Straight Talk Interview: Bob Barrie

From humble beginnings through Herter's and rocky Mt. Broadheads Bob Barrie epitomizes the sport.

Frank Addington Jr on Bowhunting.Net and FrankAddingtonJr.com.

 



FA: Where and when were you born?

I was born in Westbrook MN 8/28/1941, a small town population of a whopping 1000 people.



FA: What was your family life like growing up?

Even though we lived in small town, it was very sports minded and I participated in most sports. Along with sports, our family did a great deal of fishing and small game hunting. I started at a very early age, hunting small game. Pheasants and ducks were very plentiful in our area.



FA: When did you first discover an interest in archery?

I begged for a bow on my 13th birthday and got a Paul Bunyan fiber glass bow. That summer after shooting gophers and other small game. I was hooked on archery.



FA: When did you start bowhunting? Who was your mentor?

My brother certainly got me fired up to bow hunt deer. He was 5 years older than me and in 1957 he and a friend of his went bowhunting deer for the first time. I couldn’t wait for the next season and in 1958 I went bowhunting deer for the first time. I took my first deer, a late season button buck. I was really hooked on bowhunting for good. It’s always been bow and arrow; I never have hunted any big game with a gun. In 1959, I was a senior in high school and made my first laminated recurve bow in shop class. By that spring, my dad got interested in archery as well and we started going to MN State Archery events.



FA: Who are your archery heroes? Those you have met or admire and why?

Being in the archery industry all my life, I have been very fortunate to have met many great people. Certainly the list would go on and on. As a high school kid my dream was to get a job at Herter’s Inc. in Waseca, MN. Herter’s was well known as the largest sporting goods (hunting, trapping, and fishing) mail order company in the world. They manufactured nearly all of their own hunting and fishing equipment. In the fall of 1960 I met Russell Hofmister at the MN State Archery Championship. Russell was the General Manager and Vice President of Herter’s. I asked him about a job at Herter’s and told him I had made some bows and would like to become involved in Herter’s Archery Division.

He offered me a job and after getting married to my wife Connie (of 50 plus years) we moved to Waseca and began my life in archery fresh out of high school. Russell perhaps helped me more than anyone. When I started working at Herter’s the only bows they manufactured were solid fiberglass bows. Russell hired me to be in charge of the Archery Div. and to start Herter’s own laminated bow production as well as arrows and various other archery accessories. I worked closely with him making molds, grinders and other production equipment. In a short time we were making as many as 80 recurve bows a day. Production of arrows, broadheads, bowstrings and various accessories soon followed.



FA: Who do you feel has made the largest contribution to the sport?

In the early 60s I met and talked to Fred Bear a number of times at various shows and national tournaments, certainly he was another person whom I admired for all he had done for our sport. I almost went to work for Bear Archery in the late 60’s. Fred called and offered me a very good job at Bear. I spent 7 nice days at the Bear plant in Grayling, MI. Fred had sold the business but was still involved. He was certainly a gentlemen and interesting to talk to. However, Connie and I made the decision to stay in Waseca with Herter’s. Dave Staples, and Bob Rhode were two other men I admired for competitive archery. My friend Jim Dougherty certainly stands out for bowhunting and the list goes on and on with people that I not only personally admired, but have given so much to our great sport.



FA: Describe your careers, education.

At the young age of 15 I started working for a road contractor, running Caterpillars and heavy road equipment in the summer months. I graduated from high school in 1959 continuing to do road construction until going to work for Herter’s Inc. in 1961. Spending nearly 20 years at Herter’s from 1961 to 1979 as head of the Archery Div. was for the most part an enjoyment rather than work. I was constantly designing new bows, working on improving production methods and doing the things I loved to do. I was also involved in other areas of production at Herter’s, designing our taxidermy molds and products, testing fishing lures, working on new shotgun shells, sharing thoughts on making or improving boat designs, duck decoys and designing new game call. These were all things I loved to do.



Just working for a company that was so involved in hunting and fishing was a dream come true for me. In management, if it was a real good day for duck or goose hunting, we were off hunting. Same for a late morning of bowhunting or shooting carp with the bow, but we never abused this privilege and gave extra time when necessary. My main love was always bow hunting and I considered myself a bow huntaholic.



I was also very involved in competitive archery from 1960 to 1979, becoming a PAA member in the 60’s. Along the way I was fortunate to have won some MN state championships, a PAA sectional and placed high in some of the big indoor events. In 1975 George Herter sold the business. The result was the downfall of the company and in 1981 Herter’s filed bankrupt and went out of business.



By 1979, being in upper management and knowing things were not going in the right direction at Herter’s, I decided to go on my own and manufacture a new broadhead that I kept in the back of my mind. With my wife pushing me to give it a try, we used up what savings and profit sharing from Herter’s that we had for tooling. We started Barrie Archery / Rocky Mt. Broadheads. At that time all replaceable blade broadheads had thin carbon steel blades with no vents and smaller cutting diameters. I wanted a wide cutting diameter and thicker .020” stainless steel vented blades, that would feature a 1 ¼" cutting diameter. The aircraft quality aluminum body and a needle sharp steel tip, made for a rugged and reliable broadhead.



A good friend of mine in the industry, Ron Carlson, said you need to get reps on the road. That of course was very good advice. Ron Thomas, Dick Tone, Mike Wieck and Bill Gartland were our early reps. Each of them had just started in the Repping business and had a couple guys working under each of them. They all became more than just reps, good friends! The acceptance of the Rocky Mt. Razor’s new innovation was unbelievable and certainly a large part of our success were these Rep groups and their guys. I will always be grateful for their commitment and loyalty. Certainly, Rocky Mt. Broadheads was another dream come true.



FA: Can you tell us a bit about your families?

As the kids were growing up in the 60s, I was not only involved in hunting and fishing but I was doing a great deal of competitive archery going to tournaments most weekends. In the summer we spent many weekends in tents and campers at tournaments. In the later years starting our own business was a real family project, with my wife Connie and both kids Janice and Bruce involved. The kids were still in high school and were involved in a lot of high school sports. The first couple years they helped a great deal making parts, packaging and anything necessary. Janice and Bruce both went on to college after High School graduation. Janice became a public health nurse and Bruce went for business. We now have 5 grand kids. Two have already taken deer at age 12 and 14 with a bow. I was there both times and in the same tree with one. It was great!



FA: Describe your most exciting, rewarding or interesting hunt.

Having starting bowhunting in the late 50s, I had done a great deal of bowhunting before Bruce was old enough to hunt. For years I went spring Bear hunting with my good friend Gordon Bently who owned Bear Paw Landing in Ontario. Over the years we took numerous trophy bear at Bear Paw. Bruce’s first big game animal was a nice cinnamon bear he shot at the age of 13. I was with him in the same tree coaching. It was one of those moments one cherishes forever. With a special bow I designed and made for him, he made a perfect shot and we watched the bear go down. For over 30 years, Bruce and I have been bowhunting pals. Certainly I have come to realize that it is nice to harvest the high scoring trophies, but it is not always the big ones that are the most memorable. Through the years, between the two of us we have taken over 50 P&Y class animals.



On the same hunt we have doubled on Bear, Whitetails, Mule Deer, Elk, Moose, Quebec Caribou, Northwest Territory Caribou and Antelope. There have been so many memorable hunts both hunting alone and with Bruce. A real memorable hunt was just a couple years ago hunting Elk in New Mexico where we have both taken numerous bulls. I told Bruce that at my age the hills were getting harder and harder, I just wanted to go hunt a bull Elk and not worry about size. The first day, Bruce said Dad; I am just going to take a video camera and no bow until you shoot a bull. Videoing was something we had done very little of. Well we got into the Elk the first day and Bruce got some great footage. Bruce got me missing a nice 6x6 that saw me release, spring to run, dropping down and what looked like a perfect shot ricochet off his back. Then a little later that day he got more good footage of me shooing a smaller 5x5.



The next morning it was my turn to video and by 9:00 I had filmed Bruce taking a 6x6. Neither bull would make P&Y, but what a precious hunt. On one particular bear hunt we each took Black Bear with white diamonds, on another hunt we teamed up on the #1 and #5 P&Y Northwest Territories Caribou’s in velvet. We also shot two P&Y Moose in Alaska, two P&Y mule deer in CO, and many times we shot whitetails on the same hunt. I have been blessed to have had many memorable hunts.



FA: You must have a funny story involving bowhunting or the industry. Can you share one?

One thing that comes to mind, a friend that was an avid turkey hunter with a shotgun, comes to me shortly before the turkey season and said he wanted to try shooting a turkey with the bow. He had a bow, but had done almost no shooting. I helped him get set up, but the result-shooting was bad. He was lucky to hit the barn door at 20yds. I said perhaps you should try a release, he said no; I want to do it like you do with my fingers. I set him up on my farm in one of the blinds I had up.

The morning of his first day, I am at the local café having coffee with our Minister who I got into bowhunting some years before. He said, “Bob, do you think your friend will get a turkey this morning?” I said, “Roger, if he gets a turkey this morning, you know the new stain glass windows the church is putting in. I will pay for them!” His reply was, “Oh my God! I hope he gets one this morning.” That afternoon I got a call from my friend who was hunting, “I think I need to try one of those release aids, I don’t think I have a chance with my fingers”. So off I go for another practice session. In a short time I had him shooting fairly well. I knew that now he had a chance. Two days later, he took his first turkey with a bow. Come to find out those stain glass windows are very expensive! When I found out how expensive, I broke out in a cold sweat. Even though he didn’t get his turkey the first day, I did kick in a little for the windows.

FA: What were some of the obstacles you faced starting a broadhead company?

Certainly money was an issue getting started as it is with anyone starting a business. I was no longer spending someone else’s money and that certainly makes a big difference. Getting product out always seemed to be a challenge. One thing we really striven for was to be sure to send out a quality product with razor sharp blades. We always felt that was very important.



FA: Starting any company takes incredible dedication, hard work, luck and so much more. When did you actually realize you had created a company that had achieved success?

Starting and running your own business absolutely takes luck, dedication and hard work. We put in many 16 hour days the first couple years and I even missed some hunting (which was hard to believe) but necessary. I don’t think you ever get too confident with your own business, at least I didn’t. I was perhaps a worry wart, but by the 3rd year we were doing very well and I felt Rocky Mt. Broadheads was a success.



FA: How did you feel after building Rocky Mt from an idea, working with Bruce and Connie to build it up and then handing him the keys and walking away?

You know when Bruce first purchased the business from us in 1998 I remained involved, but on a much lower scale. Bruce was always very dedicated to the business. When he was going to college he was working for us when he could. After 4 years of college and then getting his Masters, he began full time. In all the years we worked together I know we had some disagreements as to what we should do, but I never recall ever having a real spat! We got along very well and I do attribute a lot of that to Bruce. Connie and I were very comfortable selling the business to him.



FA: During your time at Rocky Mt, describe your proudest or most satisfying moment.

Just having our broadheads being accepted and recommended by so many bowhunters and the business being so successful was as good as it gets. We received thousands of letters and photos and I personally looked at and answered every one.



FA: Bruce had bought the company, taken the product line you and he had developed and added a number of incredible broadheads like the Titanium 3-Blade and the innovative Snyper mechanical broadhead that later became probably the most successful broadhead ever, the Rage. With everything going up, how hard was it for you to see him sell the company?

Bruce and I worked very close together on new products even after Bruce took over the business. Together we worked on prototypes and designed many fixed blade and expandable broadheads. The Ti 100gr, Revolution, Assassin, Extreme, Warhead and the Snyper, which is now the popular Rage patent. Bruce had a number of offers to sell, he came to me and said "Dad, if I sell the business, are you OK with it?". I told him at the time, he had my blessings regardless of what direction he decided to go. I’ve never questioned that decision.



FA: Bob, you are officially retired so what does the future hold?

Other than family, bowhunting has always been first in my life. I didn’t start golfing until I was 32. Bowhunting will continue to take priority, but if there is no open season to hunt, I will be golfing.



FA: Of your many hunts, local, United States and foreign. What do you consider your favorite hunt and most rewarding trophy taken? Tell us about that experience.

Very hard question, as I have been fortunate to have done so much bowhunting. Certainly the most rewarding trophies were when Bruce and I doubled on various big game animals. The 350 plus gross P&Y bull Elk in New Mexico and the big 150 class P&Y whitetail top my list. I stalked both of them and shooting them on the ground was truly rewarding. On a Northwest Territories Caribou hunt, I watched Bruce shoot two P&Y Caribou, one of them turned out to be the world’s #5 in velvet. He watched me shoot my two P&Y Caribou, with one being the world’s #1 P&Y in velvet. It doesn’t get much better than that. Still living in whitetail country and being able to hunt every year for months, has to put whitetails on the top of the list.





FA: After years of living the sport of bowhunting you were inducted into the Bowhunter Hall of Fame in Las Vegas. I know how humble you are but can you describe your thoughts as you were accepting this award and recognition?



Being inducted into the Bowhunters Hall of Fame was the most rewarding thing that ever happened to me. It was such an honor to be included with all those past guys I admired. It was hard to believe and to have many family members and friends attend was unbelievable.



FA: I know you have hunting with some of the world’s best known bowhunters and have become close friends with many. Can you name some who have made an impact on you and do you still stay in touch with them, hunt with them?

I hunted with Doug Walker a couple times. I watched him shoot a nice 5x5 bull Elk. I shared the same hunting camp with Jim Dougherty a number of times hunting at my friend Jay Verzuh’s camp. I Caribou hunted with Bob Foulkrod and shared an Elk hunting camp with Chuck Adams just to mention a few. Certainly my cap is off to these guys for all they have done for our sport. I always spent some time on the phone with Doug until he passed away. It has been a while since I have talked to Jim Dougherty, but sure enjoyed the times we shared the same hunting camp.



FA: You are certainly an innovator so what concerns you and what excites you about the sport of archery, the equipment evolution and the direction it is going?

A great deal of my bowhunting through the years has been done with recurve bows. When the mechanical releases and compound bows started to hit the scene and me being old school and a bow designer, I had some reservations as whether or not this new equipment was going to be good for our sport? Having been a PAA member and professional archer for years, I was not so sure releases and compound bows were the best thing for Professional Archery. However I came to realize that releases and compound bows for bowhunting opened the door to many individuals, such as youths, women, people with physical problems and elderly. There is no question it has made the sport much easier. I now hunt with a compound bow and turning 70 this year, I can still shoot a 60lb bow. Not a chance with a recurve. Even in my late years hunting Black Bear, I always choose to use the old Herter’s takedown recurve I designed. I knew there was a good chance it would be a close shot, 10 to 20yds.





But to shoot it effectively like I wanted, I had to use light limbs 40 to 45lbs at my draw. At any rate, arrow placement is the main thing. In the 60’s I did a great deal of competitive shooting, I developed gold fever, target panic or whatever you want to call it. Bad stuff, so in the late 60s I switched to left hand, which totally eliminated the problem. It was great for me. The first year I hunted left handed I used a 45lb bow at my draw. It turned out to be a good year and I put some game in the freezer. To this day I still shoot left handed. My only real concern for the future of bowhunting equipment is that I hope we do not continue to re-invent the gun. I guess I would like to see some kind of limit put on Feet Per Second. I am not sure how much farther bow design will go, but I heard guys saying we have gone as far as we can back in the 80’s and that was when a 250 fps bow was fast.

FA: Does bowhunting play a part in the Barrie family now?

Even though I am no longer involved in the industry, not a day goes by that I don’t think about bowhunting in some way. I am fortunate to have a great place to hunt both in MN and in WI. In the summer if I am not golfing, I am spending a great deal of time at both places, checking stands, working on food plots, brush hogging trails, setting up trail cameras and so on. We spend 2 months every winter in Florida. I spend most of my time golfing but I am always thinking about shooting hogs or spring turkeys.



FA: What more do you think we, as an industry, can do to encourage archery/ bowhunting as a family sport?

As an industry, I think promoting archery in schools is perhaps the most important thing to get kids and families interested in the sport. Bowhunting programs on TV, if done correctly can also create interest and get families into archery.



FA: What do you see as the future of the sport and our biggest challenge?

Without a doubt the anti-hunting groups will always be a challenge to hunting in general. They just do not understand that through conservation and hunting, many species have gone from being near extinction to having a very good population.





FA: Is there anything you would do differently if you could in respect to your personal or business life?


There are always some things we might do differently but for the most part I would make very few changes. There is a great deal of pressure in starting and owning your own business. When I ran the archery Div. at Herter’s I had pressure, but really didn’t know what pressure was until I had my own business and was spending my own money. Especially in the early years, you’re worried if you are going to make it. Perhaps the only thing I would have done is gone on some of the tougher more expensive hunts, like Goats and Sheep when I was younger and physically able to do it. We have been very fortunate with our family and business.





FA: You have played an important part in the sport of archery so what advice would you give to the person looking at starting an archery business?


Perhaps my wife said it best when I wanted to start our own broadhead business. She said, “What do you have to lose? If it doesn’t work out, you can always get a job with one of the bow manufactures or someplace. If you don’t give it a try you will regret it.” It is not easy or going to be easy, but that sure turned out to be good advice. Perhaps starting on a smaller scale and letting it grow is also good advice.



FA: What would you like for people to remember you for?

That I played a part in helping Bowhunting and Archery in some way in the past and future.

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