Many of us in the archery and bowhunting community are familiar with Martin Archery. Growing up, I remember seeing their advertisements for compound bows on the back of most hunting magazines. Although less-advertised, their traditional Damon Howatt bows were also extremely popular. One bow was used to light the 1992 Olympic torch in Barcelona. Several were used in blockbuster movies like The Hunger Games. One of the most famous whitetails in traditional archery was shot with a Damon Howatt—Mel Johnson’s world record.
The first traditional bow that I ever fell in love with was a Martin Dreamcatcher. The rich wood hues and beautiful curves of the bow were a sight to behold. It was a used bow listed for sale at the archery shop I worked for, but it was out of my price range, thanks to its vintage status. Since it was already used, I was allowed to build a new string to shoot it a few times. Once I did, I vowed to own a Dreamcatcher one day.
Martin has switched ownership over the years and temporarily closed a few times. While they are currently in business and producing compound bows, they’re doing so without the Damon Howatt brand as of January 2022. Now, Damon Howatt is almost ready to reintroduce itself to the trad bow sphere, thanks to a new owner.
The Damon Howatt Origin Story
The traditional archery side of Martin began in 1938 with Damon Howatt, the original bowyer and founder of the company. Like most archers of the era, Howatt made his own bows and decided to start a full-time business a few years later. Quality and workmanship were top priority and his bows soon became some of the most desirable among archers and bowhunters.
Howatt retired from bow making in 1963 and was killed in a car accident in 1966. Ten years later, Gail Martin bought the company. Martin had founded his own archery manufacturing and wholesale business in the 1950s. Being a fan of Damon Howatt bows, he knew it would be profitable to absorb the business.
The Damon Howatt trad bows have remained practically unchanged to this day. Some things are simply too good to mess with. Many of these bows are pieces of art—classic, streamlined, and beautiful to look at—while still performing flawlessly.
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But as compound bows became more popular over the years, traditional archery began to take a back seat. Traditional bow production wasn’t as profitable as it once was, and it appealed to a smaller number of customers than in the past. Many bow companies saw this pattern emerging and started dropping traditional bow production altogether. Meanwhile, Martin Archery switched management several times and went through several CEOs, but they retained their trad bow arm. Fast forward to January 2022, and Martin employee Josh Boram bought the Damon Howatt brand, severing it from Martin Archery altogether.
Who’s The New Guy?
Josh Boram has been an archery enthusiast since he was a kid.
“I tried my hand as a bowyer at age six, making PVC bows,” he tells Outdoor Life. “Obviously I didn’t really know what I was doing, but from a young age archery was one of my favorite things to do.”
Like many who enter the world of traditional archery, Boram grew bored with compounds. One day, he decided to try his hand at something else.
“I love getting into sports that utilize your acquired skill and technique,” he says. “I personally feel like compound bows are so accurate and advanced that it removes a lot of fun out of archery in general.”
Boram’s first bow was a Martin Cougar. He started working for Martin Archery in 2013. During his years that followed, he noticed how the Damon Howatt traditional line didn’t need much innovation or change to succeed. Despite the overall shrinking interest in trad archery, Damon Howatt sales were still good and even growing a bit. He knew that Damon Howatt was a valuable brand and customer loyalty seemed strong. But he realized it might have more success if it stood on its own.
The New Damon Howatt
After purchasing Damon Howatt in January 2022, Boram worked feverishly to get everything ready for the official launch at the January 2023 Archery Trade show.
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“I wasn’t expecting much from the ATA show,” Boram says. “But I was literally blown away by the reception of Damon Howatt. Before going to ATA I didn’t even know if we would still be relevant in the marketplace. I had some fear about how hard it would be to bring back dealers and shops, but boy was I surprised. My wife and I could hardly keep up with the show traffic.”
Although the bows are not available for purchase yet, Damon Howatt is taking reservations for each model listed on their website. All original “Made by Damon Howatt” bows will always be built in the USA on the same presses that have operated for years. You can reserve your own at damonhowatt.com.
Hand-shaped, hand-sanded, and hand-crafted, each bow is a functional work of art. Damon Howatt will stay true to its legacy by continuing to build their classic bows, while working on a new line in the background. Eventually, Boram will work with dealers to carry the bows, too.
The Future of the Damon Howatt Traditional Bow
Despite the ups and downs this company has seen, its future is looking bright. For the first time in in over a decade, Damon Howatt can give its full attention and focus to the traditional bows that have made it famous in the archery world-a world it’s been dominating for a long time.
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“We have some new exciting innovations that will come in the next few years that I personally believe could revolutionize traditional archery,” Boram says. “Damon Howatt started in 1938 with private ownership and a passion for innovation within the traditional archery category. Now it’s out of corporate hands and back in private ownership. This means it can truly thrive with its passion and focus on traditional archery.”
And if the next century is anything like the last one, the brand will continue thriving in the small-but-mighty world of traditional archery.
“Damon Howatt is now the oldest functioning traditional-only bow brand in the world,” Boram says. “I can’t wait to see what the future will bring.”