Fred Bear bows company, currently knows as Bear Archery, is one of the leading American manufacturers of bows in the United States today. Fred Bear was born in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania in 1902 and raised on a farm until the age of 21. At the age of 21, he took an interest in the automobile industry and moved to Detroit to pursue opportunities in that field. He also became interested in film producing and one of his jobs was as a television host.
The History of Fred Bear Bows
One day Bear saw a documentary that detailed the bow-hunting adventures of Art Young. Young was known as the “father of modern bow hunting”. It was the beginning of a life-long love and passion for archery. He studied under Young and learned to make his own bowstrings, arrows and bows. Although he was still working in the auto industry, Bear would use his off hours to make archery equipment for his friends. The requests for equipment were so overwhelming that Bear decided to start his own company – Bear Archery Company. This was around the time of the Great Depression.
Around 1946, a facility was built in Grayling, Michigan, specifically for manufacturing archery equipment. It was home to Bear Archery until 1978 when it was moved to Gainesville, Florida due to ongoing labor problems and strikes by workers. The business flourished while in Michigan, so much so that additions to the building were made in 1953, 1955 and 1956. The company produced 360,000 bows in one year which was a record, and the employee count went from 100 to 400 by the time they relocated to Florida!
Mark of Excellence – Precision and Skill
Bear was hands on with design, development and manufacturing processes at his company. Archery equipment was carefully examined and tested by men who had expertise in bowmaking, and many years of experience in the industry. Bear obtained a patent for something called “Glass Power” which was Fiberglas strands bonded together and running full length on every bow. Skilled workmanship, top quality material and precision machines resulted in a high demand for these well-crafted bows.
Hard maple stock was used in the core of Bear bows which resulted in the lightweight feel when held in the hands. Each piece of Fiberglas and bow core stock was sanded accurately down to a tee. Every piece of the bow went through a stringent inspection; even some of the machines that were used for operations were built and designed by Bear. Measuring how much weight and tension each end of the bow has to determine how the arrow flies is called tillering, and this was done by expert bowyers. Archers consistently admired the Bear finishes that were hand rubbed with several coats of varnish. Bear also used genuine leather from top grain cowhide.
Traveling the world and producing films about bow hunting, Bear’s name and face became common among archers and hunters. More and more people took an interest in the man with the weathered face and Borsalino hat, and what his company had to offer. A museum was erected in Grayling, Michigan called the Fred Bear Museum. It held one of the largest privately held collections of archery artifacts in the world. In 1985, the Museum moved to Gainesville, Florida to be housed in the Bear Archery plant, but closed in 2003, and sold the collections to Bass Pro Shops. If you visit a Bass Pro Shop today you will most likely find Bear products.
Fred Bear’s expertise, creativity and skill are still recognized and respected across the country. Detroit Archers, Michigan’s oldest archery club, elected Fred Bear as its first president. Some of his memorabilia, including polar bear skins that were shot with an arrow, are housed in the clubhouse. In 2006, someone broke into the clubhouse and stole the skins. Bear was friends with people from all walks of life. Rock legend, Ted Nugent, wrote about him in a song called “Fred Bear” on the Spirit of the Wild album. Bear even had an international presence as stories of his adventures were told through radio and magazines.
Bear Archery Today
Today Bear engineers are working to make their bows stronger, quieter, faster and lighter. They strive to use advanced technology to enhance the shooting experience. They have a large product line including compound bows, youth bows, traditional bows, recurve bows, institutional equipment, gear and apparel, and more. The compound line alone features 16 varieties of bows. The manufacturing plant is still located in Gainesville, Florida – all Bear bows are 100% American made!
Fred Bear’s contribution to bow hunting is evident in the world of archery and hunting. Bear Archery is an American company that has achieved the legendary status of “mark of quality.” His vision was to “bring you quality products that perform well above price.” One of the company mottos – “It’s not about the hype or the cost – it’s about the hunt.”
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