When most people think of going hunting for bear, moose, deer and similar big game, they usually take along a high-powered rifle and side arms, as well. However, increasing numbers of American sportsmen scorn the use of firearms and get their game with bow and arrow.

Fred Bear, president of the Bear Archery Company, Detroit, Michigan, not only is one of the finest bowmen in the country, but he has established a thriving business in the production of exceptionally fine hunting bows. His products are laminated from the woods which, over a period of years, have been proven best for such purposes, and the two billets which make up the complete assembly are glued with a fishtail joint.

Recently, we received a letter from Mr. Bear in which he told us that he is using Cyanamid’s resin adhesive, Urac 185, in his production. Mr. Bear contends that there is no better way to test the strength and bonding qualities of an adhesive than to use it in the construction of a hunting bow. After struggling and straining to string and then bend one of his 70-pound bows, we are convinced that he is right. Excerpts from Mr. Bear’s letter follow:

“As you know, we use Urac 185 both in the laminating job and in the fishtail where the billets are joined. We find this type of glue best for the splice because the nature of the glue does not require contact at all points. In other words, it’s a difficult job to prepare, and glue fills up the spaces that are bound to occur.

“The laminating operation is really a test for adhesives. I know of no other application wherein a glued joint is subjected to such stresses as an archery bow. In its function, these glue lines are required to stretch and compress, depending on their position in the finished bow. We find that we can control the elasticity of your product by the proportion of hardener used.”

Naturally, Fred’s letter was accompanied by a photo of him with his bow and his bear taken in Ontario, along with a progression photo of his bows in production. As an old PR man myself, with more than 50 years in the advertising/public relations business, let me tell you that the only reason Fred had to hire a professional advertising/public relations company later in his career was that he got too busy to handle it all himself. This 1947 “seed” letter and subsequent article and photo coverage in the Cyanamid company publication proves that he had a natural talent for getting free publicity for his small company and his fledgling sport of bowhunting.

Even a personal trip with his second wife, Henrietta, to her home area in Wisconsin would result in some free publicity for Fred, his company and his sport. In the Sept. 2, 1950 issue of the Oshkosh Daily Northwestern there was this article:

Noted Archer Prefers Using Bow Instead of Rifle While on Hunt. Fred Bear, Visitor to Oshkosh From Grayling, Mich., Says Interest in Archery Increasing.

The ratio of deer killed by archers is eight times smaller than that by the rifle method, Fred Bear, Grayling, Mich., one of the country’s most noted archers stated here Friday.

In an interview with an Oshkosh Daily Northwestern reporter, Bear asserted that only one deer is killed by each 25 or 30 archers, while each three or four riflemen shoot a deer.

Bear, who has done game hunting with the bow and arrow on a large scale and who held the Michigan state archery title for three years, usually gets his prize. He hasn’t missed it in this state yet.

The Michigan huntsman has hunted deer in Wisconsin three times, and each year killed a deer. He came here in 1941 for the first time and returned in 1947 and 1948 to capture his second and third deer … in addition to the 17 deer he has shot, the Michigan “William Tell” landed a bear, a moose and all types of small game …

In running down a recent history on the sport, Bear stated that archery ceased to be popular when gun power came into existence. However, about 30 years ago the sport “came into its own again.”

One of the reasons why the sport returned again was the belief of some huntsmen that the skill of hunting was in the perfected rifle and not so much in the hunter himself, Bear asserted…

Bear designed many of his own products. Many of the Bear Company products were pioneered by Fred and through his skill and experience these products later became standard equipment used by bow enthusiasts over the world.


As I’ve mentioned, Fred did not have a publicity agent in those days, nor an advertising agency. He did it all himself! Finally, the day would come in the early 1950s when he could hire the Paxton Advertising Agency in St. Joseph, Michigan, and they handled his account until we at Bonsib Advertising in Ft. Wayne, Indiana took it over in the early 60s.

In the 1950s Fred did his hunting in the provinces of Canada, the American West, Alaska and his first exploratory hunt in Africa. Then, after we at Bonsib entered the picture, he returned twice more to Africa, to India, the arctic and South America. We helped him publicize those later hunts and helped him get more mass media exposure on national network television on such shows as “To Tell The Truth,” “The American Sportsman,” the “Tonight Show,” the “Mike Douglas Show,” and many more such exposures. These reached millions of people each time he appeared. At one point we asked America’s outdoorsmen and women to write to “The American Sportsman” to tell them how much they enjoyed seeing Fred Bear on their national television program. They were so overwhelmed with mail that they contacted us and told us to call off the dogs. They got the message!

Fred was a very saleable “product” in those days, and our public relations department at Bonsib Advertising, under the direction of Budd Arthur, did a fantastic job of placing Fred in the public eye. Obviously, much of this exposure had been started before Bonsib came on the scene in 1961 by both Fred and Paxton Advertising; however, Budd Arthur and his staff took it to new heights. Here’s a partial list of the national magazine articles about Fred.

  • TIME FOR JAVELINA—Outdoor Life, by Byron W. Dalrymple, February 1950
  • ARROW FOR A GRIZZLY—Outdoor Life, October 1957
  • BONANZA IN BUCKS AND BOWS —True Magazine, January 1958. YOU GO, I STAY—Outdoor Life, by Fred Bear as told to Ben East, March 1961
  • MOST DANGEROUS BEAR? I SAY POLAR—Outdoor Life, by Fred Bear as told to Ben East, December 1962
  • AN ARCHER STALKS THE MIGHTY GRIZZLY—Life Magazine, by Don Moser, November 1963
  • MY GREATEST TROPHY—Outdoor Life, by Fred Bear as told to Ben East, October 1964
  • AFRICA’S MEANEST GAME—Outdoor Life, by Fred Bear, February 1966
  • GIVING TEMBO THE SHAFT—True Magazine, by Peter Barrett, March 1966
  • MY GREATEST TROPHY—Outdoor Life, by Fred Bear, April 1966
  • BEAR THAT BROKE A JINX—Outdoor Life, by Fred Bear, December 1966

Much of getting “ink” or “air time” for one’s client involves shoe leather, phone calls and lunches, quietly “working” people to get them interested in covering one’s clients. In the case of Fred Bear there was very little sales effort required, his reputation and daring preceded our visits and calls and it was more a case of when they could schedule the coverage.

Friends like Tom Opre, outdoor editor of the Detroit Free Press, Mort Neff, a Michigan television syndicator, and Jerry Chiapetta helped a great deal in helping Fred promote his sport, his company and his persona in the state of Michigan. They were wonderful, and I shall always remember the kindness they showed to this greenhorn in my earlier years of helping Fred’s efforts.

Many editors of archery and outdoor magazines deserve credit for helping provide Fred with free “ink” by running stories in their publications covering his many bowhunts. There are far too many to try to go back and construct a list. However, two stand out in my mind as being extremely important to Fred’s success.

The first is Roy Hoff, publisher of Archery Magazine. Roy and Fred were friends, and he quickly understood what Fred was trying to do in building the sport by hunting and then writing articles about his hunts. Roy began featuring Fred on the cover of his publication at every opportunity and in carrying word of his exploits in his editorial coverage.

The second person that comes to mind is Clare Conley of Outdoor Life. And the fact that Clare became an advocate of bowhunting, even accompanying Fred to Alaska on a bowhunting trip with astronaut Joe Engle is tribute to the way Fred operated and the effect he could have upon people with his gentle manner.

Clare had written an article slamming bowhunting in Outdoor Life titled “Butchers with Bows & Arrows.” It was quite an attack on bowhunting. Rather than fire off an angry letter to Clare about it, as many of us might have done, Fred quietly called him and explained the facts about bowhunting and invited him to try it with him. The rest is editorial history, as they say, and Clare became a close friend of us all, even flying to Gainesville the night we all celebrated Fred’s 80th birthday.

NEXT: Chapter 2