Chapter FOUR/ Part 2 -FRED BEAR SHOWED ME HOW
Fred on Bow-Shooting
Lots of folks would like to know more about how Fred shot archery and the equipment that he used. Here is a portion of an interview that Fred did long-distance to some questions sent to him on tape by archery writer Bob Learn. Fred gave me his original typewritten answers that he later put on tape. He made the tape Feb. 10, 1970. Keep in mind that this was before the widespread popularity of compound bows, and Fred’s remarks about bows relate to recurves. Again, what follows here are Fred’s own words.
Fred: You ask if I am right- or left-handed. I am left-handed. I don’t quite know why. I shoot a bow left-handed. I throw a ball left-handed. I bat left-handed. I play golf left-handed. But I do everything else right-handed, including the shooting of a gun. And one of the interesting things in this connection is that my right eye is my master eye, although I do shoot a bow with the left hand.
(Author’s note: I have a theory about this right vs. left-handed thing with Fred, although I don’t remember ever talking to him about it. When he was a young boy, Fred and his sister, Aileen, were preparing feed for their livestock on the farm. Here are a couple of paragraphs from the Fred Bear biography that Charlie Kroll and I put together to explain what happened:
“Their father had mounted a shear at the small end of a wedge-shaped trough, and it was Fred’s job to feed bunches of hay into it, compressing it in the wedge and shoving it under the shear wielded by his sister. The resulting short lengths of hay were then mixed with bran, water and molasses for the horse and cow.”
“One morning, more consumed than usual by the boredom of his task, Fred started to tease his sister by jerking the hay back just as she came down with the shear. Aileen, keen on getting the chore finished, was not at all humored by her brother’s behavior. Inevitably, Fred shoved a clump of hay a bit farther than he should have, and the shear came down quickly on one of his fingers along with the hay. The blade was extremely sharp, as were all of Harry’s tools, and it cleanly clipped off a small section of the third finger of his right hand.”
I think that Fred probably compensated for the loss of this part of his finger on his right hand by starting to do a lot of things left-handed, including shooting a bow when he got started in the 1920’s. That would have been one of the fingers that an archer would normally use in drawing the bowstring. Incidentally, Aileen died in 1918 of the flu when Fred was just 16 years old. My own maternal grandfather also died that year of the same thing. Now, back to Fred’s interview.)
- My hunting bow is 60 inches. It has been 60 inches for about 30 years; just why I am not sure that I know, although I do know one reason. For more than 20 years, I’ve used a bow quiver and I prefer to have the bow a couple of inches longer than the arrows. That way I can sit the bow up against a tree without the nocks filling with dirt.
- On the shorter bows, I think they are fine. I think they are a little bit harder to shoot accurately, but under hunting conditions the weight of the hunting bow would usually minimize those restrictions or requirements that I place on it. I think that it’s a matter of personal choice. Although, I think that a bow much longer than 60 inches is difficult to maneuver in the delicate situations you get into in the woods a great many times.
- My bow weight is 65 pounds. I’ve used this weight for a great many years … on the maximum weight; I haven’t any suggestions to make. I think the archer should shoot whatever weight bow he might want to shoot, or might feel capable of shooting. The thing to remember about that, however, is that maximum efficiency and energy are not attained by merely jumping your bow weight. It’s like having a boat with a 100-horsepower engine in it that goes 30 miles per hour. It doesn’t mean that if you put 200 horsepower in it that you’ll go 60 miles per hour; maybe you’ll get 5 miles per hour, maybe 10, if you’re lucky.
- Same is true with bows. You cash in on the efficiency of the heavy bow only by increasing arrow weights. And in all hunting activities, I like to use a factor “nine;” nine times your bow weight for your arrow weight in grains. For instance, my arrows, 28 inches in length for my 65-pound bow, will run between 575 and 600 grains. My arrow shafts are aluminum–Bear Magnum #320. The inside diameter is .280 inches, the outside is .320 inches.
- On bowstrings, I really don’t know how many strands or what type of material is in it. I take strings out-of-stock, and I like strings 15 or 20 pounds heavier than the bow. And the reason for that is two-fold. One, is that the heavier string, while it does cut arrow velocity somewhat, also deadens the sing of the string as the arrow is shot. It also adds a little safety margin when you’re hunting if you tear a few strands on a sharp rock or against a rough tree. You still have a margin of safety and can at least continue to hunt for that day.
- On the nocking point, I use one nocking point above the arrow. It is either wound on with thread and cemented, or one of the clinched-type affairs which are available on the market today. The arrow is about 1/8 of an inch higher (above 90 degrees) to the string. The reason for one nocking point is that in not wanting to take your eye off game, you can always nock an arrow on the string below and then move it up until it hits the nock and you’re ready to shoot again.
- I carry one spare string at all times when I am hunting. This is not a new string; this is a string that I’ve had on my bow, and the nocking point is placed at the correct place, and I’ve tried it out. The brace height of the string—I go by the manufacturer’s recommendations on that.
- ‚ An arrow rest is covered with whatever material will deaden the sound of the arrow. I cut the arrow rest down below my knuckle. The arrow passes over my knuckle. (Author’s note: Fred’s arrows sat on his knuckle while he drew and shot, not on an arrow rest).
Fred’s Shooting Style
- I shoot entirely instinctively and I’m not concerned with the distance to the target in terms of yards. I’m only concerned with the distance to the target in “feel.” My bow is canted at 15 or 20 degrees at whatever angle is required to get my eye directly above the arrow. I use a shooting glove with heavy, soft tips, and a three-finger release, the arrow between the first and second fingers. (Author’s note: Fred invented the shooting glove and filed for his patent May 18, 1936. Prior to that, archers simply wore leather “stalls” on their fingertips, which could easily be lost or flipped off. The modern shooting glove is covered by his patent #107,294 granted Nov. 30, 1937.)
- My anchor point is always the same, and I have never since its invention, used anything but a bow quiver. (Author’s note: The bow quiver was another Fred Bear invention and was filed Jan. 16, 1946 and granted March 8, 1949. Patent #2,464,068. It originally held just three arrows, but he later improved upon this design to hold eight arrows. You’ll note that in mentioning both the shooting glove and the bow quiver Fred never mentions that he was the one who invented them. A real insight into his modest and unassuming character.)
- When you are standing erect pulling back to anchor alongside your face (and my anchor is the second finger on the corner of my mouth), your eye will be beside the arrow from a vertical point-of-view. I have to stoop. I stoop from the waist, sort of a bending of the shoulders, I should say, until my eye is right above the arrow. And now I have to usually build out on the side of the bow until the arrow is going in the direction it is pointed. I do this temporarily when I’m testing a new bow just by taping pieces of leather or wood until I find the right distance that the arrow should pass the bow, and then I make a piece of leather that thickness and cement it permanently to the arrow plate.
- You mentioned in your tape (Bob Learn) that I am a snap-shooter. That is true, except that I want to point out that there are two kinds of snap-shooters. Snap-shooting, as a general rule, develops from an attack of what is called “freezing,” and freezing is a triggering of the release hand by the eye. It is an involuntary triggering of these muscles that releases the arrow before you want to. The difference between the snap-shooter who has this affliction and one who does not is that if a full draw is not reached, no accuracy can result.
- In my own case, I always come to a full draw. There is no pause when I get there; the arrow is gone. If I try to hold, I cannot hit the target. I have suffered from this business of freezing. I went through three years of agony with it. A tournament shooter can use a clicker and in most cases eliminate the problem. But for the instinctive shooter, it is a problem. It took me three years to lick mine. But I differ from most snap-shooters in that I always come to a full draw. And I have to, at almost every shot, discipline myself to do this.
- I seem to have a system that on a long shot, I will draw the bow just a little bit farther back. And, also, when I am shooting at a really large animal, I seem to have a tendency to pull it back farther, which I guess is understandable.
Fred on Arrows
- Your next heading here is “arrows and broadheads.” I draw 28 inches, and my arrows are 29 inches with either the blunt field point or the broadhead attached to it, so in the case of the broadhead, I have an inch to the back of the head at my full draw length.
- I am not concerned about whether my feathers are left- or right-handed, but I do like a helical fletch and I like a very large feather. I’ve never shot other than three-fletch arrows. I’m sure four-fletch has advantages. I think that they can be cut lower and stand up under wet weather probably better than three-fletch, although I’ve never used them. My fletching is 5 inches long and begins 1 1/4 inches from the very end of the nock. They are spirally fletched so that the shaft revolves in flight. Never use straight fletching on hunting arrows.
- I have no particular color preference on fletching, except that I’m often making a film in which it is very important in having the camera follow the flight of the arrow. For this reason I have used rather bright-colored feathers—white and yellows, maybe with a black cock feather for a contrast, and, for some reason, my arrows are never camouflaged. The last three years I’ve been using Converta-Point Magnum® arrows, of course, and they are aluminum. This is a handicap in the woods, there’s no question about it, but it’s one of the things you have to put up with when you are in the filming business. (Author’s note: These were the “new” arrows we had introduced in our 1968 Bear Archery catalog. A special insert was designed for use with broadheads, and there were blunt, field and target points as a part of this new system, so that the archer could use the same arrow shaft and simply interchange the points for practice, hunting or field use. The shafts were especially made for us by Easton. Fred came up with this system and filed for the patent on Nov. 2, 1966, and the patent #3,401,938 was granted on Sept. 17, 1968.)
- I do not use any preparation on the feathers to keep them dry. I use a plastic bag pulled over the arrows when they are in the bow quiver and held in place with a rubber band. This, of course, sometimes is a handicap, also, because if you are surprised by game it’s pretty difficult to pull this bag off without making a little rattling sound, but I’ve never found a waterproof fletching material that stood up under very much rain. (Author’s note: This was written before we introduced our Weathers®, all-weather plastic fletching material, but Fred continued to use real feathers even after we had done so.)
- Naturally, I don’t fletch my own arrows, and I use the Razorhead® (the Bear Razorhead, if you’ll permit me), and I always use the insert even in shooting an elephant … and there’s a reason for this. The insert opens up an “X” hole and gives better penetration because it relieves pinching on the shaft and leaves a better blood trail. I use a Razorhead® with the insert for all kinds of game. Makes no difference the weight of the bow or the size of the game.
- As I said before, I like an arrow that is nine times my bow weight in grains. Penetration is a matter of kinetic energy, and it is a well-known fact that a heavy object moving at the same speed is much harder to stop than a lighter one.
- There’s another factor in the case of an arrow. A given bow has a certain, I’ll call it “quickness,” of return to the string from a full-draw position. A heavy bow can handle a heavier arrow with a great deal more striking energy.
Fred on Practice
- Now to your next question about how much I practice. Normally I don’t shoot too much during the winter and summer. But about six weeks to two months before the beginning of a hunting trip, I pick up the bow and start working on it.
- I have in the woods near my home here, a little shooting range that’s made up of seven targets, each one set up against a mound of dirt either natural or pushed up by a bulldozer. These targets are deer silhouettes cut out of three thicknesses of corrugated cardboard that has been glued together and tacked to stakes representing legs at a deer’s distance off the ground. This corrugated is held to these stakes by large-sized roofing nails, the kind that have the metal washer on them.
- I shoot at these things at various distances. When I first begin shooting before a hunt, the bow seems real heavy, and I can only shoot a dozen or 18 arrows in that evening. But I’ll only shoot until I’m tired because you build up muscles by breaking them down. Like a weightlifter, one lifts a weight a certain number of times, then a couple of days later he can lift either a heavier weight, or the same weight more times. I build myself up to my physical condition to the point where the bow doesn’t seem heavy anymore, and then I continue with my practice.
- But one thing. I did experiment in the last two years. I wanted to see how much I had lost by not practicing. Two years ago, after not having shot an arrow for six months, I went out and the first shot was as good a shot as I had ever made. It went right through the rib section of my corrugated targets, at about 35 yards, and last year I approached the problem with the same thought in mind. I hit the target also. Now those two instances don’t prove anything, but it is an indication that the “instinctive feel” is something like swimming. Once you have learned it, you don’t get away from it. I think practice is needed to loosen you up and to maybe correct some faults that have to be brushed up each year. But I think, basically, the problems of instinctive shooting don’t have to be learned over and over again. I practice with broadheads at my home range on the corrugated targets and when I’m in the woods I practice with blunts.
- Now, I want to give some good advice to hunters … most hunters do not shoot enough during the hunting season. Also, when they do shoot, I’ve heard it said, “Well, let’s warm up, let’s shoot a few arrows.” Well, you don’t “warm up” when you’re shooting at a deer. It’s that very first arrow that counts. I’m cautioning whoever might be listening to me, whoever might read this, that in your practice, try to make that first shot count because almost every time in hunting that’s the only shot you’re going to get. I don’t mean that you shoot one arrow and if you hit the target you say, “Well, OK, I don’t need any more practice, I’m in good shape.” You need to loosen up during hunting. The way I do it, I use our Converta-Point® arrows, as I said, and I usually carry just five arrows in my quiver. Sometimes, if I’m going to be a long way from the car, or from more arrows, I will take eight. But normally, I have five arrows. I have three or four of the screw-in blunt points in my pocket, so I can, any time I want to shoot a few practice shots, simply unscrew the broadheads and screw in the blunt points. Many times in the woods, if it is rocky, or if the ground is covered with moss, or if the ground is covered with thick leaves, there aren’t any targets to shoot at except the trees. And this Converta-Point® thing was designed so with the blunt point, you can shoot at any tree, no matter how hard it is, and it won’t hurt your arrow unless you slap it or skid it off the side.