“By God, I are a mountain man, and I’ll live ’til an arrow or a bullet finds me. And then I’ll leave my bones on this great map of the magnificent…”Del Gue, from the motion picture, Jeramiah Johnson 1972
Ron LaClair is the personification of a mountain man from the early 1820’s in North America. Wild, fierce, and fearless, he has always lived life by his rules – facing whatever came his way head on. If you’ve met the man, you know this to be true.
Ron LaClair was born in 1936, some would say he was born 100 years or so too late, but Ron never bothered with sentiments like that. From a very young age he knew his mind, discovered his passions, and lived life with a reckless abandon and freedom that few souls ever achieve.
As a young boy of 6, his imagination ran wild as his mother read him chapter after chapter of Robin Hood’s adventures. He pictured himself right there in Sherwood Forest with Robin Hood and his merry men, living the simple life of the forest, outmaneuvering the Sheriff of Nottingham and filling their camps with meat with nothing but their wits and their yew wood longbows. Once this seed for the love of the longbow was planted in his soul, Ron was forever under its spell. From the beginning, Ron was something of a wild child, and so naturally he took his bow and started hunting along the creek behind the parents’ house. Once, the first time he came back to the house with some frogs he had shot, his father explained to him that if you kill something you have to eat it. That day, his father taught him how to clean and cook the frogs. Then the family sat down to a wonderful meal of frog legs that Ron had hunted. Ron often shares this story with new bowhunters and credits that as the day he became a true bowhunter. The process of hunting animals and then eating them with friends and family felt right and good. Yes, this is what bowhunting was all about, adventure, challenge, and the satisfaction of eating what you kill.
When he was 9 years old the family moved to a farm and Ron got his first real “store-bought” bow. Archery was an ever-present force in his young life, but the real turning point for the immensity of the impact archery would have in his life happened to him when he was 11 years old. His parents sent him to a summer camp in Fairwood North Michigan where he was to stay for a few weeks. During this summer camp kids had many opportunities to participate in a variety of different sports activities, but Ron, decided he had no interest in anything other than archery. He went to the archery station, and that’s where he stayed. He had no desire to get involved with any of the other activities at the camp. All he wanted to do was shoot bows and arrows!
The camp officials even called Ron’s dad to see if he could convince Ron to try some other activities, but what his dad told them instead was that – if Ron wanted to spend all his time shooting bows and arrows, let him! So that is what Ron did. He shot bows every day and it came as no surprise to anyone when Ron ended up winning the camp tournament with the highest score of anyone in camp!
In 1955 Ron bought a Fred Bear Kodiak recurve bow and some cedar arrows with Bear razor heads so he could bow hunt deer with his uncle. Ron learned from him how to pick a good spot and then sit quietly on a log until a whitetail finally walked within range. These early days of bowhunting for whitetail deer in Michigan are very dear to Ron, and to this day, his greatest passion is hunting for whitetail deer.
Ron LaClair is what is known as a “traditional hunter” – he has almost always hunted with traditional bows and flintlock rifles. These traditional methods of hunting are much more challenging, they more readily connect the hunter to the romance and the integral spirit of the hunt, the animals, and the great outdoors. As in all things, the greater the challenge the sweeter the prize so when a hunter is successful with traditional bows and arrows the satisfaction of success is felt and appreciated deep in your core.
When you walk into the forest with a traditional bow, a simple but effective “stick and string” you are turning back the clock and hunting like countless generations of mankind have hunted through the ages before us. By using the same kinds of hunting equipment as our ancestors did, you establish a connection with them. Even if you’re not a bowhunter, if you have ever shared a campfire with Ron LaClair and listened to him talking about the joys of hunting with traditional equipment, you can`t help but feel this connection. It’s where we come from. It’s who we are as humans.
When Ron met Nancy, his future wife, his life was forever changed. In her he found not only a beautiful woman to be his wife, but a best friend, a gifted archer, and a faithful hunting partner – he found a sweet soul that fit perfectly into his life. His “Redbird” was always by his side, through thick and thin, ever faithful, ever patient, and ever-loving. She held her own in traditional archery circles as well.
Ron and Nancy started hunting together in 1958 and married soon after in 1959. This was also the year that Ron started participating in Field Archery and Target Archery. Ron and Nancy attended many shoots and tournaments together enjoying archery together as a consuming force in their lives for many years.
During the 1960’s Ron was very involved in Field Archery. He shot in as many field and target archery competitions as time would allow. He always shares that it was during these years of intense competition that he really perfected his shooting form and engrained this solid, consistent form into his body and psyche. As always in the competitive world, there were many archers who created their own secret aiming systems in an effort to win the competitions, but Ron always remained 100% committed to his instinctive shooting style. He never moved away from this purely instinctive shooting style and never resorted to gap shooting or any other of the ‘hidden’ aiming systems just to win competitions. After all, like Ron has always said, we all have an innate natural ability to shoot bows and arrows instinctively without sight or any fancy sighting system. His successes proved him right.
By the time the 1970’s arrived, Ron had been bow hunting and shooting target and field archery for more than 25 years with recurve bows. It was late in the ’70s when Ron renewed his love affair with the longbow. His transition back to the longbow had its challenges though. He contacted Howard Hill Archery to get a longbow in good weight for target shooting but the only thing they had available at the time was a Howard Hill Big Five in 85 pounds! Since Ron didn’t want to wait, he had them send the bow. Ron had always been a powerful man, so it didn’t take him long to work himself up to the 85 pounds. That heavy bow reintroduced Ron to the joy of shooting longbows and for the rest of his life, Ron carried longbows as his weapon of choice for both bowhunting and target/field archery.
Ron practiced his form every day and he spent long hours shooting. When you have a passion for something the practicing is pure pleasure it is never considered a chore. Ron has often told the story of how one rainy day he was out late in the evening practicing and as it got darker and darker outside his wife Nancy was yelling him to come in!
“Ron get in there! Neighbors will think you are crazy! “
Yes! Maybe he was actually a sort of crazy. He was crazy about longbows and traditional archery!
During the life-changing 1980’s Jerry Hill, one of Howard Hill’s nephews, started a world longbow championship, and archers from all over the world came to participate.
In 1981 at the Jerry Hill World Longbow Championship, held in Alabama, all the years of intense practice paid off for Ron. He shot against the best longbow shooters in the world and came out on top! In 1981 Ron earned the right to claim the title of the World Longbow Champion.
In 1980 Ron and Nancy started their own archery business, Ron LaClair’s Ye Olde Archery Shoppe. They promoted traditional archery wherever they went. They attended every archery event and competition possible, both as participants and as vendors selling traditional archery bows, arrows, and accessories. Ron was addicted to shooting longbows and he loved introducing people to the fascinating world of traditional archery. He had a passion and enthusiasm for the sport that was infectious.
In 1983 Ron got together with a few other dedicated longbow shooters and together they formed the Michigan Longbow Association. This longbow only traditional archery club started in 1983 with only 40 members, and it’s still going strong today with several hundred members on the roster.
Traditional archery was experiencing a tremendous revival in the 1980’s. It was gaining momentum across the entire United States. It occurred to Ron that what all these longbow shooters in Michigan needed was their own traditional archery event!
So, in 1985 he got together with several other passionate traditional archers and became instrumental in starting one of the premier traditional archery events ever established in the U.S., the Great Lakes Longbow Invitational.
This first “GLLI” was held in Marshall, Michigan and more than 500 longbow shooters participated! This has always been a grand event and – as is fitting – it has been very successful through the years. It’s still a wonderful shoot and even though it has changed venues several times, the tradition now continues every summer in Charlton Park, Michigan.
If you know Ron LaClair, you know he is always thinking. When it comes to longbows, he thinks about them a lot. He always has. In the 1990’s he had a brilliant vision of a revolutionary longbow that would fill all the needs of bowhunters – AND it would be unbelievably short. Ron’s inspired idea for a super short longbow that was smooth, fast, and powerful would forever change the way traditional shooters looked at short ‘hybrid’ longbows.
If you spend your life shooting longbows and recurves, you’re going to learn a few things about bows and bow design. If you’ve been a World Longbow Champion, you know that your longbow must seat naturally in your hand, it needs to point like it’s an extension of your very will, it needs to give you reliable consistency shot after shot – and it needs to have smooth drawing yet powerful and efficient limbs to cast your arrows fast and hard. You don’t have to be a bowyer to understand what it takes to makes a great bow. Ron never claimed to be a bowyer, but he knew what he wanted. He understood exactly what this breakthrough bow design needed to do for target archers and bowhunters alike, and as this new bow took shape in his mind all of the individual elements of the design finally fused together and fell into place. All the design features, the forward handle, the self-seating grip, the transitions from grip to riser to limbs – and the strategic relationship of the deflex with the reflex, all came to him and combined beautifully to create a perfect little powerhouse of a longbow. Ron was very pleased with his creation and rightfully so. This graceful little bow was impressive in every way. But… What to call it?
Very short and compact. A smooth powerful, great shooting bow that would help bowhunters put more meat on the table. Hmmmmm… It’s a LITTLE bow with BIG performance. Finally, one day it came to him! Why not name it after one of the most voracious animals on the planet? Why not name it after one of the most successful hunters on earth? This, little big bow…
When it finally came to him, he knew it was the perfect name. He smiled. He smiled that “Ron is happy with Ron” smile. The perfect name for his new little bow with such BIG performance was the – SHREW.
We credit Howard Hill as the father of the straight ended longbow in the U.S.A. and in our opinion that Ron LaClair deserves to be considered the father of the short, forward handled hybrid longbow. Shrew Bows had a massive impact on the life of Ron LaClair and also on the entire North American traditional bowhunting community. They have become one of the most sought after bows in the traditional archery community and now that they are being crafted by Bodnik Bows, Shrew Bows are now readily available to anyone in the world.
You will find a more detailed history of the Shrew bow HERE on our website, but we wanted to share part of the story with you on this page as well.
Simply put: The Shrew hybrid longbow is one of the best balanced, smoothest drawing, most powerful bowhunting longbows ever developed.
Mystical, magical, Shrewhaven. Back in 1991 Ron and a few trusted friends purchased a 400-acre tract of land in the backcountry of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. This was the birth of a legendary bow hunting camp called, Shrewhaven.
For decades a select few of Ron’s closest friends and very fortunate guests have hunted the sacred grounds of Shrewhaven. Hunting camps are a strong tradition in Michigan and Shrewhaven is one of the more well-known of these hunting camps. Shrewhaven is a ‘bowhunting only’ camp and Shrew bows are the weapons of choice.
There’s something very special about returning to a hunting camp filled with your past bowhunting experiences. Days of silent solitude in God’s country. Days filled with anticipation, the excitement of a buck working closer… closer. It’s a place that has been a silent witness to; shots taken and shots passed, of late-night blood trails and the tough satisfying job of getting a buck back to camp after dark. It’s a place of bright sunny Indian summer days and tough cold Nor’easter conditions. It’s wild, untamed country filled with bowhunting stories of days gone by and the bright possibilities of hunts yet to happen. Here there are days filled with pre-hunt scouting, silent stalking and still hunting, and long peaceful sits on the treestand. It’s a special place where you may even occasionally hear the soulful cries of wolves. Shrewhaven is a camp rich in bowhunting history, Shrew bows history, and true pure Michigan bowhunting history.
Shrewhaven is filled with the memories of the past hunts of Ron LaClair and those who have been fortunate to have been a part of this coveted far north traditional bowhunting dream hunt.
It’s hallowed ground where traditional bowhunters, Shrew bows in hand, leave their day to day lives behind and escape to the wild country of Michigan’s upper peninsula in pursuit of bowhunting adventures that soothe the soul and put a man at peace and in sync with the natural world again.
Ron LaClair, always the poet, captures the spirit, the feeling and the philosophy of Shrew Haven:
Here at Shrew Haven, we turn back the clock! We are hunting with nothing but sticks and strings, just as our forefathers hunted!
You will find more information about the Shrew Haven Deer Hunting Camp HERE.
Ron LaClair continued during all the years until today the development of his famous Shrew Bows and was and is still living a traditional life of a real outdoor man! His wife Nancy, his kids, the Shrew Bows and his love for the great outdoors are a huge part of his life.
Many stories, pictures, and vidoes of Ron LaClair are all over!
Ron LaClair the mountain main.
Ron LaClair the trick shooter shooting Aspirins out of the air.
Ron LaClair the longbow world champion.
Ron LaClair the bowhunter.
Ron LaClair the champion in the mountain man tournaments.
Ron LaClair the man who developed the little big bow – the best bowhunting companion you could ask for – the amazing Shrew bow!
Ron is also a great storyteller and his poems are famous too! After 77 years behind traditional bows and never shooting a compound bow he is one of the solid rocks of traditional archery and bowhunting. Ron LaClair is a well-known part of the American bowhunting and archery history!
Ron LaClair – Traditional Only!
2005 Michigan bowhunters hall of fame
Because of his life’s work in traditional bowhunting Ron LaClair was inducted into the Michigan bowhunters Hall of Fame in 2005.
Today at the age of 84 Ron is still hunting at Shrew Haven with his closest bowhunting friends and is of course still shooting his famous Shrew Bows!
He is the father of short hybrid hunting longbows and is still the man behind the legend of the Shrew bow.
As we bring this story to an end, we would like to finish with his proven words of wisdom.
Before the Rest ~ Still the Best
Shrew Bows ~ Ron LaClair
Shop Shrew Bows
The smoothest, most natural pointing and powerful short bows every designed!