by the HuntDaily staff
It is hard to believe today, but that is exactly what most people thought of bowhunting in the early 20th century. They weren’t laughing at the idea of bringing down African elephants or Arctic polar bears with a stick and string. In the early 1900s, when American archery was experiencing the first tremors of revival, the very thought of harvesting deer or bear or any of the big-game species we pursue today seemed downright ludicrous.
“It can’t be done” they said. “It SHOULDN’T be done!”[Unfortunately, that is not unlike today. Our bowhunting legacy is under genuine, daily threats from anti-hunting coalitions, politicized legislatures…even well-financed groups attempting to restrict public land access to hunters. Lately, even the mainstream media has inserted itself into the discussion, plucking the emotional chord in order to cast trophy hunting in a negative light.]
We may never fully understand the mindset of the public and the wildlife regulators of that time. Never mind that the bow and arrow had been the primary hunting weapon of man since before recorded history. Maybe it was simply the Edwardian-era concept of archery being a genteel field sport that caused people to forget the bow and arrow’s place in the foundation of human achievement and subsistence.
Whatever the case, bowhunting was not always possible in this country. In fact, were it not for a handful of men determined to help us, as a nation, rediscover our lost heritage, bowhunting as we know it today would probably not exist. It is a way of life these early pioneers of modern bowhunting fought to give us. Now, as dedicated and ethical bowhunters, that charge is ours. We stand on their broad shoulders, taking responsibility for the legacy they left for us, protecting the heritage for those who will likewise follow the trails we blaze today.
Our society challenged the early bowhunting advocates to prove the bow and arrow was a legitimate and ethically lethal weapon for the taking of large game animals. At a time when conservation movements sought to restore animal populations across the country, the notion of guys running around the fields, sticking these same animals with arrows, didn’t go over well. In short, bowhunters had a serious image problem, and this was one reason game departments did not allow bowhunting in their states.
Fortunately, the desire to pursue game with a bow and arrow seemed to be endemic to America’s hunting culture; It just needed some help getting started.
A medical doctor from California named Saxton Pope, along with Will “Chief” Compton and Arthur Young (all of whom were influenced by Will and Maurice Thompson’s writings, and their personal association with Ishi, the last member of the Yahi tribe) worked tirelessly during the 1920s and 1930s to promote archery and bowhunting to an eager generation of outdoorsmen. Their message…bowhunting was a virtuous endeavor that promoted the concepts of “clean living, good sportsmanship, and fair play.”
Interestingly, but not surprisingly, it is these same virtues that help to define us as bowhunters today even though we are a century removed from these early bowhunting pioneers. Like those who came before us, we pick up the bow not because it is easy, but because it is hard; We take on the challenge of hunting with weapons that demand greater skill and dedication; We accept that our refined sense of sportsmanship and fair chase may mean fewer harvests, but our reward for those harvests provide incomparable satisfaction.
Yet in spite of the early efforts of Pope and Young, along with other bowhunting proponents, acceptance of bowhunting as a legitimate and effective means of harvesting game animals did not come easily. It wasn’t until 1961, when several unofficial leaders of the bowhunting community organized to form the Pope & Young Club, that the world of bowhunting we enjoy today came to be.
The Pope & Young Club was named for Dr. Pope and Art Young, who inspired the new generation of up-and-coming bowhunters with whom we are most familiar—men like Doug Easton and Fred Bear. It was these new standard-bearers, along with others such as Glenn St. Charles, Ben Pearson, Robert Lee, and many more, who turned the corner for the bowhunting community. These men successfully proved to the world through hard-earned shooting skills, fair-chase hunting, conservation, and respect for wildlife that bowhunting was not only an ethical means of harvesting wild game, but a noble one at that—an honorable heritage to which we all are joined together.
It was within this broader mission to promote ethical hunting, wildlife conservation, and to preserve our bowhunting legacy that the Pope & Young Club was chartered.
Today, most bowhunters think of the Pope & Young Club as the place where you submit your trophy bow harvests, and that a successful entry into the Pope & Young Club record books is the only avenue by which you can become a member of the organization.
True and false.
One of the first efforts of the Pope & Young Club—in addition to dedicating itself to good conservation practices, quality hunting, and fair chase—was to gather the records of mature animals taken with a bow as a way of honoring the animals and acknowledging the hunters who claimed them. Interestingly, the underlying purpose of these records was to help polish the image of bowhunting and prove the effectiveness of the bow and arrow. Immediately, conservation departments from around the country requested the records in order to utilize the data for potential establishment of bowhunting seasons.
A misperception of the Pope & Young Club, though, is that a minimum qualifying record entry is required to join the organization. That is not the case.
If you are an ethical, fair-chase bowhunter, YOU ARE THE POPE & YOUNG CLUB!
The Pope & Young Club champions your bowhunting rights, preserves your bowhunting heritage, and ensures good conservation policies and results that benefit bowhunters now and in the future. You can join the club today as a Supporting Member without ever having bowhunted. General Membership is available to bowhunters who have taken at least one North American big game animal with a bow and arrow. It doesn’t have to meet any minimum scores, or even have antlers!
As a member of the Pope & Young Club, you are part of a noble culture of dedicated bowhunters. You carry the torch lit by those who committed themselves to reviving the ancient traditions and working to ensure that those traditions will continue for the generations coming behind you.
Join the Pope & Young Club today. It’s easy, it’s your heritage…and as a bowhunter, it is YOU!
Article copyright 2015 by HuntDaily.com; promoted by Pope & Young Club