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Bowmaker, Industry Icon Gail Martin (1923-2013)

Bowmaker, Industry Icon Gail Martin (1923-2013)
Gail Martin's induction into the Archery Hall of Fame posing with Ken Watkins in 2012. Courtesy Martin Archery

Gail Martin, patriarch of the oldest one-owner archery company in the country who played an active part in its day-to-day operations until just a few months ago, died Sunday, July 21, at the age of 93.

On September 15, 2012, Mr. Martin, flanked by his wife, Eva, and son Dan, was inducted into the Archery Hall of Fame for "Excellence in Design and Manufacture of Archery Equipment" during ceremonies held at Bass Pro Shop headquarters in Springfield, Mo.

At the age of 14, Gail Martin first shot an old hickory longbow he borrowed from his elder brother, Glenn. The year was 1937, and he was instantly hooked on archery, though it would be several years before he became fully involved with the sport.

After serving three years in Europe with the Army during World War II, Gail returned to the states in 1946 and married Eva. That same year he began a deeper involvement with archery, bowhunting with his brother Clint and shooting one of his spare recurve bows. He joined the local archery club, Blue Mountain Archers in 1947, where he remained a member and frequent 3-D tournament participant until his death.

Gail Martin

Gail Martin

Mr. Martin often said his very first "new" bow was purchased from Damon Howatt in 1949. Since that time, a lifetime of hunting provided him with a wealth of great experiences, stories, successes and wonderful memories.

Gail and Eva - and later with sons Dan and Terry and other family members - operated Martin Archery in Walla Walla, Washington since 1951.

In his 2007 book, Unforgettable Bowhunters, M.R. James wrote that the story of Gail and Eva Martin and archery began in 1948 with a single fletching jig and the desire to produce quality custom arrows.

"The superior wooden arrows crafted by Gail and Eva eventually gained a faithful following among area archers. The couple became a familiar sight at archery gatherings, selling custom shafts and various accessories. Although money was tight, the Martins made do and worked hard at establishing themselves as suppliers of quality archery products.

"Arrows and accessories continued to account for the bulk of sales, but in time bowstrings became the product that proved most profitable. Really, it was the string-making machine Gail developed that solved the stretching and unraveling problems so common with stickbow-era bowstrings...A sample Gail sent to Fred Bear landed a long-term contract supplying Bear Archery with bowstrings in the 1960s and 1970s. During this same period Martin also built strings for Browning, Wing, Jennings and Allen bows, producing more than 7,000 bowstrings daily during peak production periods.

"In the early 1970s, working with his sons Terry and Dan, Gail focused on creating the first Martin compound bow. In 1975 Martin unveiled the industry's first one-cam bow featuring a full string system and draw stop. A year later Gail purchased Damon Howatt Archery and expanded its compound and recurve bow designs."

Gail Martin:

  • Founded Martin Archery in 1951 and maintained the position of President until early 2013.

  • Was personally involved with the design and development of archery equipment since founding Martin Archery.

  • Holder of 24 patents.

  • Received U.S. Small Business Administration's Small Business Person of the Year Award for the Inland Empire in 1984.

  • Awarded the Kore T. Duryee Lifetime Achievement Award from the Washington State Bowhunters in 2003.

  • Awarded the Safari Club International Hall of Honor Award in 1998.

  • Inducted into the National Bowhunter Hall of Fame in 1995.

  • Took numerous big game animals with both recurve and compound bows, including deer, elk, moose, bear, caribou, antelope, javelina, gemsbok, warthog, kudu, and many others.

  • Appointed to the Washington Generals, a goodwill ambassador and trade association.

  • Senior Member of Pope and Young Club

  • Official Measurer for both Pope and Young and Boone and Crocket clubs.

  • Past AMO (ATA) Board Member

  • Inducted into Archery Hall of Fame, September 2012

- J.R. Absher

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