Cash Strapped

Ultimately, not enough sponsors could be sold on ?The American Outdoors? series. In order to get it on the air and honor our commitment to the International, the NRA and AMO, Bear Archery put up another $72,294 to place the series on more than 50 television stations around the country.

The International also set up an offshoot tax-exempt foundation at this time called A.W.A.R.E. America’s Wildlife Association for Resource Education, and Fred and I took on the task of helping them raise funds. I wrote a brochure for A.W.A.R.E. and used our hero, Teddy Roosevelt, on the cover calling for donations to A.W.A.R.E. to be used to tell the conservation story to the American public. Fred gave them a personal donation of more than $6,500 to help get A.W.A.R.E. off and running. I convinced AMO and the American Archery Council into donating another $10,000.

Fred and I also spent an additional $40,000 for the production of A.W.A.R.E. materials for the International, which included my travel costs for all of the meetings I attended. Then we put another $10,000 into the kitty for the International for the production of the ?America?s Wildlife? pilot that was to have been the initial program in Phase 2 of ?The American Outdoors? series. When you add it all up, Bear Archery put up $438,856 to help get the International’s story out from 1977-79.

Although our pilot for “America?s Wildlife” was a huge success, we just were never able to obtain sufficient sponsorship to get it on the air as a series. We all tried our best during the remainder of 1977 and the first nine months of 1978 to obtain sponsorship for the “America’s Wildlife” series. All of the fish and game directors around the country searched for sponsors and foundations in their states, and the International contacted numerous manufacturers. Although several were very interested, in the end there just wasn’t enough there to do the job.

Higley did his usual magnificent creative job on the “America?s Wildlife” pilot. We had two fine hosts for the program, Kirstie Wilde and Paul Ryan of KRON-TV in San Francisco. Among other things, our pilot featured the story of the sea otter and was filmed in the Big Sur area of California. It eventually would win a “Teddy” Award for the Best Outdoor Documentary of 1978-79. This is an annual award given out by the outdoor writers and is named for President Teddy Roosevelt. The pilot also won an award in Montana for its outstanding cinematography.

By the fall of 1978 at the next annual International convention, this time in Baltimore, Maryland, we told the directors that we were either going to have to “fish or cut bait” on the television project. By that time Pete Petoskey was chairman of the television subcommittee and he told them this during his committee report to the directors: “We are going to make a concerted effort during the next six months to get funding … I think we can do it if we work together. I can’t do it alone, Gottshalk can’t, Lattimer can’t, and neither can Higley or anyone else. If we aren’t successful by next March, I am going to recommend that we abandon this project. This is an opportunity to present the right information on wildlife. We should be doing it and really can’t afford not to. Our enemies aren’t, and don’t you forget it!”

The bottom line was that although Higley and all involved had done an outstanding job of producing “The American Outdoors” series and the “America’s Wildlife” pilot, the funds just weren’t there to get the rest of the Phase 2 series produced and on the air. So we had to abandon our relationship with Don Higley and Wally Taber.

Changing Channels

When it seemed like we had reached the end-of-the-line and had failed on our national television efforts, Fred and I talked to Glen Lau, an outstanding filmmaker and producer living just down the road from us in Ocala, Florida. We had just moved Bear Archery from Grayling down to Gainesville, just about 50 miles to the north of Ocala. Glen was a professional fishing guide for a number of years on Lake Erie and spent more than 2,000 hours underwater filming his award-winning documentary “BIGMOUTH.” He had filmed specials for ABC’s “American Sportsman,” segments of the Time-Life series “Wild, Wild World of Animals” and produced the National Wildlife Federation’s commercials featuring Robert Redford.

Our old friend, Selda Gibbons, with whom Fred and I had worked up in Michigan on our films “Rural Route One, Grayling, Michigan,” “The Good Earth,” and “Bullseye” had just moved down to Ocala to work with Glen. I had put the two together. He was working on a new television series called “Sports Afield” and had a great lineup of sponsors.

Fred and I explained to Glen what we and the state fish and game directors were trying to accomplish in getting the message of professional scientific fisheries and wildlife management out to the American public so that future decisions related to those could continue to be made by trained biologists and not emotionally motivated bunny-hugging anti-hunters. Glen quickly offered his help, and we were on our way.

Fred and I invited Glen to fly up to the North American Wildlife Conference being held in Toronto, Canada the spring of 1979 so that I could introduce him to the state fish & game directors, the IAFWA television subcommittee and others. Then we could pitch them on the idea of working with him on “Sports Afield” to get our management story out to the public. Grits Gresham, who along with Homer Circle and Jerry Chiappetta were the on-camera hosts of “Sports Afield,” also went along.

Everyone who met Glen in Toronto was impressed with him and his project, and we were given the go-ahead by the executive committee to begin work with him on the “Sports Afield” project. I was appointed executive producer on the project.

Our television subcommittee began working with Glen and Selda to plan out how best to obtain story suggestions supporting scientific fisheries and wildlife management. In some cases the state and federal agencies had existing footage of network quality we could use, in others Glen had to shoot new footage on-location. He was assisted in this cinematography by Wolfgang and Sharon Obst and Eric Daarstad. Parker Bower was our script writer, Mike Palma our supervisory film editor and Jimmy Lynch our sound man.

By that fall we had suggested 13 shows to be produced for 1980 and updated the IAFWA at its annual meeting in West Yellowstone, Montana. I was then asked to serve as chairman of the International’s television subcommittee and co-chairman of the full communications committee along with our old friend, Pete Petoskey. Fred and I saw it as a great compliment to the nation?s bowhunters that we should be so honored, and we were happy to take on the two jobs.

In accepting the two positions I was quoted in the International’s press release as saying: “Hunting and fishing are considered to be valid scientific wildlife and fisheries management techniques as well as healthy recreational activities, and we believe that we should help educate the public to continue to support the professionals trained in our colleges, universities, woods and streams in their efforts to conserve, protect and increase the many non-game and game species of wildlife that we have in this hemisphere today.”

As it finally turned out, in 1980 we had 11 IAFWA segments running on the “Sports Afield” series and Lau’s companion “Coors Western Outdoorsman” series. Four included bowhunting. These ran on 186 television stations reaching 72 percent of the U.S. households with a weekly audience of more than 3 million people.

In 1981 we increased this to 19 segments that ran on 210 television stations across America and reached 4 million people weekly, and in 1982 we had 12 segments running on 191 television stations, including 70 stations west of the Mississippi. A number of them featured Fred and bowhunting. All in all, we were able to obtain more than $4 million of free television time on Glen Lau’s programs to help tell the International’s story to the American public! And Fred and I were darn proud of that. And we were darn thankful to Glen Lau and his staff for making this all happen!

At the International?s fall meeting in 1982 at Hilton Head Island in South Carolina, it was my honor to present the Communications Committee Annual Report to the assembled state fish and game directors. A very proud moment in my career. We had finally been able to report some important progress on getting out the true story of professional fisheries and wildlife management to the American public, to counter what we felt was the grossly biased and totally unfair report on “The Guns of Autumn.” America’s hunters had become organized and had started to speak out on their behalf, and on behalf of sensible professional wildlife and fisheries management.

And it all happened because Fred Bear quietly told me to get moving on it and see what we could do to make it a reality.

Next: Chapter 8