Grousehaven had an old green one-story farmhouse converted into a lodge. It had two good-sized bedrooms, one smaller one and a large room that served as a mess hall at one end, a living room at the other with a beautiful fieldstone fireplace. It also had the usual out-buildings for tractor and vehicle storage and a hangar. At one end of an out-building there was also a two-person unheated bedroom where I would sometimes stay depending upon how many hunters we had in camp. It seemed to attract every fly in camp, and I spent most of my time in the evenings hunting them rather than whitetails. A sign alongside the grass runways hacked out of the woods announced that this was “Boyer International Airport.” The celebrity hunters would all generally fly their own planes in for the annual hunts.
With my automotive background at Studebaker-Packard in South Bend, and with Fred’s at Packard Motor Car Company in Detroit, I jokingly said to him one day that we needed a sign at Grousehaven proclaiming it as the Bear Archery Proving Grounds in the tradition of how the automotive companies designated their testing areas. Next thing I knew there was just such a routed sign in his office, and he and I made a drive down to Grousehaven to install it outside the main lodge building. It soon became the location for hundreds of photos over the years with our various guests and salesmen.
In later years, when astronauts Joe Engle or Jim Adamson would hunt with us at Grousehaven, they’d fly into Wurtsmith Air Force Base to the east at Oscoda on the shore of Lake Huron, where we would then drive over and pick them up. They’d store their bowhunting gear in the compartments underneath their sleek, white, two-seat NASA jet aircraft. One day when Jim Adamson had to leave camp early, Joe Engle and I drove him over to Wurtsmith. It was fun hanging out with them as Jim planned his air route back to Houston. And Joe and I had a nice visit on the drive back. I confided in him that I was planning on leaving Bear Archery after Fred was gone. I’d had enough of all the management changes, budget and personnel cuts that our succession of corporate owners kept handing out to us.
On one outing Fred asked Joe Engle if he’d like to hunt out of his tree blind. Joe quickly said “yes,” and Fred showed him the spot. Joe enjoyed the honor and the spot very much until the time came for him to draw on an approaching deer. Then he discovered that he was hunting out of the left-handed-shooting Fred Bear’s blind and being a right-handed archer he couldn’t draw his bow back. The tree had been trimmed just for a left-handed shot. A humorous plaque marked the tree for many years afterward in Joe’s honor. Here’s what it said:
“HISTORICAL TREE — On this exact spot November 14, 1971
Fred Bear launched Joe Engle on his first bow hunting shuttle.
Joe was forced to abort the mission. Engle was in Bear’s left-
hand tree stand. Fred Bear was banned from any further missions
by the Johnson Space Center.”
After outgrowing the main building, Mr. Boyer also built a nice four-bedroom building across the driveway from the main lodge that we jokingly referred to as the “Taj Mahal,” and on the other side of the main building he built a cabin for himself. It was there that Fred would stay with him when we would gather for the annual Bear Archery hunts. Often Mr. Boyer would be otherwise occupied out of town while our Bear Archery gang was there for our month, and Fred would invite me to stay there in the cabin to keep him company. It had two bedrooms, a sitting area in front of another beautiful fieldstone fireplace and a small kitchen and dining area.
The only one of the 1950’s celebrities with whom I ever hunted was Gen. Hank Everest. By then he was an older gentleman, long retired from the service of his country. Fred invited me to go along for the annual firearm hunt one year, loaning me his rifle since I was strictly a bow and arrow guy and did not own one. I really enjoyed spending time with Gen. Everest, getting to know him and sitting around the table with some of the other older fellows from the ’50s era as they talked about their wartime experiences. I had graduated from high school the same month the Korean War ended and had a genuine interest in learning more about those days.
Gen. Everest spent a great deal of time sighting in his rifle each day before we’d all go out for the hunt. I think that was his favorite part of the hunt, in addition to seeing all of his old friends. As I recall, we did not impact the deer herd too much that year. Hank Everest was a wonderful gentleman, and I’m glad I was able to spend time with him.
Marking Time at Grousehaven
This is a gang of us from the company/office and factory supervisory people, who yearly would hunt at Grousehaven with Fred after our other guests had all left for the season. He always wanted to reward his top supervisors each year with this hunt. What a wonderful gesture.
Each year when our Bear Archery group would hunt after the salesmen and customers left, we would all sign a buckskin that was lying on a table there in the main lodge. Unfortunately, after Fred died and our Grousehaven hunts ended, someone walked off with the hide for a souvenir. It would make a nice museum piece and really should be with the Fred Bear Museum display at Bass Pro Shops in Springfield, Missouri.
One day Fred asked me to see to it that an embroidered patch was designed and produced that he could give out as a memento of each year’s hunt to the invited Grousehaven guests. Invitations to hunt in those days at Grousehaven with Fred were worth their weight in gold. I actually had two versions of the patch produced over the years, the original 1926 patch commemorating the founding of Grousehaven, and a later version marking Grousehaven’s 50th Anniversary that carries both 1926 and 1976 on the patch. They are treasured by all who have them.
Fred’s hunting in his later years at Grousehaven was minimal. He was really there to visit with people, spin his yarns, and generally make sure everyone was happy. His favorite time of the day was when we’d all come in from the evening’s hunt and report on missed shots, the number of deer we’d seen, or other misadventures we’d had out in the woods that day. We’d all gather around the fireplace end of the main room and exchange information. And, on the rare occasion that one of us downed a critter he’d pile into one of the old farm Jeeps on the property and ride out to supervise the recovery and field-dressing.
If we had special guests in camp, such as outdoor writers and the like, he would devote special time to them. Les Line was a Michigan boy who went on to become the editor-in-chief of Audubon magazine and he often hunted with us at Grousehaven, staying in the Taj Mahal. When he did, I would usually take one of the other bedrooms so I could be nearby in case he needed anything and to keep him company. One year he even brought his teenage son along for the hunt. A very nice young man.
Another well-known writer to visit Grousehaven was John Mitchell, one of the finest wordsmiths I ever knew. John had been on the Audubon field staff and was on a year-long assignment digging into whether or not hunting was an honorable activity. He later wrote that he had been leaning toward the latter. But when he finally went to Grayling to interview Fred on the subject, Fred totally disarmed him. I’ve included some of what John said about Fred in the earlier chapter titled “The Creation of Fred Bear.”
Next: Ted Nugent puts it to music:
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