0

'Big Jim's' unique craftsmanship springs from passion

Albany’s Jim Babcock and his wife, Barbara, display trophy kills from a hunting trip to the southern African 
nation of Namibia. An avid outdoorsman, Babcock custom-makes longbows and arrows at his southeast 
Dougherty County Big Jim’s Bow Co., which are shipped all over the world.

Albany’s Jim Babcock and his wife, Barbara, display trophy kills from a hunting trip to the southern African nation of Namibia. An avid outdoorsman, Babcock custom-makes longbows and arrows at his southeast Dougherty County Big Jim’s Bow Co., which are shipped all over the world.

ALBANY, Ga. -- He may be too genuine for television's inexplicable infatuation with trash Southern "reality TV" characters, but Hollywood is missing out on the real deal with Jim Babcock.

Born in, of all places, Albany, Minnesota, Babcock -- affectionately known as "Big Jim" because, well, he's a bear of a man -- has the heart of a pioneering outdoorsman and the soul of an artist, which manifests itself in the creation of stunningly beautiful longbows at his southeast Dougherty County Big Jim's Bow Co.

Babcock, with the help of his wife Barbara -- herself a true belle of the South Georgia outdoors -- has shipped the bows he handcrafts in a customized shop he built adjacent to the couple's breathtaking log cabin and arrows he and Barbara build together to Australia, New Zealand, France, Germany, Sweden, Spain, the Netherlands, Italy, Poland, Dubai, Taiwan, Singapore and Canada.

Big Jim's has also shipped bows to pretty much all 50 states ... and those are the places Babcock can think of off the top of his head.

"We custom-make the bows and the arrows, build them to order," Babcock said of Big Jim's business plan. "There are a few local folks who come to our place for their bows, but mostly we sell through our website (bigjimsbowcompany.com) or at shows.

"There are traditional longbow enthusiasts all across the country. A good number of them are hunters, but there are plenty who just enjoy shooting these bows. We'll set up our displays at 17 shows this season, some of which will draw as many as 7,000 people."

Just as they did over this past weekend, Barbara and Big Jim pack their display tent and rows and rows of merchandise to sell to enthusiasts at various state longbow competitions: from bows to arrows to feathers to gloves to targets to just about any archery accessory an enthusiast can think of ... plus others they can't.

The Babcocks traveled to Rocks Pond, S.C., early Friday and returned home late Sunday. They'll make treks over the next six months -- in the down time between the open and close of hunting seasons -- to Alabama, North Carolina, Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee, Indiana, Michigan and Pennsylvania. They'll attend three shows in Georgia as well as host their own in August.

Jim Babcock grew up in Albany, Minn., (pop. 1,701) and from as far back as he can remember he spent most of his time hunting or fishing. He decided his calling in life was as an outdoors guide, and after working a private circuit into his 20s, he discovered a school in Illinois that offered a wildlife management degree. He went through the program and was sent to serve an internship initially in Arizona.

"They wanted to send you somewhere you weren't familiar, but in Arizona it quickly became apparent that I knew more about hunting pheasant than the people I was supposed to learn from," Babcock said. "So they sent me to plantations in North Georgia (Monticello and McDonough), and after I completed my internship I worked from plantation to plantation in the state."

It was while working for a period at Senah Plantation in Lee County that Babcock grew tired of the on-and-off employment and started a construction company. He built carports and installed metal roofing for a decade before returning to his passion: the outdoors.

"Before I ever built my first longbow, I knew I could do it," Babcock said. "I'd always hunted with compound bows, but I got tired of them. I was looking for a greater challenge, and about two months into hunting with a longbow, I knew I'd never hunt with a compound bow again.

"With a compound bow, you've really got to do things wrong to miss. It quit being a challenge. With the traditional bows, there's a greater amount of skill involved. I decided to try my hand at building and selling longbows."

As Babcock's reputation for building unique bows from the world's most beautiful and exotic woods grew, and the construction business became "more fickle," he and Barbara -- whom he met 10 years ago at a Harley-Davidson dealership and has been with since -- made the gutsy decision to turn Big Jim's Bow Co. into their life's work.

"There's a lot of work involved, but this is our passion," Barbara Babcock said. "I never really thought I'd get this kind of opportunity, but this is something I always saw myself doing.

"One of the great things about the business is that we get the opportunity to meet some of the most amazing people."

The Babcocks met a man in Alabama who owned the business that would eventually become Big Jim's, and even when that gentleman decided his hobby had outgrown him, his asking price for the business was too steep for the Babcocks. Finally, though, in the depths of the Great Recession, John Sullivan decided to let the Babcocks sell his remaining inventory out of their venture, and Big Jim's became reality.

In addition to providing Babcock an opportunity to create some of the most amazing bows from blocks of wood he keeps in his shop, owning Big Jim's has inadvertantly created another significant perk for the Babcocks. With money still tight as they "make a living" from their business, both have had to curtail the hunting trips that they've always loved so well. However, they get more invites from satisfied customers than they could ever hope to fill.

A connection with a friend in Namibia allowed the Babcocks to take a dream hunting trip to the southern African nation, where they killed a zebra, a warthog, a giraffe, an eland, a springbok and a waterbok.

"That was an amazing adventure," Barbara Babcock said. "They have different hunting laws there; what game you can shoot is up to individual landowners."

The Babcocks also help their Namibian friend sell African hunting excursions through Big Jim's.

Touring his workshop with Jim Babcock is truly seeing a man in his element. He offers detailed descriptions of every block of wood he has in stock and shows off some of the most intricate -- and beautifully crafted -- designs on bows that are in various stages of completion. Babcock is as at peace in that shop as he is out in the wild, stalking prey with one of his bows.

"I feel at home (in the South); I don't really see coming here (from Minnesota) as a big adjustment," he says. "In a couple of years, I will have been here as long as I lived in Minnesota anyway. I'm not going to necessarily get rich doing this, but I've found my passion and I get to meet and hang out with some pretty amazing people.

"I can't imagine what more anyone could want."

Comments

TRUTH101 1 year, 2 months ago

Meanwhile.... Michael Vick serves a year for killing dogs.......

2

KellyBanks 1 year, 2 months ago

Michael Vick tortured those dogs........that is a lot different from this. Those dogs lived with pain for a long time.

2

TRUTH101 1 year, 2 months ago

This "hunter" killed these animals for sport.....Just like vick fought animals for sport.....what is the difference. In both cases animals were used as a source of entertainment and ended up dead. I happen to think this case is much worse.......

1

The_Dude 1 year, 2 months ago

How do you know these animals didn't feed his family or the meat donated to the locals? That's the difference, unless you eat dog. If you think wild animals being hunted lawfully to provide food and sustain carrying capacity is "much worse" than fighting domestic dogs for money, electrocuting them, etc... well, I don't know what to tell you.

2

TRUTH101 1 year, 2 months ago

So he donated zebra and giraffe, meat.......um....yea........sure....These poor animals are on some taxidermist's work table right now......

0

The_Dude 1 year, 2 months ago

Um yeah, I'd be willing to bet the meat was eaten by somebody. You've made it clear you're speaking out against something you know very little about.

0

Jace 1 year, 2 months ago

It seems that you are not a hunter, and so its difficult to offer insight that will help you understand the difference between Vick and Big Jim. I happen to be aquainted with Big Jim, and he is a kind-hearted, amazing man who is very respectful of nature. He has a degree in Wildlife Management. You dont go into that field unless you care about nature. I also know that the expeditions to Africa do not end in the waste of an animal. Much like the native americans, and most other aboriginal people around the world, the entire animal is used, from the meat, to the hide, as well as all the "trophy" elements. But again, unless you are a hunter, you may not understand. I only have to ask, are you vegetarian or vegan? If not, then any of the animals that you eat from the grocery store, are treated far more harshly than a clean kill in the wild. Cows, pigs, chickens etc, are crammed into unsanitary and unatural living conditions, with the sole purpose of becoming dinner for the masses. They are treated roughly, they are not allowed a free life out in nature,and their slaughter is often a slow suffering death. An animal killed in the wild has been living a free life, without the cruel treatment or terrible living conditions, and any responsible hunter's goal is for a swift, clean kill so the animal doesnt suffer. But again, unless you hunt, or are ok with hunting, none of what I have said will matter to you.

0

RedEric 1 year, 2 months ago

The English long bow was made from Yew wood. The arrow was a cottage industry of specialists. the bodkin or broahead tip was one group. another group made the yard long shaft. the Fletchers applied the Grey Goose feathers and another group made the nocks of bone or horn. The impact on English history and the people who argued with them was amazing. The long bow made the English Yeoman(freeman) invaluable to English nobility, beginning the change from feudalism to democracy. A simple instrument indeed.

0

FryarTuk 1 year, 2 months ago

RE wrote: "The long bow made the English Yeoman(freeman) invaluable to English nobility, beginning the change from feudalism to democracy. A simple instrument indeed." Too bad those long bow instruments never made it to our community to change from feudalism.

0

FryarTuk 1 year, 2 months ago

AH wrote: "I can't imagine what more anyone could want."

Well speaking on behalf of the slaughtered animals, probably to be left alone.

And next time bring a camera if you want to shoot something.

1

Jace 1 year, 2 months ago

For all of you posting about Big Jim as if he is some criminal, the animals taken in these expeditions are not treated cruely. Yes they are killed, but Big Jim is a responsible hunter, and any responsible hunter's goal is for a swift, clean kill so that the animal doesnt suffer. Our beef and poultry industry here in the States can't say that they treat the animals with respect. They are crammed into unsanitary, unatural conditions. They are treated poorly and handled cruelly, and they are pumped full of all manner of chemical growth stimulants. Then when it comes time to slaughter, they often suffer a slow, agonizing death. An animal taken in the wild has had a free life out in nature where animals should be. And again, a responsible hunter only takes an animal if they are sure its going to be a swift kill, not a slow agonizing death like the animals in our meat industry. And these expeditions result in the entire animal being used, much like the hunting/harvesting practices of the native americans or most any aboriginal people around the world. And I want to know, why is it ok for a lion to hunt and kill its prey, but its not ok for a human to hunt and kill its prey?

1

agirl_25 1 year, 2 months ago

I have a friend in South Africa whose father owns a culling farm... a place where great hunters (ie. the no balls ones) can go out and become men and shoot these trophy animals. Like shooting fish in a barrel. They come back to the states and show off pictures of them and tell stories of how they stalked a vicious wild animal for hours. Thys used to tell me stories about how the Americans come to the farm and want to shoot anything that moved. A cruel way to make a living I know, and I hate it, and know a quick injection would be much kinder. To each his own tho....killing some animal who is on its last leg just to make myself feel better is no sport to me.

3

The_Dude 1 year, 2 months ago

1 percent of hunters do this. The other 99 percent don't have the money or desire to do this. But thanks for stereotyping the vast majority.

0

Cartman 1 year, 2 months ago

Good for them! Hunting is a great sport. I love animals. I don't hunt anymore but did as a child and young adult. I still love to shoot. Trying to tie hunting to torture is ridiculous.

2

BigJimBow 1 year, 1 month ago

It is unfortunate that there is so much ground between those who hunt and the people who don't understand hunting. In no way do I feel the need to explain what I do except that I may possibly reach those who are on the edge and would rather know the truth than to spread misinformation.

Yes, I do enjoy hunting and yes, I do kill animals but in reality, the kill is only the final part of what is a long journey. God has made us the keepers of nature for us to use in a responsible maner and hunting is an important part of conserving animals. Very few hunters would have anything to do with decimating animal populations and to the contrary, we spend more money creating better habitat so that they can prosper. The challenge is the allure and the experience the reward and yes, animals do die. They would die anyway and seldom of old age. When we harvest an animal, the goal is a quick and clean death. A death with the least amount of suffering as possible unlike starvation or disease due to over population. We utilize as much of the game we harvest as resonably possible, unlike culling or extermination due to crop degredation or competition with livestock. It has been proven time and time again, that if we want animals to prosper, we must hunt them.

I too have issues with "slob" hunters who choose the wrong path and have no respect for the animals in which they persue. They make things more difficult for the consciencious hunter and create this constant battle between the pro's and anti's.

We will never change the mind of those who choose to sit on the sidelines and comment from ignorance, but just maybe we might be able to reach a few on the fence and help to educate them.

BigJim

2

The_Dude 1 year, 1 month ago

Well said Big Jim. Thanks for all you do.

0

dmyers80 1 year, 1 month ago

Love the article.. Keep doing what youre doing.. hopefully I will be able to afford to take my son on one thoes expeditions one day!

1

FryarTuk 1 year, 1 month ago

What egotistical bull shia.

0

agirl_25 1 year, 1 month ago

I don't think I sit on the sidelines and comment from ignorance. I remember sitting in my pasture crying like a baby because some slob hunter as you say (I say SOB) shot my little filly and said he thought it was a deer.....how stupid does one have to be to not know the difference between a tiny little filly and a deer...and what moronic hunter.....and I use the term lightly....would even shoot a deer as small as a little filly? What kind of a moron sneaks onto your property and shoots your dogs who are running around playing and having a good time, swimming in the pond on YOUR OWN PROPERTY, and kills them and then laughs about it, how they shut up those damn dogs who were spookin the deer? What kind of a hunter shoots your horse in the rear because he is too damn dumb to know that is NOT a huge deer ass but the flanks of a horse? I hope to hell you someday get someone off the fence and educate them but it sure ain't gonna be me and until that day comes I guess I will still go a huntin in my woods myself and shoot at critters.....why just a few years ago I thought I saw a white elephant but by golly it turned out to be someone's 2008 Dodge Ram pickup..how about that....oops...my mistake.....years prior I thought this big old bear was coming after me but it was just some Jeep that I mistook for the bear.....aw shucks.......I think I killed it dead tho. I have no argument with you enjoying hunting....go for it...I have tons of deer in my woods, my son has taken a few from the woods and we had a dove shoot last Thanksgiving, so I am not totally anti-hunting. Maybe it is the methods I don't like, your attitude and to imply I am ignorant and sitting on a fence....needing to be educated......well I could say the only reason you hunt is because you need it to help you grow a pair......

0

mr_nobody 1 year, 1 month ago

You sure flame about as much as any woman I've ever seen. You mad?

0

dmyers80 1 year, 1 month ago

OK... I have to say that I can agree with a little bit of what everyone has to say on the subject... I am well informed, as I am 32 years old and been a hunter since I was 9. The very first thing I was taught AFTER gun saftey was to make a clean kill, you dont want the animal to suffer, my dad even taught me that if you cant get a good enough shot to make a clean, quick kill... just let it go. Hunting helps control the populations of the animals.. can you imagine what the deer and wild hog population would be like if there were just 2 years of no hunting? I love the outdoors and hunting, i like to consider myself an outdoorsman and I am teaching my son the same things that I were taught, never kill anything that we dont need to or isnt threatning you, never kill anything we (or someone else) arent going to use or eat! So big jim, dude, jace.. I understand what you are saying, i had a friend who tried his best to convince me that deer hunting was murder!! lol.... Now agirl, doesnt sound like you had a run in with hunters because true hunters respect the animals and all life, sounds like you just had a run in with a couple of JACKASSES with rifles walking the woods!!!... Now truth101 as a hunter I have to say that those are two different things, but it doesnt make much difference to the animal, they both end up dead!!

1

FryarTuk 1 year, 1 month ago

For chissake. Get a camera. Take a picture show us some animals in the phenomenon of life. We are dominant creatures on the experiment of earth. Value life. Death from sport is not an achievement but for those whose portrait is framed in hell.

0

Jacob 1 year, 1 month ago

Unless you are a strict vegan, you are a flaming hypocrite.

2

FryarTuk 1 year, 1 month ago

Stick to fixed target competition with the bow. Learn how to work a camera. Learn how to develop film. Leave those beautiful animals to nature. Trophy hunts indeed. " the Babcocks . .. take a dream hunting trip to the southern African nation, where they killed a zebra, a warthog, a giraffe, an eland, a springbok and a waterbok." A dream hunt? It doesn't merit a detailed discussion. How do you call that amazing?

0

Jacob 1 year, 1 month ago

So you eat processed farm animals that undergo a lifetime of overcrowding and captivity, suffer a painful, terrifying death and you criticize hunters? Wow.... even for you...

1

FryarTuk 1 year, 1 month ago

Most hunters know the difference in hunting for game for eating and sport killing for trophies and particular with an unsatiable appetite for impulse or ego satisfaction. That is why conservation movements world wide are trying to preserve animals close to extinction. The descriptive terms of dream hunting and amazing adventures associated with multiple animal slaughters do not fit with prudent management and honorable sport for the hunting I know. These folks should stick to fix targets and learn photography.

0

agirl_25 1 year, 1 month ago

I asked my friend Thys, who is near Kimberley (the site of the Big Dig, once the diamond capital of South Africa) in the Northern Cape on the Harts River. .....he said he most likely cull hunted at either Ojinuke Ranch or possibly Maanlig Ranch, both in southen Namimbia. They are very popular with trophy hunters. This is my last word on the great hunter....

0

Jace 1 year, 1 month ago

I cant believe that some of you are ok with chickens dying for your dinner plate, but have a problem with hunting other animals. You show outrage for a life taken on a hunt....but wont even comment on why its ok to slaughter a cow or chicken for your Sunday dinner pleasure. Do you pray and thank God for food, before eating that roast beef? Then havent you thanked God for providing you with an animal's life, to sustain your life? But then, you act like you eat meat just for nutrition sake, when in actuality, I am sure you have truly enjoyed the taste of a juicy pork chop or some good fried chicken. A life is a life....and by eating any meat you have just removed your right to stand in judgement of anyone who has hunted responsibly (this does not include those jerks who go out shooting at anything that moves). It's more likely that you are upset about the kind of animals taken because you haven't been desensitized to them being considered dinner like you are to chickens, cows, pigs, turkeys, etc. Would you be so upset if this article were about Big Jim's dream hunt here in the US, taking turkey, deer, or elk, or even in Russia, taking boar? Many of you have already commented that you are ok with deer being hunted, but not the kind of animals Big Jim took. That's like saying one person's life isnt as big of a loss as another, just because of the location where they live. Ridiculous. We live in a world where death is inevitable for every living thing. A responsible hunter who takes an animal....anywhere in the world.... does so with a spirit of honor and respect for nature. So for any of you who are strict vegan, I respect your choice, and don't knock you for it. But for those of you who eat animals who are raised for the sole purpose of your eating pleasure, you need to remove the plank from your eye, before you try to remove the speck from anyone elses.

0

Sign in to comment