experience.

As I grew up and pursued my bowhunting passion with increasing intensity, to have been able to hang-out and actually become friends with the one and only Fred Bear during this exploding bowhunting development and growth period at his own archery shop is a priceless gift of immeasurable good fortune that I will always cherish and thank God for.

When I graduated from High School in 1967 I returned on my own to Grayling to Fred’s new worldclass Bear Archery headquarters and museum, and was again so very fortunate to rekindle a friendship with this great legendary man whom I so admired and respected.

I would go on to be honored to share many campfires with Fred at his sacred Grouse Haven hunting lodge in Rose City Michigan where the Spirit of the Wild so powerfully grabbed ahold of me and guided my quality of life and overall happiness.

If you want life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, nothing zeroes in on it and maximizes it all like the mystical flight of the arrow and the natural connection with God’s Creation as does the highest level of awareness that is bowhunting.

The times with Fred where we would just casually shoot our bows taught me so much about form and accuracy. Watching Fred shoot his left-handed recurves canted on that angle was truly poetry in motion.

Even when the compound bows became all the rage, Fred would stick with his beautiful Bear Kodiak recurve and snap shoot instinctively with uncanny consistent accuracy.

Having gone through the heartbreaking struggles and terror of target panic in the 1970s, Fred guided me to manage it the same way he discovered how to manage his own bout with the agony of this archery malady.

Able to get some closure after his death through the universal communication of music, my tribute song to Fred has been able to not only keep the man’s name and legacy alive and celebrated, but alert and educate millions of people to just what this great man meant to everybody who knew him.

Not a day goes by that I don’t think of my friend and BloodBrother. I make it a point to grab one of my old Bear recurves everyday and head to the 3-D range with a quiver full of hi-profile shield-cut feathered arrows and do my very best to replicate his fluent, graceful, pure archery form as I slowly lift my bow, cant it slightly to the right, pick a tiny spot on the target, and become the eternal path of my mystical flight of the Fred Bear arrow.

And here’s a little Uncle Ted TechTip for all you archers out there. There is no doubt at all in my mind that the more we practice and shoot our old recurves and longbows, the better our accuracy will be with our compound bows. I promise!

Oh Fred Bear, walk with me down those trails again. Take me back, back where I belong.

In the wind, he’s still alive, and I will join him in the big hunt, before too long.