I had a question asked of me recently from a young man who is interested in becoming an outdoors columnist someday. He said he loves Journalism and wrote for his school paper. He reads as many articles as he can, especially outdoors columns.
He said he enjoys fishing, camping, and is just getting interested in hunting, but since his family was not filled with outdoors enthusiasts, he has a lot to learn. He asked me, “In all your years as a writer, what and who was your favorite interview?”
I told the young man, I was fortunate that my parents owned a cottage on the river before I was old enough to go to school, and we spent as much time as possible at the cottage. I sort of grew up running the riverbanks with a fishing pole, and I assumed all young boys enjoyed fishing.
I also owned a BB gun and started shooting paper targets and cardboard boxes under my father’s watchful eyes. He taught me firearms safety, and if I abused my privilege to shoot the BB gun or did something wrong while fishing, I was disciplined and had my privileges suspended.
I also enjoyed reading anything I could find about fishing and shooting, and I got enthused by the knowledge I received from reading the books and magazines. I took a journalism class in junior high school just because it sounded like an easier subject than Trigonometry, German, Spanish, or other subjects offered.
I was added to the school newspaper staff, and since I was involved with sports, playing softball, basketball, football, and track, I was appointed to the position of sportswriter. I really had no intention or desire to become a writer after school because I wanted to spend my time hunting, fishing, and camping.
I was hired at Chrysler Corp., and I continued my outdoors adventures, got married, started a family, took my family on camping and fishing trips, and got them involved in shooting archery in the backyard. My wife and I were involved in competition archery, and we won the husband/wife Instinctive Team event.
I was approached by a fellow deer hunter who asked if I could write some articles about bowhunting deer. He was an outdoors columnist, and he deer hunted. But he knew nothing about bowhunting. I wrote several articles for him, and he featured them in his newspaper column.
I started getting requests from other writers, asking me if I would write some articles for them, and I guess that got me started. I got to attend events and I got to interview a lot of people.
To answer the gentleman’s question, I would have to say my interview with Fred Bear has to be my favorite! Fred Bear was a world-renowned archer and bowhunter. He owned Bear Archery and was also known as “the Father of Bowhunting.”
When I started shooting archery back in 1964, Bear Archery was considered the No. 1 choice in archery equipment. My wife and I made a couple trips to the Bear Archery factory and museum that was located in Grayling, Mich., and the second time we visited, I got to meet him personally.
I felt like a little kid talking to Santa Claus! Here was my idol of whom I had read so much. I had seen videos and television shows of his bowhunting adventures all over the world, and he was shaking my hand and hugging my wife and welcoming us to his museum.
He took us on a personally guided tour of his museum, and he gave us a story and memory of each trophy animal he had mounted in the building. Every single animal was taken with a bow! After the tour, he posed for a couple pictures of him and I standing in front of a huge grizzly bear.
I told him I was also planning on purchasing a brand-new Bear Super Kodiak hunting bow. He walked us over to the counter and called the factory. Then, he took us over to the factory. I told him what length of bow and poundage I wanted, and he took one from the rack and autographed the bow in gold ink.
It said, “Made for Bud Fields,” and then under my name he wrote, “Fred Bear, your pal.”
I had the pleasure of meeting Fred Bear several times while attending bowhunting seminars and expos. In 1982, my hunting partner and I attended the Bowhunter Nationals, and as luck would have it, our tent for the weekend was right next to where Fred Bear was staying.
I asked permission to interview him, and I was surprised how quickly he accepted. He told me to “pull up a stump, and let’s start!” He offered me a cold beer, but I declined because I am not a beer drinker. Then, he offered me a black coffee, and I graciously accepted.
We talked for more than an hour, and I asked him so many questions. We stopped several times as other people wanted to talk to him and shake his hand and have pictures taken with him.
I did several interviews with him, and I told him I was the program director of the Galveston Archery Club’s Bowhunter Education Program. He told me to contact him, and he would send us some door prizes we could give out to the hundreds of people who attended our program.
I called him about a month prior to our event, and he honored his promise with assorted Bear Archery accessories. He also sent us some of his archery hunting adventure films free of charge. We had two different movies every night of the week-long program.
I talked with him again at the Anderson Archery Bowhunter Clinic in Grand Ledge, Mich., and I promised my son, Scott, I would introduce him to Fred Bear and many of the other celebrities there.
Fred’s health was deteriorating, and he had difficulty speaking. He had to sit down numerous times, but he still had a HUGE crowd of followers. I had talked with him earlier about him appearing at our program as a guest speaker and since I lived just a few blocks from the archery club, he could stay at our house until he finished.
He said he would be delighted and honored to accept, and we had the plans worked out. I was excited to have him commit. Sadly, Fred passed away. I, and several thousand archers and bowhunters, lost a great friend and archery icon. I cherish the photos I have, and memories and the interviews I did with him are precious to me.