The following is the story of the revolutionary Shrew bow. Here you will find Ron LaClair the man behind the design and development of the Shrew, as well as the bowyers who were involved with the crafting of Shrew Bows through these many years.
In the early 1990’s Ron LaClair experienced a profound moment of inspiration. In this moment of clear vision he saw beyond the normal scope of conventional bow building wisdom – he saw the initial design concept for an extremely short but smooth, fast, and powerful longbow. He called this incredible bow the “Shrew.”
The amazing riser and grip of the Shrew bow design was influenced by forward handled recurve bows Ron had seen in archery magazines since the 1960’s. The forward handled riser design Ron developed, with its unique contoured grip shape, both reduces torque and delivers a bow that becomes a natural extension of the archer’s will. Shrew bows seat perfectly time after time in your hand. They inherently come into precise alignment with your body – enhancing your instinctive accuracy and your shot-to-shot consistency. The genius of this incredible riser design became the strong foundation that made the Shrew such a breakthrough in bow building design. Since the very beginning, the reputation of these super short Shrew bows has been built on their rock solid stability and their reliable consistent hand placement which endeared them to their owners and perpetuated a reputation of reliability that Shrew bows have become famous for.
As impressive as the riser and grip design was as the foundation of the Shrew bow line, the heart and soul has always been found in the highly efficient, perfectly designed hybrid limbs. When the Shrew bow was first introduced no one had ever experienced a short longbow that was anywhere near this smooth to draw, it was unheard of. Not only were these bows smooth to draw, they shot like a dream and the arrows hit hard and with great authority! The limb construction and design were key to the performance and success of Shrew bows. These graceful limbs came out of the riser in a perfect deflexing arc that transitioned into the reflexing arc that continued all the way to the narrow reinforced tips. The curves and transitions were spot on perfection in motion. The Shrew has always been an engineering marvel. These short longbows have always been smooth to draw way back, no matter what your draw length was. They didn’t stack and they shot arrows with speed and power that you had to see to believe. Back in the 1990’s the term ‘hybrid bow’ was relatively unheard of. Since its introduction, it has always held its place as the best balanced, best performing compact bow traditional shooters have ever experienced. The perfect balance of length, stability, and power on this revolutionary bow soon became one of the most sought after bows in all of traditional archery.
Back in the 1990’s Gary Holmes was the first bowyer Ron worked with to bring his vision of the visionary little Shrew to life. Ron and Gary worked hard to get the bow form perfectly shaped, to get all the design elements incorporated, and to get the signature Shrew grip shape just right. There were many prototypes and the journey was challenging, but they worked on it diligently until finally they got it! In time, this unbelievably short longbow with its ultra-smooth draw and powerful limbs was ready to show to bowhunters throughout the USA. The Shrew limbs were longbow through and through but offered in the amazingly compact lengths of 52” and 54”. The mighty little Shrew bow changed the way traditional bowhunters looked at longbows forever. It seemed too good to be true but here it was, the perfect balance of all elements necessary for a bow to be considered, the ideal bowhunting bow. To be sure, the bowhunting community was stunned. This was the beginning of the legendary Shrew bow.
In time Gary decided to go in a different direction and it was then that Ron turned to talented self-bow maker John McCullogh. John was new to making fiberglass longbows but once Ron presented the idea to John for a new improved Shrew bow he was going to call the Super Shrew, John jumped at the opportunity and turned out to be a naturally gifted bowyer. He embraced the idea of Ron’s new design and he dove in – building the Super Shrews with impeccable attention to detail. John took great pride in his work and created some of the most cherished Shrew bows ever made. With the popularity of the Super Shrew bows, it didn’t take long for the backlog of custom bow orders to get to a year and a half. At this point, Ron realized that, to keep up with demand, he needed a second bowyer.
At this point, Ron talked to Randy Denhel who owned Saxon Bows. Randy and another bowyer were making Saxon Bows during this time so the Shrew bows that came from Saxon Archery were made by two different bowyers. Shrew bows already enjoyed a legendary reputation with bowhunters everywhere. This reputation for being about the perfect bowhunting bow ever made was well earned. There was a bit of a problem though. Randy Denhel’s very talented bowyer quit working for Saxon Archery. Ron had been quite impressed with the quality of the Shrew Bows this bowyer had made, but Ron was not nearly as happy with the bows that Randy was making himself so Ron ended their business relationship.
Still, the demand for Shrew Bows was extremely high! So it was crucial for Ron to get another bowyer on board. Ron decided to approach Gregg Coffee. He and shared with him his knowledge of Shrews Bows and offered Gregg a change to become one of the bowyers for Shrew Bows. Gregg jumped at the chance and right away started building light Shrews for Kids and Women. At this time there were two bowyers crafting Shrew Bows – John McCullough and Greg Coffey.
The intricate riser and grip design of the Shrew bows was always one of the most challenging processes for Ron’s bowyers to get down and with Gregg it took a while for him to master the contours of the Shrew’s “natural pointing handles” but eventually he got it and from that point on he was known as one of the best bowyers to ever make Shrew Bows for Ron.
Eventually John McCullough quit building Shrew Bows for Ron and that left Greg Coffey as the sole bowyer building Shrew Bows. The demand for Shrew bows continued to grow and this caused Ron to push Greg to build larger quantities of the Super Shrews but Gregg didn’t want to build bows under that kind of production pressure so he finally told Ron that he would no longer build Shrew bows and that he was going to go into business for himself.
Losing Gregg Coffee as his bowyer put Ron in a bind, but luckily Chuck Dressler jumped in right away and started to build the entire Shrew line for Ron. Chuck was a very talented bowyer and built quite a few Shrews for Ron but Chuck too eventually decided to end his business relationship with Ron and go into business for himself.
Sometime in 2016 Ron asked Jim Belcher of Belcher Bows if he would be interested in building Shrew Bows. Jim agreed to this on a limited supply agreement and he built Shrew bows for Ron for about 2-years. After those two years Jim decided to concentrate on his own line of bows and discontinued his partnership with Ron. This looked like it might be the end of the road for Shrew bows.
Then, during the 2018 deer hunting season at the Shrew Haven deer hunting camp in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan Ron LaClair and Henry Bodnik became friends. Through his dear friend and business associate Tim Cosgrove of Kustom King Archery, Henry had been invited to bowhunt at Ron’s famous Shrewhaven Deer Camp in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It was during this hunt that Ron was describing what might be the end of the road for Shrew bows because there were no bowyers left that he trusted to make them for him.
Henry of course is the owner of Bodnik Bows and he suggested to Ron that perhaps Bodnik Bows should take over the production of all Ron’s Shrew bows. Ron wasn’t sure about it. Shrew bows had always been made in the USA. Henry didn’t pay attention to Ron’s concerns. He took samples of Shrew Bows back to Germany with him after the hunt and set out to create the best Shrew Bows ever made.
In about a month, Ron received a package in the mail from Germany. It was a prototype Shrew bow built by Henry’s talented bowyers. Ron couldn’t believe it! Here in his hands was a nearly perfect Shrew Bow! Normally Ron had to work with bowyers for months to get his special grip shape contoured just right, but here he was holding the very first Shrew from Bodnik Bows and it was almost perfect! Instantly Ron knew what he had to do. He had to form a partnership with Henry and Bodnik Bows to make his Shrew Bows!
Ron LaClair and Henry Bodnik came to an agreement and formed a great partnership. Henry’s bowyers made some subtle but crucial changes to the design of the Shrew Bows and now their master bowyers are handcrafting, one at a time, the best Shrew Bows ever made!
Since December of 2018 – All Shrew Bows are manufactured by Bodnik Bows and every one of them is covered by the rock-solid Bodnik Bows 30-Year Guarantee!
Ron LaClair, Tim Cosgrove and Henry Bodnik are now the men who stand behind the Shrew Bow company. They personally guarantee that every Shrew bow must live up to their expectations of excellence in; craftsmanship, form, function, and performance. They put their reputations on the line because they firmly believe in the superior qualities of every Shrew Bow produced.
As part of the Traditional Archers Expo 2020 in Kalamazoo, Michigan, Ron LaClair, Tim Cosgrove, and Henry Bodnik came to an agreement that would secure the future of Shrew Bows forever.
Since February 2020 Tim Cosgrove and Henry Bodnik have been the new owners of Shrew Bows.
With this move comes the promise to work diligently to carry on the intellectual property and the spirit of Shrew Bows and Ron LaClair and to make this great American bow brand better known around the world.
Of course, Ron LaClair is still in the background and helps Tim Cosgrove and Henry Bodnik at Shrew Bows promote his legacy and his beloved Shrew Bows.