11/13/09 — Archer's book bares all about big game

View Archive

Archer's book bares all about big game

By Mike Marsh
Published in Sports on November 13, 2009 1:46 PM

Many hunters' dreams are filled with far-off destinations for taking part in that one, ultimate hunt. But Dennis Dunn lived those dreams, taking all 29 species of North American big game.

While others can claim the same achievement, Dunn is the only hunter to have taken them with a barebow -- a bow with no sights. His arrows were guided only by instinct and he says "help from above."

Dunn completed his hunts over 40 years at age 64. He wrote a book about his hunting adventures with tales beyond those only brought home game. The achievement itself ranks Dunn as one of the greatest athletes of all time. But as impressive as Dunn is, standing tall enough to have to duck to enter a doorway, what he wrote about his adventures is even more impressive than the man.

Dunn earned a degree in Romance Languages from Harvard University, became a teacher, rose to the leadership of a national political party, chairs opera auditions in the Northwestern states and yodels like he was raised in the Alps. His world record grizzly bear mount resides at the Pope and Young Club's headquarters.

Rather than images of himself with game, every turn of the page in his book -- "Barebow! An Archer's Fair-Chase Taking of North America's Big-Game 29" -- reveals stunning artworks by renowned father-and-son artists Haden Lambson and Dallen Lambson. There are also many author photos of spectacular scenery.

Dunn and I share common ground in that we prefer archery hunting with no sights on our bows. At the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association conference in October, I spoke with Dunn for hours regarding his exploits and his book.

"More than one-third of pre-orders for Barebow! came from non-hunters for the artwork, alone," said Dunn. "I wanted to write a book that would inspire anyone to get out and see the beauty that surrounds us."

Dunn learned archery at age six, when his mother took up the sport. He hunted squirrels before he knew they were good to eat, offering to make fur coats for his mother and sister, who declined.

Like every bowhunter, he began with humbling mishaps. But stuck with it doggedly until a friend remarked that Dunn had taken 16 different big game animals.

"He said I had the chance to do something no one had ever done," said Dunn. "That's when I first thought how challenging and fun it would be to hunt all 29."

Dunn said anyone contemplating the same feat should apply for the four sheep tags first, since sheep offer the most expensive hunting in terms of time, money and the luck involved in drawing lottery licenses. He spoke of two rams in particular, the "Hail Mary Ram," a bighorn sheep he took with a "Providential Arrow" at a distance only a modern rifle hunter would consider an opportunity, and a desert bighorn sheep he called the "Roller Coaster Ram."

"I hunted 20 days for a live desert bighorn and 10 days for a dead one," said Dunn. "It was a roller coaster ride. Some other hunters found my ram and took the head, leaving the body."

Since the arrow passed through the ram's neck, the game thieves cut off the neck, which would have identified its rightful owner by the arrow wound. The ram had fallen from a cliff. Snowfall preserved and hid it while Dunn and his guide searched 10 days, passing within a few feet on several occasions. Lengthy legalities eventually returned the ram to Dunn.

About his first mule deer hunt, which hooked him on big-game hunting, Dunn wrote, "As I lay in my sleeping bag that first night, I found myself wondering how my mother had managed to set aside her natural maternal worries and allow Grandpa to deposit me in the bush and 'abandon' me there."

About his 29th species, an Alaska brown bear, taken following what should have been a deadly fall onto a rocky beach, Dunn wrote, "And, when one considers the odds of my surviving -- not to mention without injury -- the 22-foot fall out of that maple tree the previous evening, it is certainly more than the word lucky that come to mind.

"Does divine intervention perhaps seem a more apt descrption? It certainly rings true for me. I submit that only by the Grace of God was I able to get up and walk away from that fall -- living to hunt again and complete my Super Slam the very next day! I am surely the luckiest man I've ever met."

Dunn's arrow struck the bear in the center of the heart, completing his Grand Slam.

For more information on Barrow's book, visit www.str8arrows.com.