When most people retire, they play golf, travel and enjoy the little things in life. Bob Delaney is not your typical retiree. He just turned 80, and this year plans to hunt brown bears with a bow for the sixth time.
Delaney started bowhunting in 1971 near his childhood home in Jacksonville, Florida. “I went hunting in Osceola National Forest with my Bear Super Kodiak,” he said. “Within the first 20 minutes of daylight I shot a spike buck. I’m as proud of that as any animal I’ve taken.”
But after getting bit by the bowhunting bug, Delaney drifted away from his passion for nearly two decades. “Well, life got in the way,” he said. “I had to earn money to pay for a mortgage and put kids through college. I had a few jobs that were 80 to 90 hours a week.”
Years passed before Delaney got into the woods again. “I didn’t hunt for some 18 or 19 years,” he said. “It’s not because I didn’t want to, but because my job didn’t allow it.”
At 58, Delaney moved to Greenwich, Connecticut. Nineteen years had passed since he last shot archery. He joined an archery club, Cos Cob Archers. When first visiting the club, he noticed things had changed during his hiatus from archery.
“I went over to Cos Cob Archers one day with my Bear Super Kodiak,” Delaney said. “I saw everyone was shooting compound bows, so I went to the local archery store and bought a compound bow.”
A new bow and newfound camaraderie at the range motivated Delaney to make bowhunting a priority. “I just made time on weekends, and I took a week’s vacation to go hunting,” Delaney said. “I think what motivated me was my association with the guys I met at Cos Cob Archers. It was all about friendship.”
Delaney dove headfirst into bowhunting. He read all the bowhunting books and magazines he could find. He also started attending the Pope and Young Club’s conventions. P&Y is a bowhunting organization dedicated to promoting and defending bowhunting. “They have these conventions every two years, and they have seminars,” Delaney said. “You can learn to survive, to backpack, to call animals and network with other bowhunters.”
Through connections he made at the P&Y convention, Delaney grew interested in adventure hunts. He looked into hunting various game in remote places. “I’ve enjoyed hunting different species,” Delaney said. “You have to have different gear, you hunt in different terrain, and it’s a different challenge.”
Delaney started hunting away from home a few times a year. After retiring at 65, he ramped up the number of hunts. At 78, Delaney enjoyed a banner hunting season by harvesting a turkey, whitetail, wild hog, grizzly bear, two black bears, Roosevelt elk and Canadian moose.
“That was the best hunting year I’ve ever had,” Delaney said. “I took eight big-game animals, and six of them qualified for the Pope and Young Club’s record book.”
This year will be no different than past years. Delaney is going on several adventurous hunts.
“I’m going to Cold Bay, Alaska, for a brown bear hunt,” he said. “It’s my 80th birthday present to myself. It’s a 10-day hunt. You have to expect lousy weather every day you’re there. It’s a very physically demanding hunt. You have to have the best raingear in the world when you go there. There’s lots of brown bears, and they tend to be very large because they’re only hunted every other year.”
Delaney chooses some of the world’s most physically demanding and challenging hunts. He credits his physical fitness and training regimen for his success. “I do everything I can to stay fit,” he said. “I go to the gym every day for (90 minutes) to two hours. Then I go to the archery range to shoot my bow.”
Delaney sees no end in sight. “I’m going to keep doing it as long as I can,” he said.
How do you get back into archery and bowhunting? “It all starts with getting proficient with archery equipment, and comfortable shooting your bow,” Delaney said. “The best way to do that is go to an archery store or find an archery coach. Then you need to talk to some bowhunters and ask them when, where and how.”
Delaney is passionate about ensuring a bright future for the next generation of bowhunters. He coaches archery, sits on the board of directors for Scholastic 3-D Archery, and is a trust officer for the Pope and Young Club’s Fred Bear Society.
“The best thing a person can do is teach kids, because (instructors are) role models and kids will emulate them,” Delaney said. “They can demonstrate to kids how to shoot and how to be a responsible bowhunter.”
Bob Delaney is proof that it’s never too late to rekindle bowhunting’s passions. If you want to spark your own interest in bowhunting, heed Delaney’s advice: Head to an archery store and talk to the staff about getting back into this great sport for people of all ages.