Colorado archer Fred Eichler is a man who lives to bowhunt, a passionate pursuit that has literally taken the bowhunter all over the world in pursuit of outdoor adventures.
Introduced to the sport as a youth, Eichler became interested in the stick-and-string after watching a young friend give archery a try. Further fueled by the television exploits of the great Fred Bear along with Bear’s classic book, Fred Bear’s Field Notes, Eichler eventually found himself in his own backyard sending arrows downrange at a makeshift target.
“The first bow that I had was a used Ben Pearson (compound) that my dad bought me,” said Eichler. “I used it for years, eventually going hunting with it. My dad said that he would take me hunting once I could hit a (pie) plate at 20 yards.”
When the required level of backyard marksmanship was achieved, Eichler was soon in the woods chasing public-land deer with his bow.
“My dad was a rifle hunter and he didn’t know a whole lot about archery, but he supported me and my desire to become a bowhunter,” he said. “I shot my first deer with a bow while I was in my teens and I’ve never really looked back.”
Eventually managing an archery shop in northern Colorado and then working for Bear Archery, it wasn’t long before Eichler found himself gravitating towards the traditional side of the sport.
“I actually started out using a compound and I enjoyed the heck out of that for several years,” he said. “But the owner of the bow shop I worked at in my early 20s was an avid traditional guy and he helped to pique my interest there. Plus, I was already a big fan of Fred Bear, so it didn’t take much. Today, I use and like them all, compounds, recurves and the longbow.”
These days, bowhunting isn’t just the passionate pursuit of Eichler, it’s also his career. Living, working and hunting on a sprawling ranch with his wife, Michele, and his three sons, Jeb, Seth and Trent, Eichler is the longtime host and/or co-host of Easton Bowhunting TV, Predator Nation and The Outfitters, all airing on Sportsman Channel.
“Having a wife that not only is as passionate about bowhunting as I am, but also understands it and supports it, that makes all of the difference in the world,” said Eichler. “Our whole family, we all eat, drink and live bowhunting. We genuinely love to do it; we bowhunt together as a family and Michele and I bowhunt together as a couple.”
In addition to his family’s own bowhunting pursuits, Eichler also is a fulltime Colorado outfitter, guiding some 150-plus hunters each year on more than 130,000 acres of private ground and more than 1.3 million acres of public ground.
But for all of the adventure mentioned above, Eichler’s role as one of the sport’s modern pioneers came full circle when he became the first bowhunter in history to harvest all 29 big game animal species on the North American continent while using a recurve bow.
“When Chuck Adams completed the first Super Slam by a bowhunter, it seemed to me to be the Mount Everest of bowhunting,” said Eichler. “I decided to try and do it with a recurve because I wanted to know if I had the mental and physical skills to (get it done).”
What resulted was a two-decade-long quest taking the Colorado man to some of the loneliest mountain ranges, desert valleys, windswept prairies and thick woodlots to be found across the U.S. and Canada. With the arrowing of a Tule elk in California in August 2009, Eichler’s longtime Super Slam recurve dream was now an amazing reality.
“When I got that last animal, there was certainly a huge sense of accomplishment that I felt since it was really tough sometimes and I didn’t know if I would ever get it done,” said Eichler. “Trying to get all 29 big-game animals is tough enough to begin with, even more so when you’re trying to get within bow range, especially with a recurve.”
In the end, it wasn’t the final result of taking the first recurve Super Slam Eichler found most rewarding; it was the long journey he took to eventually achieve the goal.
“Looking back, what I really took away from it all was the places that I got to see, the people that I got to meet and the chance to see a lot of different animals that I had not encountered before,” he said.
While Eichler possesses the necessary hunting skills and shooting ability to tackle trophy-size big-game animals just about anywhere he hunts, he has steadily maintained to his hunting show audience that any big game animal taken legally, ethically and fairly with a bow and arrow is a trophy worth celebrating.
“People often ask me if the emotion that I show on camera is the real deal or if it is manufactured,” said Eichler. “I laugh and say ‘Yeah, it’s 100 percent the real deal.’ My wife will back me up on that. It’s also why most people won’t let me drink coffee.”
Such raw emotion in the field harkens back to Eichler’s first hunting exploits with his dad.
“I was that way (emotional) when I was young,” he said. “We didn’t have the money to hunt private leases and such, so we did most of our hunting on public land. So when either my dad or I got something, it was a celebration. I still feel that way; I think it should be a celebration to take an animal, especially with the bow.”
A genuinely good-natured man with a hearty laugh and an infectious spirit, Eichler has carved out a name as one of the top bowhunters in all of North America, a pioneer in an ancient game that continues to thrive on today’s modern landscape.
Sought after or not, Eichler takes his role as one of the sport’s current faces quite seriously, especially when it comes to giving back.
“Giving back is super important to me and passing along the tradition of archery is huge in my eyes,” said Eichler. “I love it when I get to help put on archery shoots at local schools or archery clubs because getting kids into bowhunting is very important to me.”
Why is that? Because it doesn’t take much for Eichler to look back through time and see a young boy who wanted to give the sport a try, a passionate lifelong pursuit fueled with the help of many others.
Today, Eichler would love nothing more than to help spur a similar love of archery and bowhunting in the life of a youngster somewhere else in North America.
“Archery and bowhunting are sports that anybody can enjoy,” he said. “You don’t have to be a great athlete to shoot a bow. A kid may not be great in football, basketball, baseball or soccer, but they can do well in archery and bowhunting even if they don’t have an incredible set of athletic skills.
“Plus, it brings a lot of enjoyment to me to help get kids outside, off of their phones, away from their video games and out from in front of the television screen doing something that is fun and healthy.”
And who knows? Perhaps in helping introduce others to archery and bowhunting, Eichler is helping to raise up one of the sport’s next modern voices, a young boy or girl who will eventually choose to live a similar life.
With a bow and arrow in hand and the smile of the late Fred Bear casting a lengthy shadow all across the rugged landscape.