Want a top-quality, custom-made bow built just to fit your own needs? Fox Archery north of Enterprise is the place to get it.
Ron King, the bowyer who has been making bows for 25 years for the hunter, tournament-shooter, or just-for-fun backyard shooter, has relocated his business from Wallowa to what once was the Oregon Department of Transportation’s snowplow facility on Highway 3 about 27 miles north of Enterprise.
Although things are now on the upswing, the whole reason for the move is tragic.
“A lot of what made this transpire was because I lost my wife (Deborah) to breast cancer in 2019. We did a lot of this stuff together,” King said. “My house was in Wallowa and my shop was in Wallowa, so when she passed, I had a big, old two-story house and I just couldn’t wake up to it every day and thought ‘I’ve got to get out of here.’”
He said they’d considered the place on the Lewiston Highway prior to her getting sick, but when that happened, they had other priorities. The couple had two grown sons and two granddaughters.
“She was diagnosed … about seven years ago, so after that, we quit looking at it,” he said. “How this place stayed on the market, I don’t know. Maybe it was meant to be. After she passed in March 2019 — she did a lot of Fox Archery paperwork and we’d been married for almost 34 years, high school sweethearts type of thing — I needed a change.”
Trying to keep Fox Archery going in Wallowa while getting the new place ready wasn’t easy. The actual move was made in August.
“It needed a lot of work and I’m one of those who can, luckily, do a lot of things,” King said. “I was able to be able to get it back on its feet and running after being down for seven years.”
There’s no power line nearby, so he relies on a diesel-powered generator. He’s hoping to install it soon. Even cellphone and internet are new and still only relatively reliable.
“It’s all off-grid,” he said. “The closest power pole is 5 miles away.”
Even the COVID-19 pandemic caused a problem.
“This whole thing with this virus, it put a damper on me big time. A lot of people who said, ‘Hey Ron, I lost my job, can you hold off on the bow build for a little bit?’ So, I had quite a dip when that happened,” he said. “I didn’t know if it was going to affect me. It was hard to tell.”
But now, business is coming back.
He even sends disassembled bows to Italy, Switzerland and Germany. The hardest part of his foreign trade is translating the types of wood customers want in their bows. A dealer helps with that.
King makes six different models of recurve bows, as well as longbows and hybrids. He does not do compound bows, most of which are machine-made, he said.
He uses 48 different types of wood, including hardwoods for the handles and something more flexible — such as bamboo — for the limbs. Woods he uses include both domestic and foreign, such as Oregon’s yew and leopard myrtle, as well as Osage from Oklahoma and Arkansas, Bolivian rosewood, macassar ebony from Indonesia and black and white ebonies.
Costs of the completed bows generally ranges from $800-$1,200, King said. The difference often depends on what woods are chosen and any unique features included. He said the macassar ebony costs $400 for one 2x4, making it one of the most expensive and most desired.
While he makes bows that he knows will sell well, much of his work is done custom for the buyer. He takes a measurement of the buyer’s draw length and learns what weight they’re comfortable pulling, as well as what they’ll use the bow for.
“A lot of bowyers don’t like to do so many models,” he said. “They just stick with one. It makes it a lot easier on you not having all the forms.”
As the only full-time bowyer in Wallowa County, King has built quite a following.
“I’ve had a large following,” he said. “I’ve been doing it for 25 years, so I have a lot of people who trust me and say, just go ahead and make it.”
Fox Archery is located 27 miles north of Enterprise on Highway 3, just after milepost 16 on the right. There’s no sign yet, but it’s coming soon, King said.