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 anytime soon.
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 archer's pose."
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 were injured.
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."