by Cliff Huntington
"First of all a man then a true sportsman and a consummate archer-hunter,
is perhaps the best possible definition of Art Young." Leonard K. Osberg
penned this simple but powerful statement sometime in the early 1930's. Art
Young might well have been the last great American Hero as Osberg implies,
"With a courage that is magnificent and with ability known only to himself,
Art Young has gone into the wildest frontiers of the world accomplishing with
the bow and arrow that which no other figure in history is known to have done."
Arthur H. Young was born August 17, 1883 in Kelseyville, California, the fourth
of five children. His father, William Gaylord Young, was a school teacher,
businessman and Union Army veteran who had moved west in 1881 and settled
in Kelseyville. Young was attending a San Francisco High School when the death
of his father required his return home to help run the family business. The
area around Kelseyville abounded with wildlife and Art, along with his brothers
and friends spent much time camping, hunting and fishing. He quickly mastered
the rifle and pistol, eventually competing in matches for the Olympic Club
of San Francisco. It was during these early years that he learned to play
the violin and developed the habit of carrying an abbreviated version of the
instrument on his outings and camping trips. Art became interested in swimming
and excelled in the 220, 440 and 880 yard events, winning the Western Championship
twice. Reportedly, he never was beat in any of his matches and was training
for the Olympics when circumstances forced his withdrawal. With the family
business in order Art moved back to San Francisco and took employment with
the San Francisco Call newspaper. He would remain with the newspaper
for 14 years.
Will Compton is the person responsible for teaching Young the art of archery
and introducing him to Dr. Saxton Pope and Ishi. According to Cassius Styles,
Art Young was the best shot of the group, "He was one of the very few
men I have seen who was really master of an 80 pound hunting bow. This was
not because he was gifted with enormous strength; he commanded that bow because
he was not too lazy to practice with simple persistence. He was a violinist
with enough real talent to give finished recitals with the same hand that
gripped his heavy shooting gear. His shooting was as artistic as a recital,
and almost as thrilling."
Both Young and Dr. Pope began making bows from Pacific yew and both carried
bows of yew in Wyoming on their hunt for grizzlies. Of the six grizzlies taken,
only one required a finishing rifle shot and Young's huge grizzly was taken
with a single well placed arrow. Young was an accomplished writer and it is
a shame he never published a book chronicling his adventures and experiences.
But, not all is lost as Young did write and publish some excellent articles.
The article "Killing Power of the Feathered Shaft" by Young in the
March 1935 Sports Afield provides his view on many of their great adventures.
Dr. Pope would continue to use Pacific yew as his wood of choice, but sometime
in the early 1920's Young began experimenting with osage orange. He obtained
his osage from E.F. Pope [no relation to Dr. Pope], a well known dealer of
quality osage billets and staves in Woodville, Texas. For a detailed look
at these bows, check out Joe St. Charles' article, "Art Young's Bows"
in the June/July 1995 issue of Traditional Bowhunter.
In 1922 and 1923 Young traveled to Alaska accompanied by cameraman Jack Robertson.
Neither carried a firearm, relying solely upon Young's osage longbow for protection.
Young took mountain sheep, mountain goat, moose and an Alaskan brown bear
on Kodiak Island. Many of these hunts were captured on film and later released
under the title Alaskan Adventure. Who will ever forget that riveting
view of Art as "he stood in the high grass of that Alaskan meadow near
the salmon riffles, with four great Kadiaks just about to play croquet with
him, and only his strung bow with which to protect himself and the camera
man. Even as he shot, one of them, a female, started to charge from his right.
Very fortunately it changed its mind when it saw Arthur's arrow lay low its
enormous comrade, and veered off to disappear in the brush. If this sow grizzly
hadn't veered off we never would have seen the movie of this item of unbelievable
coolness and skill." Dr. Pope included a chapter on Young's Alaskan adventures
in the second edition of Hunting with the Bow & Arrow published
According to Young, ever since taking up the hunting of game with bow and
arrow, he had to contend with more than his share of skeptics when it came
to the efficiency of the longbow. "At first we archers hunted squirrels
and rabbits, and the doubters told us we could not kill deer. We killed deer,
and they raised the ante to bear. Right straight through the list we went
until we had killed every species of American game fairly, including the grizzly
bear of our Rockies and the brown grizzly of Alaska." The question of
taking on an African lion with the longbow was brought up in California in
1924 as Art Young, Saxton Pope and Stewart Edward White were enjoying a roving
shoot. I guess the answer was "Why not?" because on March 6, 1925,
the trio sailed from New York for Mombasa, Africa. They arrived one month
later and the Safari that would spawn two books and a series of articles in
Field and Stream began in earnest. It quickly became evident that the
longbow was not the ideal weapon for dispatching lions at close quarters,
but given the proper conditions, the lethal qualities of a sharp broadhead
in the boiler room were more than adequate. A total of seven lions were taken
with the longbow along with a number that had to be dispatched with a rifle.
The highlight of the Safari was Young taking a huge male lion from an old
rotten, thorn boma at night. The lion was lured into a bait and both
Young and Dr. Pope loosed arrows at it from a distance of less than 12 yards
with only Young's finding its mark. The following is Young's version of this
"We slowly and quietly strung our bows and placed our arrows on the strings.
We pulled our bows until the arrows were fully drawn and the steel touched
our left hands. At a given signal the arrows flashed out at the lion.
Wowie! and again I say wowie! You should have seen the action!
Man! Man! How that old maned boy landed on his feet and faced us all in one
motion and at the same time let out a blood- curdling roar. It fairly shook
things. He quickly looked about for something to charge. We stood still. Seeing
nothing to charge, he broke into a run and fell seventy-nine paces away. He
immediately regained his feet, squared around ready for business, then pitched
forward dead. We calculated he lived less than ten seconds after having been
hit with the arrow."
In 1926 Young embarked on an expedition to Greenland with young George P.
Putnam on the Morrissey, captained by Bob Bartlett. It was on this
voyage, well documented by young Putnam in his book David Goes To Greenland
(1926), that Young takes both walrus and polar bear. These animals were taken
while swimming, a fact that does nothing to diminish the accomplishments of
Young during this expedition. After reading Young's rendition of the episode
with the walrus, little doubt should remain as to the fairness of challenging
a walrus from a small skiff with bow and arrow. "Savagely the walrus
clinched the bow of our boat between his front flippers and with a decided
snap of his head plunged those tusks through the side of the boat not very
far from my shins. He quickly jerked his weapons out of the ragged holes and
like a flash swung his head and tusks in a most dexterous manner to the right
and crashed the two long ivories through the other side of the launch. I grabbed
the lance and made a jab at the raging beast, but, as luck would have it,
the cutting blade was on the other end of the handle. Not wishing to risk
turning the lance around after having seen how fast the wrecker could work,
I used all my strength to keep the weakening, fighting monster away from our
With little else to accomplish in the manner of taking game with the longbow,
Young settled into a routine of lecturing and working with the youth of America.
Sometime in the early thirties he moved to Homewood, Illinois where he worked
at the 1934 World's Fair in Chicago as well as continuing his lectures. In
February, 1935, Young contacted his friend Paul Klopsteg who also resided
in the Homewood area and invited him over to meet Sasha Siemel. Klopsteg was
one of two outsiders invited to hear Young and Siemel give their lecture demonstrations
that evening. Klopsteg had the instinct to bring along his copy of Elmer's
Archery and had both autograph it at the completion of that memorable
occasion. Three weeks later Art Young was admitted to the hospital with a
ruptured appendix and died from complications of peritonitis, early on a Tuesday
morning, February 26, 1935.