- Associated Press - Saturday, May 3, 2014

NORTH ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - An innovative arrowhead that slices through big game animals like a butcher knife was the bedrock of Zwickey Archery of North St. Paul, founded in 1938 by machinist and inventor Cliff Zwickey.

But in 1957, a high-profile archer in a different part of the country came out with his own brand of arrowheads, and many Zwickey customers switched over.

“It knocked us right out of business,” said son Jack, now an 85-year-old mechanical engineer who runs the business and winces as he remembers that time. For a while, he said, there were tens of thousands of unsold arrowheads “sitting in buckets all over the house, sitting around in my bedroom.”

Forced to change their focus, the father-and-son Zwickeys turned their attention to a pesky problem encountered by bowhunters who wanted to go on “roving shoots,” practicing on, say, stumps in the woods, rather than formal targets on groomed terrain. The trouble was the time-wasting hassle of hunting for arrows that burrowed beneath the weeds, and the cost of the inevitable lost arrows.

“My father said, ‘Geez, we’ve got to make an unlosable arrowhead,’ ” Zwickey told the St. Paul Pioneer Press (http://bit.ly/1m3Wdj0 ). “I knew him well enough to know if he said he was going to invent something, it was as good as done. So we monkeyed around.”

The result was a winner: an ingenious combination of prongs and tiny springs that made arrows jump back up rather than hide in the underbrush. And over the years, the original Zwickey arrowhead - called a “broadhead” because it’s used to hunt big game - has come back into vogue, too. Now several hundred thousand arrowheads are sold each year from the small shop on North St. Paul’s main street.

The sun never sets on his arrowheads, Zwickey said: They’re stuck in trees all over the world. They’re sold by dealers and distributors in the United States, plus in France, Belgium, Germany, Canada, Sweden - and in Italy, where Zwickey, an opera buff, once visited Venice and Milan to pursue a passion aside from bowhunting. Some arrowheads sold abroad are used on other continents, such as in Africa for ostriches, elephants and warthogs, and in Australia for water buffalo.

“They’re so strong in front that you can use them for rhinos, grizzly bears, polar bears and Cape buffalo,” Zwickey said. He himself sticks with deer when hunting with his traditional maple and fiberglass bow.

Over the years, he has added his own arrowhead designs, but the original model, patented by his dad when he was a kid, is still sold. It was created to respond to changes in hunting laws that allowed bowhunters to shoot deer, elk and bear.

“He realized there was a need for new technology in broadhead design. He started monkeying around,” Zwickey said.

“Our theory was to put the steel up front where you need it,” so the design has three layers of metal at the tip.

Zwickey Archery started in the back of the family home, and initially, the heat-treating process was done off the premises. Sometimes the arrowheads came back crooked, so one of Zwickey’s childhood chores was to straighten them in a vise, one at a time. The arrowheads were lacquered by hand and set to dry on a pegboard of nails, and then the edges were ground, also by hand.

The unlosables at first were a pain to make, too, Zwickey said. But eventually the father and son figured out a process and created a machine to do part of the work. The patented Judo Point sold poorly at first, he said, because hunters were skeptical. But then they caught on.

“That changed the history of bows and arrows,” Zwickey said, because it gave a different dimension to archery beyond hunting animals and shooting at circles on a lawn. With a broadhead, out in the woods, “you might hunt for the whole season and never get a shot. With this thing, you can take 100 shots a day and not spend a minute looking for an arrow.”

Nowadays, Zwickey greatly enjoys roving shoots with friends. In the spring, he lays out a course of plastic milk jugs on wooded acreage he owns in Wisconsin.

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