Thank you for being one of our most loyal readers. Please consider supporting community journalism by subscribing.
I enjoy looking back at the history of hunting in North America. I find the stories entertaining, enriching and enlightening. Many people have heard how President Theodore Roosevelt pioneered the national park system and conservation of various creatures both in America and Africa. Others became well known names, such as Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett thanks in large part to Fox and Disney running television series in the 1950s and 1960s.
These people can be considered trailblazers in establishing the hunting heritage in the United States and North America.
Rather than European-style hunts which often resembled lush collectives of well-to-do men dressed in bright colors, riding horses, and working dogs, the hunters in the U.S. tended to dress in earth tone leathers, furs, and clothing and was more of a get-down-and-dirty style.
One of the people I love to read and learn about is likely the single person that established bowhunting as a separation from archery.
Art Young was a tremendous athlete and intellectual. Born in 1883, Young grew up camping, hunting and fishing with his family and friends. He was an accomplished shooter, mastering both rifles and pistols. He was also considered a world-class swimmer and trained for the Olympics before having outside circumstances hinder his progression. He took up the violin, and quickly became proficient enough to hold his own finished recitals. In other words, anything Art Young did, he became not just good, but great at doing.
Will Compton, another bowhunting and archery legend, introduced Art to archery, and later, introduced Art to Dr. Saxton Pope and Ishi. Ishi was the last of a tribe of Indians in California, and Pope was assigned to both learn Ishi’s native tongue as well as teach Ishi how to communicate in English. Ishi used a bow to hunt, as did his tribe, and taught both Pope and Young the intricacies of how to hunt with a bow using stealth to gain close access to animals as well as how to place the killing shot.
At the time, firearms were the sole means of hunting. Art Young took this knowledge granted to him and set out on a mission to show that bows and arrows were more than for target shooting and competition, that they were in fact a viable means to hunt creatures both small and large.
In 1922 and 1923, Art Young set out on an adventure to prove just how capable the bow and arrow was. While he was not a large man, he commanded the bow just as he did the violin, and through practice and muscle repetition and memory, became adept at handling an 80-pound pull bow. This was key in his goals.
Art Young traveled to Alaska for an extended expedition. He brought along a camera crew to record the adventure. He did not allow any firearms. The entire crew would only eat what he was able to take with the bow.
The adventure became legendary for the time. Footage of Art Young taking salmon in some of the first filmed footage of bowfishing broke barriers. Young approaching and taking a full-grown moose with nothing but what many considered a stick and string mesmerized audiences.
But one scene stood out amongst others.
Art Young stood amongst some tall grasses and weeds in a meadow, with a salmon run nearby. Four Kodiak bears fed on the spawning salmon. Again, there were no firearms, so the crew was only protected by Art and his bow and arrows. Art nocked one of the arrows and let if fly at one Kodiak, while another female Kodiak bear charged on the other side. After the large bear fell to the arrow, the female noticed and veered off into the woods, deciding she did not want the same fate.
While archery had been used prior to this for small game such as squirrels and rabbits, no one believed the bow could take a whitetail deer. Art Young showed the world that not only could it take a deer, it could take mountain goats and sheep, moose and even grizzly and Kodiak bears.
And from that, a whole new segment of hunting was born.
Bill Howard is an avid bowhunter and outdoorsman. He teaches hunter education (IHEA) and bowhunter education (IBEP) in North Carolina. He is a member of North Carolina Bowhunters Association and Pope & Young, and is an official measurer for both.