Inducted March 20, 1999
Ben Southard has been involved in the sport of archery and bowhunting for as long as can be remembered by most of us. His invention and development of one of the first portable treestands in the world, the "Loc-On" treestand, helped "Pioneer" a new industry. Even today, other commercial brands of stands are casually and commonly referred to "Loc-On" (type) treestands.
His full name is "Benny Sharpe Southard." Old friends and acquaintances from the Summerfield, NC area, just north of Greensboro, called him by his first name, "Benny." He was born in Rockingham County on April 12, 1935 on the banks of Troublesome Creek. And, Ben says he's been nothin' but "Trouble" ever since. He has two sons, Mike and Kent and a daughter, Marian.
He made his first portable treestand for himself in 1963 and started selling them locally in 1967. In 1970, he began marketing them nationwide. Ben says he's probably made half a million of the "LEM" models. By the way, "LEM" stands for "Light - Easy - Mobile".. nothing to do with "Locking onto a tree limb." Ben says he's made 20 (or so) different models of treestands over the years. Now, "Loc-On" is manufacturing only three production models: the "LEM", the "SPIRIT" and the "HIGH STYLE."
I can remember hunting from trees back in the early 1960's, thinking: "It sure would be nice to have some sort of portable platform that I could 'hang' on a tree to sit or stand on instead of having to perch on limbs of trees and tie myself in with a length of rope." I can even recall fashioning a makeshift treestand from an old kitchen chair and tying it to a tree with ropes and canvas straps. It worked, but was a "bear" to haul into the woods and even more of a "bear" to hang it.
I recall seeing a "Loc-On" stand for the first time and thought, "why didn't I come up with something like this?" Many of us, back then, had the right idea, but failed to come up with the design and follow through with it like Ben Southard did. The portable tree stand did for bowhunting (and hunting in general) what the compound bow did for bowhunting. It revolutionized the sport, plain and simple. And, Ben Southards' ingenuity, creativity and hard work made it happen. Ben says he's had to testify as an "expert witness" in court numerous times, in a variety of cases concerning "accidents" with people falling from tree stands. Ben stresses that in almost every case, the underlying reason for a treestand accident is the hunter/person "failing to read and follow directions in the instruction manual." Other times, they alter the stand or make some change / innovation that weakens the structural strength of the stand.
We in North Carolina should be as proud of people like Ben Southard as we are of anyone who has had an idea and turned it into a reality. In the bowhunting community, Ben is as well known as "Carbine Williams" is to the firearms industry; as Richard Petty is to NASCAR and, yes, even as well known to bowhunters as Michael Jordan is to basketball and the NBA. Ben Southard is a true "Pioneer" in our beloved sport and this is the primary basis for my nominating him for the North Carolina Bowhunter Hall of Fame.
But, it doesn't stop there! Ben's friendly, outgoing personality, genuine concern for people and for the sport of bowhunting are other reasons why he deserves to be recognized by the bowhunting community of North Carolina. Another trait Ben possesses is generosity. No one knows how many tree stands he has donated to bow clubs and other hunting clubs to use as they please, but he estimates it adds up to 50 to 100 a year that he donates to hunting clubs and other outdoor organizations. The NCBA has certainly received its portion of "free" or "at cost" tree stands to give away as door prizes at conventions and banquets for the past twenty (plus) years. Ben has received the NCBA "Service" Award three times (1983, 1993, 1998) over the years for his dedication and commitment to the NCBA and to bowhunting in North Carolina.
Ben is also a "Full-Time" bowhunter and has been successful in harvesting many whitetail deer and other species of big and small game animals going back several decades. His "Bowhunting Accomplishments" go far beyond actually "harvesting" any animal with bow and arrow. He harvested his first whitetail deer with bow and arrow in 1961 and has NEVER killed a deer with a gun. Ben used to camp out at Butner Game lands back in the 1960's for one to two weeks at a time and bowhunt alone. He says, (with a subtle grin,) that Fred Bear purely "ruined" him from being a "Trophy" hunter. I didn't understand this and asked him to explain. Ben says Fred always told him to "pick a spot" to shoot at, and "BIG" ones don't have "SPOTS" like little deer do. So, he never took a shot at a really BIG deer all these years for that reason.NO SPOTS to shoot at!
He really doesn't know exactly how many whitetail deer he's taken with bow and arrow, but he's taken his fair share. He also says that he really hasn't had time to hunt as much as he'd like to. He's been busy with his "business" from 1980 through 1995; often too busy to hunt! His advice to all is "don't pick a hobby that your business depends on!" You'll never get to enjoy your hobby for working all the time.
He's not as interested in killing a deer anymore. He just enjoys finding them and figuring them out. When he does take a deer, it's usually a doe. He does this to help control the herd. He'd really rather shoot a big buck in his prime, and like most of us, is still waiting for the "Big One" to walk by.
Ben adds that canoeing is his real "passion." I can vouch for this! I was canoeing down the Dan River about ten years ago, about 1985, with a group of Boy Scouts, and passed a tented campsite. I thought I recognized the man sitting by a campfire, and as soon as he grinned and waved, I realized that it was Ben.
He says he's a devout "loner" and a "lone hunter." He likes to see the country alone and does all his own scouting. The "experience" is the whole thing for Ben. With the connections he has with many manufacturers and big name hunters throughout the country, he could hunt anywhere he wants in the USA or Canada. Many manufacturer reps have invited and offered him the opportunity to go on "organized (fancy) hunts," as he calls them, over the years. Ben says he just "doesn't do that and doesn't like to hunt that way."
Ben likes to "experiment" with deer. He says they are instinctive animals and react to things they learn to be afraid of. He says he often "talks" to deer in a low, normal voice tone, and most of them do not spook and run. He feels that most deer have "no fear" of the human voice. Another thing he does is make small, subtle movements with his hands. He will hold his hand down to his side and "flip" it out and back to his side. Ben says a deer will see the movement and, he thinks, identify it as a squirrel's tail or some other small animal or a bird. After they do this, they will disregard the possibility of human presence, unless you make some other "human" mistake (sound, movement, scent) that betrays your presence. If they don't "see or hear" anything they are "instinctively" afraid of, they will not spook. He says it works and will often put a "spooky" deer at ease with its' surroundings and take them out of the "alert" mode.
Ben had to share a hunting story with me and told me of shooting a deer at Butner one evening in 1970-71. He got the deer out of the woods, but had to go back after dark to get his stand and equipment. As he was walking back through an open field, he walked upon a nice 8 point buck. The buck charged off a hill, circled him three times and charged at him. Ben says he cut on his flashlight and held it a point-blank range with the bucks' nose. Ben thinks the buck must have smelled (on him) where he had cleaned and carried his deer out. He says the deer lost interest after a few minutes and trotted off.
Ben has taken all small game with bow and arrow; Rabbit, Raccoon, Squirrel, Groundhog, etc. He has taken 30-40 deer in North Carolina; and also hunted whitetails successfully in South Carolina, Minnesota and Alabama. He harvested a black bear in Canada in 1992. But, to Ben, the most important accomplishments, to him, are his many bowhunting experiences. Can't say I disagree with that.
This summarizes why I am submitting to the Executive Council, this petition to admit Ben Southard to the "North Carolina Bowhunter Hall of Fame." I have enclosed a number of letters of endorsement from other bowhunters and NCBA members as required by the guidelines for this nomination.
Ben Southard also awarded "Honorary Life Member Status":
I am submitting the name of "Ben Southard" for consideration by the Executive Council to be awarded the status of NCBA "Honorary" Life Member. Currently, there are only two (2) "Honorary" Life Members in the NCBA. They are: 1980 - Derrick Odom ; and 1987 - Tommy Suddreth. The NCBA has not accepted, or even considered accepting any "Honorary Life Members" since the program was first initiated about ten years ago.
I am not exactly sure what the criteria is for approving the "Honorary Life Member" award, but I feel sure it will have something to do with "Service" to the NCBA and to Bowhunting in North Carolina. In this respect, Ben Southard's commitment and contribution fills the bill on both counts. He has donated "scores" of deer stands to the NCBA over the years, and "thousands" to other hunting clubs and "NCBA Local Chapter Clubs" at enormous monetary savings to these clubs and the NCBA itself. I know of no time that he has ever denied any honest and reasonable request for help from any organization that has asked for it.
He has contributed more to bowhunting and to the sportsmen (and women) of North Carolina than most members have done, or would ever consider doing over the past 25 - 30 years, even though he has not been a NCBA member continuously during that time. For this reason, I submit this motion before the NCBA Executive Council for a vote. It is my hope that the Executive Council will consider approving this membership status for Ben Southard at the next meeting which will be held on February 7, 1999.
Ben was inducted March 20, 1999 at the 13th Annual NCBA Banquet in Burlington, N.C.
Nominated by: Ramon Bell
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