Ol' One- shot!
by Cliff Huntington
"I hesitate to use superlatives to describe this man's
ability for fear I may sound trite, but how else does one describe
an athlete who is phenomenal. In pro sports today the standouts
are referred to as super stars. Howard Hill was a super SUPER
star. He is one of the few men to become a genuine legend during
his own lifetime." Bob Swinehart, a pretty fair country
archer himself, made those statements in Sagittarius.
Has Hill's popularity waned since his death in 1975? As a collector
of archery books I keep pretty close to the market, always searching
for that rare, elusive title and over the past year I've seen
the demand for Hunting The Hard Way and Wild Adventure
sky-rocket. It doesn't appear that Howard Hill shall be forgotten
Was Howard Hill the super star Swinehart claimed? Is he, as many
suggest, the greatest archer of this century and possibly of
all time? These questions probably are best suited for late night
campfire discussions, but certainly, it would be difficult to
dispute that Howard Hill was the complete archer. He could do
it all and like Elvis, we will never see the like again.
Hill was a physical power-house, weighing better than 200 pounds
and standing six feet two inches in height with huge forearms.
Coupled with his strength and size was an athletic ability that
enabled him to excel in most sports. He played football, basketball
and baseball at Auburn University. He played semi-pro baseball
for seven years. While living in Miami, Florida, Hill worked
for the Hughes Tool Company during the week and as a golf pro
for the Opa Locka Golf Course on weekends. Only one thing kept
him from playing professional golf, he couldn't putt. We are
all fortunate that when he read The Witchery Of Archery
by Maurice Thompson, his life turned around and a life long dedication
to the promotion of Archery became his guiding light.
Howard Hill designed and made all of his own equipment. He was
a proponent of heavy bows, heavy arrows and 3:1 ratio, cut on
impact two-edge broadheads with a concave cutting surface. He
liked longbows with draw weights of from 75 to 100 pounds for
hunting with his preferred weight in the 80 to 90 pound range.
Two of his favorite bows were Grandpa, an 85 pound bow
generally used for hunting big game and exhibition shooting and
Grandma, pulling 65 pounds which Howard used occasionally
for small game hunting.
When pressed as to why he used this type bow, he replied, "I
use the straight-end split bamboo longbow for the simple reason
that it requires a less exacting hold and loose to get necessary
accuracy while hunting, where quick shots must be made from unconventional
positionsstanding, kneeling or sittingnot the traditional target
Howard's hunting produced a record of game taken that probably
will never be surpassed. He's most famous animal is certain to
be the elephant he took in 1950 while hunting and filming in
Africa, gaining Howard the fame of being the first white man
to kill an elephant with bow and arrow. He used a 41 inch aluminum
arrow tipped with an enlarged version of his classic Howard Hill
Broadhead weighing in at 1700 grains. The bow he used had a draw
weight of 115 pounds.
Howard Hill earned many awards during his career to include the
Maurice Thompson Medal of Honor in 1963, the National Archery
Association's most prestigious award and was one of the first
group of archers to be inducted into the Archery Hall of Fame.
He won 196 Field Archery tournaments in a row, wrote the first
set of Archery Golf Rules in 1928, won seven National Archery
Golf tournaments, won the NAA Flight Championship in 1928 setting
a new record and as incredible as it may seem, drew 35,000 spectators
in Grants Park, Chicago, in 1941, to an archery shooting exhibition
he performed. The crowd afterwards literally tore the shirt off
his back and also took his bow, arrows and quiver for souvenirs.
Do we have anyone today that can pull a similar crowd? Doubtful.
Howard became involved with the film making industry as an archery
consultant and performed the actual shooting scenes in eight
movies. Who can forget Howard's incredible shooting in "
The Adventures of Robin Hood," starring Errol Flynn. Howard
shot 11 stuntmen in this movie, but due to retakes with some
scenes, by his own admission, he actually made 45 shots on stuntmen.
These stuntmen were protected by a pad approximately 14"
high and 12" wide. This pad was comprised of a felt backing,
a 1/16 inch steel plate and three inches of balsa wood on the
front to catch and hold the blunt arrows Howard used. Other than
a few bruises from the impact of his hard hitting bows, no stuntmen
Some of Howard's more entertaining outings were ones taken with
Ed Hill in that big tired, Model A Ford Ed had transformed into
a dune buggy affectionately name "The Whoopie." Archers
like Ken and Walt Wilhelm, Skeet Moore and Wayne Stotler, to
name a few, hunted with Howard in California, Nevada and other
Western states. They were all connected by their love of the
bow, a large capacity to enjoy life and fellowship, and it made
little difference whether they were hunting trophy mule deer
or bouncing bunnies out of desert scrub. Those were wonderful
days for archery and we owe much to Howard, Skeet, Walt, Ken,
Ed, Wayne and a host of others for their contributions.
For an in depth view of the man they called "Ol' One Shot,"
check out Howard Hill, The Man And The Legend by Craig
Ekin, Hunting The Hard Way and Wild Adventure by
Howard Hill and the chapter in Sagittarius by Bob Swinehart
titled "Living With A LegendHoward Hill."