Bow and Arrow
June 1972
Well, It Ain’t Cecil B. Demille ~ By Ted Eastburn

Wing’s Lee Wades With Hat-Snatching Shark And, Yessir, Folks, It Is Recorded On Film

THE FOURTEEN FOOT RUNABOUT skimmed
across the choppy surface of the Gulf of Mexico some two
hundred yards off the sugar white beach. A Texan stood in
the bow of the boat holding a bowfishing rig nocked with a
harpoon arrow, his right hand holding a nylon rope tied to
the front of the boat. A companion astern controlled the
outboard motor that pushed the craft at a breath—taking
speed.

A larger boat ran a parallel course some twenty yards to
starboard. The young man at the wheel of this twenty-five-
footer was the l7-year—old son of the Texan. The second
man operated a 16-millimeter movie camera. The cameraman
zoomed the lens in on the Texan in the smaller boat,
then shifted scenes to fifty yards ahead of the two craft
where three dorsal fins sliced through the water. Sharks!
“We’re coming up on them fast, Ben,” the Texan said, as
he shifted about trying to steady his position.

Ben was Captain Ben Marler, Jr., for generations a name
synonymous with commercial and sport fushing in Destin,
Florida.
“Better give hand signals when you want me to cut
speed or change directions, Bob.”
Bob Lee, president of AMF’s Wing Archery Division in
Jacksonville, Texas, nodded his understanding.
The cameraman, Harry Morlan, now sat crosslegged on
the deck of the larger craft as he reloaded the camera. A lot
of action seemed just seconds away. The young man at the
wheel, Robin Lee, handled the inboard/outboard with ease.

The distance to the sharks had closed rapidly. Suddenly
one of the three tins moved toward the small boat, then
turned to the port side. The other two fins disappeared.
“Circle around, Ben, so we have it between us and
Harry!” shouted Lee as he released the rope and eased
toward the seat.
“Hold on. Here we go!” Captain Marler cut the small
craft sharply to port in order to give Morlan a good camera
view of the anticipated action with the shark.

Lee did not make it down to the seat. As the small boat
whipped to the left, Bob Lee went to the right along with
his cherished hunting bow. The fall was more like a cart-
wheel dive. He bobbed safely to the surface and held the
bow high above the water as Marler pulled alongside.
“You okay, Bob?” the captain asked in an astonished
voice.
“Ugh,” Lee moaned as he scrambled back into the boat.
“You really clapped the spurs to that horse, Ben.”
The other boat pulled alongside. With a grin as wide as a
cinemascope screen, Harry Morlan said, “There’s nothing in
the script about taking a dive, Bob.”

“I suppose you recorded the whole thing for posterity
with that devilish camera of yours. Where’s my hat’?”
“There it is,” Marler said as he pointed to the floating
headgear some twenty yards away. He turned the boat. At
the same time, a shark fin broke the surface no more than
fifteen feet away moving in the same direction. Lee quickly
nocked the harpoon arrow and came to full draw. Too late.

The shark dove, taking the hat with him.
Bob Lee stared at the spot where his hat had been and
said slowly, “Ben, I thought you told me last night that
sharks didn’t have much of a brain.”
“I did and they don’t. Why?”
“Well, I could have sworn that one laughed at me just
before he swallowed my hat.”
Falling overboard and having your hat swallowed by a
shark are not your run-of-the mill shark hunting hazards. I
know Bob Lee disagrees with my saying these are two
hazards. No doubt he considers falling overboard a hazard,
but when a Texan has his hat eaten unceremoniously by
anything, that’s an insult. And what was worse, the fall just
described was the first of two on the same day.

The idea of a movie on bowfishing for sharks, or, for the
hounds of thesea as the ancient Greeks called them, had
originated a few months before in Colorado where Wing
Archery had rolled another movie production. Harry
Morlan had the Colorado assignment too, and the shark
bowfishing idea grew to reality when his long-time friend,
Destin charter boat captain Ben Marler, Jr., offered full
cooperation.

However, the hunting party had a problem. Chasing for-
aging sharks a couple of hundred yards off the Destin
beaches had provided plenty of thrills but no trophy shark
to dramatize the movie.

“We need to change our tactics a bit,” Marler suggested.
that evening over dinner.
Lee smiled and said, “I’m inclined to agree with you.
The fun is in the chase, but that bulldogging I did today can
wear a man out quick.”
Morlan grinned and muttered matter-of-factly, “It sure
makes for great movie footage.”
“I thought you said you didn’t shoot any footage of
that,” Lee queried anxiously.
“I didn’t say one way or the other. When you brought
the subject up this afternoon it was about the time that
shark was eating your hat, and you didn’t give me a chance
to answer.”

“One thing for sure,” Marler said thoughtfully as he
drummed his fingers on the table, “we can’t be dumping
you overboard anymore, Bob. Just think, twice in one day!
l’ll be losing my reputation as a shark hunter and instead be
known as a guy who tried to feed the hunters to the sharks.
That boat is just too small, Harry.”

“I have more than enough footage for a second boat
anyway, Ben. We can do things the way you normally do
them now,” Harry replied.
“Good. Tomorrow being your last day, Bob, let’s keep
our fingers crossed. Here is what we do. We use the big boat
and go out about thirty»five miles. It’ll be deep water out
there…something like four hundred feet. We’ll be wasting
our time that far out using the chase method, so we’ll get
the sharks to come to us by using baits.”
“Sounds like a change of pace and very interesting,” Lee
said. “Do we use the float on the line?” referring to the
fishing method used for two days.

“No. We’d better go to the rod and reel. The sharks out
there will probably run three hundred pounds and more.”
With the float method of bowfishing for sharks, the free
end of the line attached to the harpoon arrow is tied to a
water tight container. Lee landed several sharks which
ranged from fifty to one hundred pounds using this
method. The float was a five gallon jug. When a shark was
shot, Lee tossed the float overboard to mark the fish’s
whereabouts and to retard its movement. With Marler’s
help, the shark was then eased close to the boat and when it
surfaced Lee released broadheads. With this method a bow
reel is not used. The line is simply coiled on the boat’s
deck.

On the third day of the hunt a bow reel would be used
but not in the normal manner. When small fish are shot, it
is a simple matter of re-winding the line around the bow
reel. However, with large sharks you have a fish too tough
to handle in this manner. Instead, you pull thirty feet of
line up through the eyelets of a heavy—duty rod and reel, tie
to the harpoon arrow and wrap around the bow reel. When
the shark is shot, it will pull the line off the bow reel, and
the action will be picked up on the rod and reel.
When the fathometer recorded four hundred feet on the
third morning of the hunt, Marler cut the twin 120 engines.
Sixteen freshly-caught bonito were in the bait box. Bonito
bleed excessively when cut, thus making them ideal shark
bait. As Marler and young Lee readied the baits, Morlan
checked his movie equipment and Lee rigged the
bowfishing gear.

Nearly any bow will get the job done on small fish, but
for big game it should pull at least fifty pounds. Short bows
are also best due to the unwieldiness of a longer weapon on
a boat. Lee’s bow, which was Wing’s Presentation Two
Hunter, pulled sixty-five pounds.
Lee wrapped eighty-pound test line from a heavy duty
fishing rig around the bow reel. He joined the line to five
feet of braided leader with a swivel and attached the other
end of the leader to the fiberglass shaft tipped with a fish
point. The remainder of the three hundred yards of line led
to the 9/0 reel on a short stout rod.

Marler and Robin Lee tied strips of bonito to the styrene
floats with twelve-inch lines. No hooks were used on the
baits. These bait rigs were dropped overboard and allowed
to drift back fifteen feet before being restrained.
A considerable amount of blood had flowed into the
bucket over which the bonito had been cut. Marler poured
this into an empty bottle then fashioned a harness out of
heavy cord so that when suspended, the neck of the bottle
pointed down.

He punched three holes in the cap and hung this contraption
over the side of the boat just above the water. The
rig looked like a transfusion bottle, and the steady dripping
of bonito blood provided more trails to the boat.
An hour had passed when Morlan spotted a him some
fifty yards behind the boat. There was no scurrying about
on anyone’s part. It was as though the shark was expected.
It approached to within thirty yards and crossed what
would have been the boat’s wake. This imaginary wake was
also the general direction of the blood trails. As the shark
crossed the blood trail, it seemed to pause momentarily,
then continued on its original course only to do a quick
turn around to cross the trails again.

It moved closer…twenty yards back but still out of
range. Then the fin disappeared.
“What do you think, Ben?” Lee asked as he scanned the
area.
“Hard to tell. It may be suspicious, or it may come up
on the bait from beneath. We’ll just have to wait and see,”
A gust of wind tipped a small paper cup from the transom
into the water. The cup didn’t sink but drifted away.
About thirty yards out, a gentle swirl caused it to spin. At
the same time, the dorsal tin of a shark protruded near the
cup.

“That devil is playing with the cup,” Lee said as though
he hardly believed it. The shark bumped the cup about like
a cat playing with a mouse. Lee spread his arms in a gesture
of frustration and said, “I tell you, men, I simply don’t
understand it. Here we have all these juicy baits dangling all
about and what does that shark do…he plays with a paper
cup…incredible.”

The fin and the cup disappeared. A good minute passed
before the silence was broken by the noise made by Robin
Lee as he slumped back into the fighting chair.
It was inevitable that Morlan would say, “Maybe he
thinks the cup is the hat of a midget from Texas.”
They remained in that area all morning but no more was
seen of the shark. Early in the afternoon the hunt was
moved to another spot three miles southeast.

One o’clock rolled around; then one—thirty. Time was
running out. For the first time the four men harbored
doubts of the hunt’s success. Hundreds of feet of l6mm
color movie footage had been exposed, but without a
trophy-size shark there was no ending, no movie.
The minutes seemed to melt away under the heat of the
sub—tropical sun. It was too hot to do any active thinking
and a sort of lethargy settled over the boat. A blanket
smothered conversations and spirits.

Another half·hour passed. Nothing was said as Marler
pulled a bonito out of the bait box and began to slice off
hunks into the water. This abbreviated act of chumming
seemed futile. Afterall, juicy morsels still dangled from the
floats, and apparently they had been rigged in vain.
A few minutes later Robin Lee, who was still slumped in
the chair, casually pointed astern and hesitantly said, “I
think I saw…something.”

“Where?” the others chorused.
“Far back…maybe seventy-five yards,” he explained as
he bolted upright in the chair. “There…there it is again! It’s
coming our way…2igzagging!”
“Yes! Yes! I see it, too!” Marler cried, unable to contain
the excitement in his voice. “It’s coming like a freight
train…a zigzagging freight train!”
The shark veered to the left and made a wide clockwise
sweep from the port side. It circled once but stayed out of
range.

On its second round, the shark tightened the circle and
revealed a length of approximately ten feet. The shark
circled a third time and came within range as it passed
astern. Then it did a quick change in direction as though to
leave the area by the same path from which it had
approached.

Lee came to full draw and released the harpoon arrow at
the retreating giant’s head. Line peeled from the bow reel as
the arrow struck and the fish dived.
At the same time Marler fired the engines to life and
shouted a tentative identification on the fish, “I believe it’s
a lemon shark, so be careful. They’ve been known to eat
people.” He moved the boat forward a few feet in order to
keep the shark directly out from the stern.

Before all the line had melted from the bow reel, and the
action transferred to the rod and reel, Robin Lee lifted the
rod out of the transom holder. He backed off a few feet
and awaited the tug on the rod. Instead of a tug, he was
plucked off his feet as though by a giant hand and literally
dragged on his knees up against the transom. He held
desperately onto the big rod and 9/0 reel loaded with
eighty-pound line. The reel brake was on, but he dared not
turn either hand from the rod.

“The brake…the brake!” he yelled. “Someone release
the brake!”
Marler bolted from the captain’s chair and snapped off
the brake. Despite a heavy drag setting on the reel, the
sudden release of the brake caused Robin Lee to roll back on
the deck. He recovered quickly and made it to the swiveled
fighting chair.

Fifty feet back the shark surfaced and dived again, too
quickly for Lee to release an effective broadhead shot.
Robin pumped the rod and reeled in line steadily. Within
minutes the shark surfaced again. Lee planted a broadhead
near the harpoon arrow and again the shark dived.
Unrelenting pressure was applied on the big fish for
another thirty minutes, and it moved back to the surface.
Lee placed two more broadheads in the head between the
eye where the brain is harbored. The shark rolled on its
back and began to sink. The battle was over.

Marler’s speculative identification proved correct. The
trophy was a dangerous lemon shark.
Well, that wrapped up the movie. As they say in
Hollywood, “It’s in the can.”
Back in Destin, as the shark was hung from the scales
and the crowd began to gather to “oh” and “ah” at the
375-pound sight, Bob Lee walked up to Harry Morlan and
was heard to say emphatically, “Harry, now don’t be pulling
my leg…just give me a straight answer. Was that camera
running when I fell overboard yesterday’?”
“Which time,” Morlan asked bravely.

Well, the last time I saw Harry Morlan that day, he was
hastily making his way through the crowd with Bob Lee
close behind.
Much later I overheard a stranger say to another, “Up on
the highway this afternoon I saw this big fellow with a bow
and arrow chasing this other fellow carrying a camera. And
this camera fellow, he was lookin’ back over his shoulder
and yellin’, ‘Just wait and see the movie …. Just wait and see
the movie!”
And the other stranger replied, “These danged tourists
are gettin’ crazier every year.” <——<<<<

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