Ted Nugent Remember’s His Final Hunt with Bowhunter Fred Bear
I was glued to the station wagon window as we cruised up highway 75 that beautiful October afternoon in 1955. With my handstitched leather backquiver full of handsome natural turkey feathered cedar arrows and my little Osage longbow placed strategically against the side window for all to see, I was constantly checking every other northbound vehicle for evidence of a fellow bowhunter.
When another quiver of arrows or bow was sighted, a smiling face and friendly wave of hands indicated the ever-growing BloodBrotherhood of SpiritWild bowhunters in my home state of Michigan in those early days of the sport. Even at the tender age of seven, I was already hyper giddy about all things bows and arrows and outdoors and critters. The powerful healing qualities of the Good Mother Earth had already entered my bloodstream way back then, and even young Ted knew he was onto something bigger than life. The smell and taste of the autumn air, a primal scream within, the exploding colors, a palpable eagerness of entering the big timber of Up North, the titillating possibility of actually encountering a whitetail deer in the mystical forest, and the dream of actually coming to full draw, and maybe, just maybe, sending my arrow into the beast. WOW! It was all a bit too much for this young American Dreamer. But dream I did.
If ever I was in danger of self-implosion, it all came to a DefCom1emotional high when my dad wheeled the old Ford Country Squire into the little gravel parking lot of the small, garage-like white prefab shop on the edge of the woods outside Grayling Michigan. I could hardly stand it, for the inside would be a figure larger than life itself; the tall, lanky, gentleman, living legend of the fall and all things mystical flight of the arrow, the one, and only Fred Bear. We made it a point to stop and visit with Fred each October, and he generously showed us all his newfangled archery inventions and contraptions that took my fascination with archery, bowhunting, and nature to an ever-intensifying higher level.
I remember his excitement and the constant experimentation with his obsession for a better Bear Razorhead, the first Bear bow riser cutting machine, the pungent aroma of cooking glass and wood in the makeshift laminating presses, goo, and glue oozing out from delicately arched, beautiful wooden composite recurve bow limbs. And of course the ever tantalizing taxidermy mounts of stunning big game animals from around the globe. It was sensual overload for sure, and the fact that Fred was so hospitable and friendly made every visit so very special to have a huge guiding impact on my life forever. Ya think?
Eventually, fate would put my dad, Warren Henry Nugent, and Fred into a business relationship where my father sold Swedish blue-tempered, rolled spring steel to Fred for use in producing the bleeder blades for Bear Razorheads. Dad even got to join Fred on annual Bear bowhunts Up North. How cool is that?
Often, we would all go to the Grayling Restaurant and have lunch with Fred’s and my favorite cherry pie and milk for desert. You don’t think these memories remain a driving force in my life, do you? Wild!
Well, life rolls on, and though I never missed a hunting season through the years, I rarely kept in touch with Fred. Upon graduating from high school and embarking on a nonstop touring schedule with my rock-n-roll band the Amboy Dukes, I finally made it a point to stop in Grayling in the fall of 1967 to visit with my hero and role model once again. We would visit on and off during the tumultuous, nonstop rock-n-roll touring years.
Fred was at first somewhat suspicious of the maniacal music world in which I dominated between hunting seasons. After a while, he came to understand that the uninhibited intensity of my hardcore musical performances and imagery were completely harmless. In fact, Fred was intelligent and sophisticated enough to come to grasp and appreciate the vital dynamic of my constantly promoting conservation and the discipline of the shooting sports in my unabashed energetic style to this critical youthful demographic via my music career. Magnified by my militant stance against drugs, alcohol, tobacco, and other such irresponsible behavior, and my consistently standing up for family values and environmentalism as best I could, Fred came to be a major supporter. We both knew how important it was to stand for the right things, particularly as a celebrity in the otherwise leftwing world of entertainment. Unfortunately, many in the shooting sports were too stupid to figure it out. Fred and I carried on anyway.
A powerful highlight in my life was the invitations from Fred to join him and his Bear Archery associates at his beloved Grousehaven Hunting Lodge in Rose City, Michigan each fall. It was a laid back, casual affair, where like-minded bowhunters in the industry would share a campfire with their hero and mentor. I seldom actually hunted and never killed a deer on these hunts, as I was hopelessly committed to spending as much time as possible with Fred. He didn’t really hunt much in the years after 1985 or so, and we were able to hang out together more and more back at camp to talk and discuss the state of world affairs, hunting, and bowhunting in general, but most importantly, specifically about the ever metastasizing cultural war against our cherished hunting rights.
It was on our last hunt together there in October of 1987, to be his last hunt at Camp Earth, that our BloodBrother bond and friendship culminated in the closest time ever spent together. It was truly moving. Fred was an exceptionally bright, witty, sophisticated entrepreneur, and surely this superior level of awareness showed him the ugly anti-hunting writing on the wall way before anyone else that was growing toxic anti-American steam as early as the 1950s.
Those of us who knew Fred were aware of his serious concern for the attack against man’s God-given rights and our natural, spiritual relationship with nature. His hardcore dedication to fighting against the animal-rights terrorists was gathering support each year. We talked of this new war often, and his brilliant take on it guided all who were privileged to hear his wisdom and smart enough to assist. In a nutshell, he knew the hunting community and industry simply had to fight back by beginning to communicate the heart and soul of hands-on conservation, our wonderful wildlife management successes and to emphasize the natural tooth, fang and claw of the real world of nature in a friendly, sincere, believable fashion to all we possibly could at every opportunity. Ya think?
On this last hunt together, strolling along the most stunning wilderness road, autumn leaves aglow with great spirit, skies alive with migrating waterfowl and a tangible taste of nature in all her glory in the forest air, Fred and I talked. With his ever-present oxygen bottle at his side and that trademark hat slightly tilted on his head, Fred told me how much he appreciated my standing up for hunting and gun rights, and to keep doing exactly what I was doing. He emphasized the pivotal importance of my penetrating a youthful demographic with the unique energy and passion of my musical career and imagery, and for me to ignore my critics who just don’t get it.
Without question, this moment in my life touched me deeply and guides my dedication to fighting constantly as I do to this very day almost 20 years later. In fact, it was Fred’s sincere vote of confidence in my approach to promoting conservation and the shooting sports that guided me to create our beloved Ted Nugent Kamp for Kids charity as the specific vehicle by which other dedicated sporters could join forces to reach out to the kids who need discipline and nature the most. Going into our 17th year, this 501C3 nonprofit charity has cleansed the souls of thousands of kids and their families to be better Americans, better sporters, better conservationists, better hunters, better bowhunters, and to be a force of positive peer pressure to reckon with. All in the name of Fred Bear. I am certain Fred would be proud.
I shoot my bow every day within sight of old Bear recurves and Bear cedar arrows, many of which bear the signature of my hero. My precious daughter Sasha recently created a most moving photo album for a special Father’s Day gift that includes photos of Fred and me from way back when. Powerful stuff. I sense the presence of the great man every day in my life. He remains a guiding light in many aspects of my life. Every arrow I shoot, every interview I conduct, every child I teach archery to, Fred is at my side. Like the song says, In the wind, he’s still alive.
Ted Nugent’s Fred Bear Song