Oklahoma primitive black bear hunt
Caleb Flies, Facebook

Oklahoma Hunter Takes 300-Pound Black Bear With Homemade Primitive Weapon

Caleb Flies may be the first to take down a black bear with this weapon in 50 years.

Harvesting a black bear isn't for the faint of heart. Even for a hunter armed with a modern rifle or a compound bow, these large predators can be tough to take down. But what about doing so with a primitive, homemade bow, every inch of which was built by hand? That's on another level, one that Caleb Flies of Oklahoma just surpassed.

Flies, 26, brought down a 300-pound black bear on Oct. 1 in LeFlore County, Oklahoma, with a bow and arrow he made himself out of natural materials. Flies tracked the black bear, then hid in a treestand he set up over a pile of legal bear bait. Eventually, he was able to shoot the bear behind the shoulder from just 7 yards away. The bear only made it 20 yards from the stand before dying. On his Instagram post about the hunt, Flies said: "What a dream come true, and a huge bear is just the icing on the cake."

According to the post, while Flies knows of people who've harvested black bears in Oklahoma with traditional bows—often made of fiberglass and used with arrows tipped with metal broadheads—he doesn't know of anyone who's harvested a black bear with a primitive bow. He may be the first to do so in over 100 years.

A Passion Project Turned Career

Born and raised in Oklahoma, Flies came to hunting through his grandfather and has been hunting with traditional bows his entire life. Five years ago, he attended the Oklahoma Selfbow Jamboree, a bow-building festival put on by the Oklahoma Selfbow Society. The society is dedicated to preserving primitive archery. Flies took to the cause immediately and has been making primitive bows ever since. He even started his own business, Ravenclaw Archery, an online store specializing in handmade bows.

While he still uses recurves and longbows, Flies increasingly uses a selfbow. Selfbows are made from one single stave of wood, with no fiberglass or backing. They aren't just the simplest style of bow, they're the oldest.

Caleb Flies with primitve bow used to hunt black bear

Facebook, Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation

Flies crafted the 55-pound selfbow from a single piece of Osage orange wood, native to Oklahoma and Texas, and backed it with copperhead skin. He made the grip and shelf from beavertail leather, and strung the bow is strung with flax fiber linen. Flies offers a similar bow in his online store.

Flies also handmade the arrows used in his bear hunt out of Douglas fir shafts, sinew wrapping and hide glue for hafting. He snapped the arrows' obsidian heads himself.

The feat was so impressive that even the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation commended Flies for his passion and skill. The ODWC doesn't break down archery kills into the type of bow that was used, so there is no record of other hunters using a primitive bow with a stone point to take down a black bear. A spokesperson from the ODWC told MeatEater that Flies may be the first to take a black bear with a stone point since the reintroduction of black bears in the 1960s. Bears once thrived in Oklahoma but were wiped out by 1915 through unregulated hunting by early settlers.

For Flies, it's not just about being the first to use primitive bows in recent history or harvesting big animals. As he told The Kansas City Star, "I enjoy the process, bowbuilding most of all. But every aspect of the journey is rewarding, from cutting down the tree to harvesting the animal. It's not the [easy] way, but it's the rewarding way."

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