When the cancer finally beat Jim Dougherty on September 21 in Tulsa, Oklahoma – his home for decades – the world of bowhunting and archery became much poorer in a big hurry. Jim was that big.
There will be a ton of accolades and obits written about Jim, listing his many accomplishments, so I don’t want to dwell on them here accept to say that the list is longer than my leg. Briefly, they include becoming an official measurer for the Pope & Young Club in 1960 – before the Club even officially came into being. He became a regular P&Y member in 1967, and advanced to Senior Membership in 1973. He was the Club’s Executive Secretary from 1969-1970, Pope & Young Club President from 1976-1984, and the Club’s Past President Director from 1984-2002. On April 15, 2005, the Club awarded Jim the special status of Honorary Lifetime Senior Membership — just the fourth person to receive this honor. Jim was inducted into the Archery Hall of Fame in 1997, where many of his other accomplishments are listed, including, but not limited to: National Bowhunter Education Foundation Board Member; American Archery Council President and Vice-President; Archery Manufacturers and Merchants Organization Board Member; International Bowhunters Organization Board Member; Safari Club International Bowhunters Vice-President; Archery Incorporated President and Vice-President; National Archery Museum Board Member; California Bowmen Hunters and State Archery Association Vice-President; Bear Archery Bowhunting Council Chairman; Professional Archer of the Year 1977; California Archery Hall of Fame 1984; International Bowhunters Clinic Hall of Fame 1992; Safari Club International Bowhunters Hall of Fame 1993.
Jim Dougherty was raised in southern California, living in South Pasadena from his birth in 1936 until the early 1970’s. He liked to joke that his dad, a bird hunter, tweaked his interest in archery by making him bows and arrows from the bamboo hedges alongside their old house. Dad bought Jim an old lemonwood bow and some arrows when he was just 9 years old, a simple gesture of love that changed the course of Jim’s life.
Things really got rolling when Jim was in his early teens. That’s when Doug Kittredge opened his archery shop in South Pasadena. It was just a small shop, a front end retail store with manufacturing in the back, and Kittredge was primarily in the arrow business. Jim asked him about a job, he said “yes”, and that was all she wrote.
Like all bowhunters, Jim’s first hunts were all local stuff, hunting deer in southern California foothills that today are a maze of suburban sprawl. Later he began chasing mule deer in areas that were soon to become legend – Arizona’s Kaibab Plateau, Nevada’s Ruby Buttes, southern Utah, the Wyoming border with Yellowstone Park. In the end I believe Jim bowhunted something like 33 states, 4 Canadian provinces, Mexico and Africa with what he once described modestly as having “reasonable success.”
What I remember about Jim’s early hunts most, though, was something he told me about when we first met back in the mid-1970’s when I was living in Orange County, California and was the editor of a weekly outdoor newspaper called Western Outdoor News. His buddy Doug Kittredge had opened a shop in Mammoth Lakes, along the eastern slope of California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains, where my grandparents and parents began taking me fishing when I was still in diapers. The shop was a good advertiser for WON, and thus I was there for the annual trout opener and Jim – who loved to fish – happened to be there. For some reason he took a bit of a shine to me, and when he learned that my first compound bow was a 6-wheel Bear Alaskan that I’d obtained in college, we were dialed up.
Later Jim shared with me how he and two of his buddies, Jack Doyle and Duke Savora, would take a boat out to Catalina Island in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s and hunt feral goats. Back then there were no regs governing this game, and the three, having become disenchanted with the state of current broadhead blade sharpness, began experimenting by gluing razor blades from their shaving kits to the three most popular broadhead styles of the day, the fixed-blade MA-3, Bod-Kin, and Hill’s Hornet. What better place to test this wacky idea? The technique became relatively common in the region, and was a precursor to today’s popular replaceable-blade designs. Later Doyle began marketing the Zia Scorpion, which was the very first razor-insert broadhead, as well as blades for the glue-on process, in the early 1960’s, advertising both in the now-defunct Archery magazine. Duke Savora’s Swept-Wing broadhead, introduced in 1974, was the first mass-produced insert-style head that used replacement blades designed specifically for broadheads. It helped set the stage for the well-designed replaceable-blade broadheads that dominate the contemporary market – and Jim Dougherty was right there in the middle of it.
Jimmy designed a lot of other innovative archery equipment over the years, often receiving little credit. In the ‘60’s, for example, he and Doug Kittredge designed the Silent Stalker, the first hip-style broadhead quiver, an idea spawned after Jim’s bow quiver broke and he rigged it to wear on his belt during a hunting trip. Later he worked on the Switchblade by Ben Pearson, the Pearson Mercury Marauder, Pearson’s Adjustable Bow Quiver and a handful of other accessories, as well as a lot of arrow shaft design which were mostly Easton projects.
What most of you can’t fathom simply because of your age is that Jim Dougherty was a pioneer in the true sense of the word. All of his early bowhunting success was accomplished with what were, by today’s standards, crude equipment – recurve bows, wooden shafts before the initial Easton aluminum arrows came on the scene, heavy broadheads that had to be hand-sharpened, finger tabs, no rangefinder. Thus, they had to get close which meant they learned to stalk in close on cat’s feet. Camouflage? They mostly hunted in blue jeans, work shirts, and a cowboy hat. Tree stands? Not yet mass produced. Ground blinds? Only if you built one yourself. Scent control? That would be keeping the wind in your face. Game cameras, aerial photos, and other modern scouting tools? You were lucky if you could find a decent topographic map. Cell phones? When they made a call it was often on a party line shared with neighbors. When they went to Alaska, northern Canada, Africa, it truly was like flying to the moon.
I remember when I killed Cape buffalo in South Africa back in 2012, I was proud as punch. But hell, I had a modern compound bow, modern Easton shafts designed for dangerous game, superb release aid, a space-age two-bladed broadhead and a laser rangefinder so I couldn’t miss unless I peed my pants while being backed up by an ex-South African Special Forces animal with a .458 Win. Mag. Jim killed one up close and personal with a recurve on the last bowhunt ever allowed in Mozambique, back in the days when it just wasn’t all that safe to be there.
Though Jim was a giant in our industry, he was even more proud of being a husband, father and grandfather. He was opinionated but generally soft-spoken, had a biting sense of humor, disdained puffery and had little use for blowhards and those who believed in “instant success” without paying some dues. He lived and breathed archery, bowhunting and conservation; all are much better for it. The one time I was honored to be in his Tulsa home he showed me his collection of hundreds of broadheads. Oh my goodness.
“I would like to be remembered as a guy who loved to bowhunt, who did it rather well and who tried to represent the sport properly,” Jim was recently quoted as saying in his typical understated way. Jim Dougherty, you were a giant in your field, someone aspiring young bowhunters and writers like me could look up to with a mixture of awe and reverence as we tried our best to follow in your footsteps and do it the way you always did – the right way. You made a difference, and you will be missed.
You wanna see what it was like in the “good old days?” Watch this YouTube clip of Jim Dougherty bowhunting caribou in Alaska …