A look at the archery innovators and trailblazers whose contributions shaped the gear and tactics bowhunters use today. Today’s post counts down archery’s greatest innovators from #13 to #7. We will the share the top 6 innovators in our next blog update. Happy hunting!
13. Henry Bitzenburger, Inventor of the Fletching Jig – It seems paradoxical, but the more primitive bowhunting equipment is, the more precise its components need to be. That was the working theory behind the Bitzenburger Fletchmaster, which enabled amateur arrow makers to build cedar and aluminum arrows that flew straight and true.
Developed in the early ’40s of a zinc alloy, Bitzenburger’s jig still is used to apply feathers or plastic vanes, often with the aid of Rollin Bohning’s Fletch-Tite Glue. Both brands and their products are still going strong in the archery industry.
12. Bob Lee, Inventor of the Take-Down Bow – While travelling across the country to archery shows and other events, Texas bow maker Bob Lee would sometimes become frustrated by the lack of space needed to transport his bows. His solution was to develop a three-piece recurve that could be easily taken down and put back together, or whose limbs could be interchanged with others.
In 1961, Lee’s Wing Archery introduced the Presentation II recurve bow, which was the first bow with detachable limbs. Bowhunters and archers who travelled by public conveyance made Wing’s “take down” bow an immediate success. It was quickly followed by the versions of other companies.
11. Greg Johnson, Inventor of the First Commercially Successful Mechanical Broadhead – Mechanical broadheads weren’t a new concept in the latter part of the 20th century, but it took Greg Johnson to perfect them and generate broad appeal among bowhunters. His Rocket Aerohead, introduced in the late ’80s, was the first successful design that offered dependable performance and improved accuracy and killing efficiency. The success of Johnson’s earliest broadheads engendered fierce competition among manufacturers, and bowhunters were the ultimate benefactors. Today, mechanical broadheads are the most popular type.
10. Glenn St. Charles, Founder of the Pope and Young Club – Glenn St. Charles of Seattle was well-known in archery circles during the '50s and is the person mainly responsible for seeing that bowhunters are recognized for their achievements. The first archery world records — based on the Boone and Crockett Club scoring system — were established in 1958 thanks to St. Charles’ promotion.
Three years later, in January 1961, the Pope and Young Club was founded with St. Charles as its first chairman and, later, president.
9. Holless Wilbur Allen Jr., Inventor of the Compound Bow – Whether it involved hunting or fishing equipment, Holless Wilbur Allen Jr., was a tinkerer who never settled for the status quo if he thought he could make improvements. So, it was with the bow, a device for shooting an arrow at a target that had essentially remained unchanged since its invention 7,000 years ago. Allen figured out a better way to fling an arrow and his invention of the compound bow changed archery history.
His first compound was crude, composed of a pine truss handle, limb cores of oak flooring laminated with fiberglass, and pulleys from an airplane. But the bow did what Allen set out to do with it: increase arrow speed and accuracy. He applied for a patent in 1966 and, patent pending, the first compounds were produced by Allen Archery in 1967. In December 1969, a patent was granted, but other manufacturers quickly jumped on the bandwagon with similar bows of modified design. By 1977, there were 100 different models of compounds on the market, as compared to 50 recurve choices.
8. S.G. Christian, Inventor of the Bodoodle Arrow Rest – Christian’s Bodoodle Arrow Rest, which he introduced in 1976, is considered to be the first drop-away rest. Within a year after its introduction, Bodoodle became the best-selling arrow rest among release and finger shooters. Just as importantly, it inspired others to develop similar rests that reduced one of the friction points affecting arrow accuracy.
7. Fred Bear, The Father of Modern Bowhunting – This is a no-brainer, of course. Recognized as the “Father of Modern Bowhunting,” Fred Bear knew archery equipment forward and backward.
It helped that he was arguably the greatest bowhunter of all in the formative modern years of the sport. His global successes in the field demonstrated to novices that bowhunting wasn’t an enterprise only for experts. The combination of salesmanship and woodsmanship resulted in one of the iconic names in archery. His forward-thinking innovations included the Polar, Grizzly, and Kodiak lines of bows, the first bow quiver (1946), the recurve limb, fiberglass limbs, and the Bear Razorhead broadhead.
An unassuming man who made friends easily, Bear shared his campfires with bowhunting enthusiasts from all walks of life. He was one of the sport’s greatest ambassadors and well-respected wherever he hunted.
Portions of this article originally appeared on the Realtree website.