A look at archery innovators and trailblazers whose contributions shaped the gear and tactics bowhunters use today. Today’s post counts down archery’s greatest innovators from #6 to #1.
6. Richard Maleski, Inventor of the WASP Broadhead – Cliff Zwickey’s best-selling Eskimo broadhead introduced in 1939 became the standard for other innovative designs that followed. One of them was Richard Maleski’s WASP, the first commercially available broadhead with razor-sharp replaceable blades. The original WASP was developed in 1972 by the Connecticut bowhunter from Schick Injector blades mounted to a traditional broadhead.
Though Maleski’s first broadheads were glued onto cedar shafts, subsequent models with three or more replaceable inserts were made available as WASP “Cam-Lock” threaded broadheads. Once Maleski perfected the design and the bowhunting community found out about his invention, WASP quickly became a major player in the archery world.
5. Earl Hoyt, Founder of Hoyt Archery – If the number of patents a company is granted is a measure of success, Hoyt deserves to rank at the top among bowmakers. One trait the pioneers of modern archery shared was seeing the need for improvements in various pieces of equipment, and then making it happen. Beginning in the late ’40s Earl Hoyt Sr. and his son began a list of accomplishments that included the so-called “Dynamic Balance Bow Limbs,” bow stabilizer, semi-pistol (semi anatomic) and full-pistol (anatomical) bow grip, and other innovations in recurve and compound bow design.
Earl Hoyt Sr., founded the company in St. Louis in 1931 as a manufacturer of cedar arrows and wooden bows. In 1983, Hoyt was purchased by California-based manufacturer Easton and the headquarters moved to Salt Lake City. Movie buffs might remember it was Hoyt Spectra bows that Sylvester Stallone used in the Rambo series.
4. Doug Easton, Inventor of Aluminum Arrows – Before Doug Easton came along, most archers made their own arrows from cedar or various other types of wood. The procedure was more art than science as the general lack of uniformity in the shape and weight of the wooden shafts affected their accuracy. In 1922, after meeting his idol, Saxton Pope, at a San Francisco tournament, Easton decided he was going to focus his skills on making the best arrows, and he set about doing just that. He began to sell custom-made laminated shafts out of his Watsonville, California, shop and the quality of his tournament-grade arrows set them apart.
Easton could have stopped there and enjoyed the fruits of his labor, but he was the type of perfectionist for whom good wasn’t good enough. Playing a hunch, in 1939 Easton started making shafts from aluminum. Through trial and error and fueled by stubborn persistence, Easton developed metal shafts known for their exactitude and precision. A tournament archer named Larry Hughes won a national championship title in 1941 with the new aluminum shafts and they became the industry standard.
In 1982, Doug Easton’s son Jim introduced carbon shafts, the Easton A/C, to the archery world. Used to win the field archery competition in the 1984 Olympic Games, the Easton carbon arrows quickly rivalled aluminum shafts in popularity among bowhunters.
3. Matt McPherson, Founder of Mathews Archery – Mathews Archery founder Matt McPherson was one of those innovators whose life’s mission was to advance archery technology. Perhaps his greatest gift to the sport was the Solocam compound bow. The single-cam bow’s arrival in 1992 electrified the archery world and heralded an era of improvements in bowhunting equipment that hasn’t abated. McPherson, who also owns a custom guitar business in Sparta, Wisconsin, didn’t stop with the Solocam, and in ensuing years introduced several other innovations.
Holder of more than 20 patents, McPherson field-tested many of his inventions in Wisconsin tree stands before they were introduced to the market. By 1998, the same year he was inducted into the Bowhunting Hall of Fame, McPherson’s archery company ranked 78th on the list of the country’s Top 500 Fastest Growing Companies.
2. Ben Pearson, Father of Modern Archery – Like many other bowhunting greats, Ben Pearson’s ascent in the sport gained impetus when he was still a boy. During the 1920s, the Arkansas native began to make his own equipment and honed his bow-making skills as he grew to manhood.
Buoyed by the reception his first bows and arrows received from early customers, Pearson formed Ben Pearson Incorporated in Pine Bluff in 1938 and began to produce well-crafted bows and arrows on a grand scale. It was Pearson’s innovative manufacturing developments that led to the mass production and distribution of superior archery equipment such as the Sovereign line of bows. Consequently, such quality available at cheaper prices meant that more people could become involved in the sport. Pearson pitched his products, but also was one of the most active promoters of archery and bowhunting through his company’s sponsorship.
1. Saxton Pope and Arthur Young, The Guys Who Brought Bowhunting Back –The top entry to this list actually credits three men, and arguably boosts the total count to 15 people who changed bowhunting forever. By the mid-19th century, archery in the U.S. was more or less a forgotten activity, a children’s game, by the mid-19th century, as only a few dedicated archers kept the sport alive. That changed in northern California after the turn of the century. Found wandering around, half-starved, in the back country near Oroville in 1911, the Native American Ishi was gradually befriended by Saxton Pope, the doctor who first examined him. Ishi didn’t know any English and spoke a dialect attributed to the vanished Yahi tribe. When they learned how to communicate with each other, Ishi eventually showed Pope how to make a bow and their chronicled adventures hunting in northern California gradually motivated other outdoorsmen to take up archery. Another West Coast bowhunter, Arthur Young, entered the picture a few years later through a mutual friend and he and Pope became inseparable hunting companions. Their books and films detailing their various adventures hunting big game and dangerous game throughout the Western Hemisphere and Africa fanned the flames of a growing interest in bowhunting that previously had been generated only by word-of-mouth.
In 1961, archery icon Glenn St. Charles and other bowhunting enthusiasts honored the pair by naming a new organization after them. The Pope and Young Club was established to promote bowhunting and wildlife conservation, and it also serves as the official registry of bowhunting records.
Portions of this article originally appeared on the Realtree website.