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Traditional bows for bear archery
To learn about the history of that old Bear Bow out in the garage check out Jorge Coppen's new book "Bear Archery Traditional Bow." (Jorge Coppen photo)

The compound bow dominates the world of archery and archery hunting. But once upon a simpler time a bow was a simple weapon constructed of stick and string. Looking over the space aged modern compounds of today with ergonomically gripped aluminum risers with cables and wheels shooting an arrow over 300 feet per second, it hard to believe they are the grandchildren of the bent willow branch with a cat gut string.

Holless Wilbur Allen changed the face of archery with his 1966 patent "Archery bow draw-force multiplying attachments." However, it took another twenty years until the compound bow began to take over the archery world. I remember it like it was yesterday when my first compound arrived at the house. The year was 1980.

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I had saved my newspaper delivery, grass cutting and snow shoveling money until I had the $132 to purchase a Bear Archery Hunter 2, fully outfitted with sights, rest and quiver and a dozen arrows.

That bow was my pride and joy for many years. Today, however, it is the bow I shot before owning my first compound that interests me. Before my father also moved up to a compound, he once shot a Bear Archery recurve. Dust gathered on 45-pound Bear Archery Grizzly for many years while it sat in the dark corner of the shop. Then one day, I wanted to explore and return to the simple days of archery.

During the 1940s until the compound took over the archery scene in the 1980s, one name stood out as the leader in producing long bows and recurve bows. Even today, Bear Archery remains at the top of the list for those looking to purchase a traditional style bow.

Fred Bear began making bows for friends in 1933 and within six years, he left the automotive industry to pursue the archery business fulltime. Fred Bear was born in Waynesboro, Pa., in 1902. After viewing a documentary on the bow hunting adventures of Art Young, Fred was soon learning the craft of making bows under the guidance of Young himself.

Fred Bear not only made bows, he traveled the world bow-hunting and filming his hunting expeditions, leading the movement that would become the world of modern archery of today. Today, Bear Archery traditional bows of the past have a huge following and are actively collected by many who enjoy the simplistic beauty of bent wood and string.

Last year while at a traditional archers shoot, I had the chance to meet Jorge Coppen. Jorge has gone to great lengths to learn as much as possible about the history of the traditional bows of Bear Archery and has collected that information in his new book "Bear Archery Traditional Bows."

His chronological history of Bear Archery's bows covers the years from 1949 to 2015. It is quickly becoming the go to book for those that want to learn when a particular bow was made or what type of wood was used to make the bow.

This illustrated reference manual is the singular compilation of the chronological history of Bear Archery traditional bow production. Each chapter covers a detailed chronology of the factory production specifications for each particular bow model. "Bear Archery Traditional Bows" contains photographs of almost every production model made from 1949 to 2015. These photographs are extremely helpful to those wanting to collect and date a bow.

One aspect of the book I found interesting and helpful is the table at the end of each chapter that lists the characteristics of the bow by year, listing the AMO length, riser material, medallion, limb glass colors, overlay colors, limb tip colors and often the two-digit serial number prefix. This information is not only interesting but provides key information to the person rebuilding an old Bear Archery bow.

When I first received Jorge's book, the first thing I did was to research my father's old bow. It did not take long to learn that the Grizzly that I had held on to for so long was a 1971-72 model built in Grayling, Mich., before Bear Archery began to manufacture the bows in Gainesville, Florida. The Grizzly is known as the working man's bow and was the first Bear Archery bow model to receive a name in 1949.

In today's world of faster and increasingly higher tech compound bows entering the market each year, many archers find it necessary to upgrade their bow every year or two. What once was a simple tool has become a complicated machine requiring continued maintenance and fine tuning. And don't lose or forget your release or you are not shooting that day. Does a compound bow out shoot a traditional bow?

In the majority of cases, yes it does. But to those who choose to shoot in the more traditional means of a recurve or long bow, there is a special romance with hitting the mark with the arrow sent down range without the aid of sight pins, cables and wheels.

To those who wish to learn more about the old bow sitting in the corner of the shed, basement, or garage that once was dad's or even grandad's bow, Carroll resident Jorge Coppen has assembled all there is to know about Bear Archery Traditional bows in one singular book. Maybe dusting that old bow off will result in you sending a few arrows down range the old-fashioned way.

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