40 Years of
Archery & Bowhunting
By Joe Bell


 At only 30 years young, I felt absolutely honored and somewhat tickled to be the editor of the oldest bowhunting/archery magazine title in existence, a title that has been going for 40 years strong.  Four decades is simply a huge lump of time.  I was watching TV the other night and noticed Wienerschnitzel, the fast food giant, is celebrating its 40 year anniversary.  Imagine that, a bowhunting publication that’s been around as long as the hot dog.

 Of course I’m kidding, but to put it more realistically, the compound bow only dates back to the late ’60s and early ’70s.  In 1962 when the first issue of Bow & Arrow was being put together, “wheel bows” were nonexistent and so were replaceable-blade broad heads.  No one hunted with release aids.  And there certainly weren’t any carbon arrows around at that time.

 Taking a further look into the old, pre-’70s issues of Bow & Arrow, I found myself entertaining a world of nostalgia.  I looked at antique-like ads of recurves from various companies like Ben Pearson, Bear, Browning, Darton, Colt, Damon Howatt, Wing, Hoyt, Herters, Sanders and Shakespeare.  Some of these companies are still around today.  I saw an ad for the Bitzenburger fletching jig.  It looked basically unchanged from today’s model.  Of course, Easton’s aluminum arrow ads decorated the back inside cover of  Bow& Arrow.  MA3s, Zwickeys, Cougars, Ace Expresses, and a few others, apparently were a hunter’s choice in hunting heads.  Looking at the bylines, Jim Dougherty, Doug Kittredge, Fred Bear and Chuck Kroll, to name a few, were the prolific writers of that age.

40 Yrs of Arch and Bwhnting 

Two authors in particular and for which I hold a soft spot for, Jim Dougherty and Fred Bear, as they’ve done in modern time, inspired, educated and thrilled Bow & Arrow readers of that era.  As they told about hunting various big-game critters with their crude stick bows, visions of dangerous bears and hot-tempered African buffalo and cats emerged right from their written phrases.  It is hunting romance at its best.

 You’d think a lot has changed in archery and bowhunting since the ’60s.  But then again, a lot hasn’t.  The equipment of today sure seems more sophisticated.  But even the recurves of the ’60s and early ’70s showed the unique elements and lines of brilliant engineering, as today’s products do.  I even noticed some of the bows in ads had bridge-style risers and off-center grips, tricks today’s bow engineers use to make compounds shoot better.  Target archers are still lining up in Vegas, as they did then.  Bowhunters, too, (at least it appears that way by all the grip-and-grin trophy photos) appeared to be just as dedicated and hard-core as they are today.  So what has changed?

 For one, we’ve lost some great hunting, whereas we’ve gained some too, considering the explosion of whitetail dear populations within the past few decades.

 I couldn’t help but become at least a bit saddened after reading stories in these old issues about bowhunting Spanish goat, merino sheep and wild boar on the  Channel Islands, which are located off the coast of Southern California.  Sadly, hunting is on longer allowed on the once great bowhunting islands of Santa Catalina and Santa Cruz.  Ridiculous reasoning has abolished it.
 Only a few years ago I recall hunting both of these places.  Fortunately, in my teens I was routinely able to walk the rocky slopes of Santa Cruz and hike the cactus-studded hillsides of Catalina.  It was these places where I carved my big-game bowhunting teeth.  Sadly it is no longer available to cherish and enjoy.  Now, I can only reminisce about the good old days of bowhunting there.

 I guess this is what the 40-year anniversary of “The World’s Leading Archery Publication” is all about.  Reminiscing.  It’s about looking back at how such a great sport has reached such astronomical proportions today.  It’s obvious: bows and arrows provide a challenge, fun and recreational pastime few can let go of.  This is the essence of Bow & Arrow’s 40-year celebration.