Traditional archery is seeing a bit of a resurgence these days, as some folks consciously decide to take a step back from the over-abundance of technology that has come to define so much of modern hunting. Whether simply for target practice or for serious game chasing, being able to accurately shoot a bow without range-finders, sight pins, stabilizers, mechanical triggers and all the other accoutrements of a modern compound arrow machine is a great skill to have, and just a heckuva lot of fun. One could also argue that while your effective range might be a bit shorter with a trad bow (which is where good stalking skills come into play), you are also choosing to shoot something with far fewer things to malfunction or break, and therefore an implement that is significantly more reliable – always a plus in the backcountry.
It’s hard to imagine traditional archery, or archery in our day and age at all, without talking about the iconic Fred Bear. Along with other archery advocates of the mid-20th century, such as Damon Howatt, Ben Pearson, Art Laha and others, Fred Bear continues to personify the qualities of classic traditional woodsmanship. While there are many talented bowmakers working today, and more excellent choices in recurves and longbows than ever before, there will always be something special, and historically significant, about the traditional Bear bows that were built during Fred’s heyday.
My favorite Bear design would have to be the classic Kodiak Magnum, particularly those produced between the early ’60’s and early 70’s. A great bow for shorter draw lengths, and for use in a blind or tree stand, this snappy, hard-hitting 52″ recurve is one of the best-selling Bear models of all time, and the classic versions are still highly sought after and collected. Yet one can still find vintage K-Mags on various online auction sites occasionally.
In my opinion, the quality of materials, and the craftsmanship, of Bear bows from that era represent the pinnacle of what Bear Archery has produced throughout its long history. If you are lucky enough to find one of these bows that has been well-cared for, it will shoot every bit as well, and be just as effective of a hunting bow, as it was when it was made (I was lucky enough to find a pristine, 1970 K-Mag from the original owner for half of what a new one sells for).
You can find more information about the history of Bear Archery, and about collecting historical Bear products, at this link.