Howard Hill

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Howard Hill
Howard Hill in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)
Born (1899-11-13)November 13, 1899
Wilsonville, Alabama, U.S.
Died February 4, 1975(1975-02-04) (aged 75)
Birmingham, Alabama, U.S.
Resting place New Ashville Cemetery in Ashville, Alabama
Occupation Professional Archer, Actor
Years active 1935-1952
Spouse(s) Elizabeth Hill[1]

Howard Hill (November 13, 1899 - February 4, 1975) was an archer who was unofficially referred to as the "World's Greatest Archer". He is the only person to win 196 archery field tournaments in succession.[2] He was also a football, baseball, and basketball player at Auburn University.[3] He was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in 1971 for his skill in archery.[4]

Early career[edit]

Howard Hill played baseball, basketball, football, and golf as a home town hero at his high school in Columbiana, Alabama. He later went on to marry his former English teacher from high school in 1922. Hill attended Auburn University, where he played football and basketball[3] While maintaining his job at Hughes Tool in Miami, Florida, he continued to play semi-pro baseball on the side. While his baseball career progressed, he decided to take up golf again, if it were not for his less than perfect putting ability[citation needed], he would have excelled to be a professional golfer. Subsequently, he decided to revert to the old stand-by long bow to take up field shooting competitions.[5]


Howard Hill is one of the most decorated archers in target shooting, hunting, and flight archery competitions, he is also a celebrated writer and producer. During his career, he produced 23 films about archery for Warner Bros. He also shot 10 different movies of his own, and was a technical adviser in far more movies, providing his expertise in the field. He killed over 2,000 animals with his long bow, including an elephant, becoming the first white man to kill an elephant with a bow and arrow. He used four-foot arrows, while pulling a 115 pound bow to take the mighty beast. In 1928, he set the new world record for the furthest flight shot in archery, at 391 yards. That same year, he won his 196th field archery competition in a row. Later in his life, in 1959 he was awarded a plaque for his outstanding achievements in archery. Later in 1971, he was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame, later being inducted into the Bow Hunters Hall of Fame in 1975, in the year of his death.[6]


He liked to make difficult trick shots, like shooting an apple or prune off someone's head from sixty feet away. He would then perform the same stunt with an even smaller item from a greater distance.[7]

He produced several short documentaries on archery, often performing difficult trick shots like shooting a flipping coin or splitting a wooden ball in half while it is rolling on the ground. He would shoot difficult trick shots from the alternate position of lying on the ground, holding the bow with his feet.

To go with his great ability in trick shooting, he showed amazing talent in hunting. Altogether, he took some 2,000 animals with his traditional long bow style. Some of his great trips have been filmed or documented, one of these is Howard Hill vs. Lion, another one of these short documentaries is Howard Hill vs. Elephant. These two videos, of the very many, show just a couple of examples of his great hunting ability, and perhaps one of the reasons he is considered by some to be one of the greatest hunters of all time.[5]



Howard Hill in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)

Warner Brothers short subjects (mostly under 11 minutes each)

  • Sword Fishing (October 21, 1939) "Bow & Arrow Adventures"
  • Wild Boar Hunt (January 21, 1940) "Bow & Arrow Adventures"
  • Shark Hunting (November 9, 1940) "Bow & Arrow Adventures"
  • Hunting the Hard Way (May 17, 1941) "Bow & Arrow Adventures"
  • Points on Arrows (December 27, 1941) "Hollywood Novelties"
  • King of the Archers (February 6, 1943) "Hollywood Novelties"
  • The Man Killers (May 29, 1943) "Broadway Brevities" (20 minutes)
  • Hunting the Devil Cat (December 18, 1943) "Hollywood Novelties"
  • Filipino Sports Parade (June 17, 1944) Technicolor "Sports Parade"
  • Outdoor Living (November 4, 1944) "Warner / Vitaphone Novelties"
  • Champions of the Future (November 18, 1944) Technicolor "Sports Parade"
  • Cavalcade of Archery (January 12, 1946) Technicolor "Sports Parade"
  • The Lazy Hunter (October 26, 1946) Technicolor "Sports Parade"
  • Battle of the Champs (January 18, 1947) Technicolor "Sports Parade"
  • Art of Archery (October 6, 1951) Technicolor "Sports Parade"
  • Cruise of the Zaca (December 6, 1952) "Technicolor Special" (20 minutes, filmed 1946-47)

Technical adviser and archery instructor[edit]

While performing as the stunt archer for the film The Adventures of Robin Hood (starring Errol Flynn), Hill made the most iconic archery shot in literature[citation needed]: Robin Hood splitting a target-embedded arrow with his own. The MythBusters cast were unable to replicate the end to end splitting of an arrow, and concluded Hill used a shaft made of bamboo, not wood, for the famous shot.

Split arrow from The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)

Byron Ferguson, traditional bow hunter and trick-shot expert, was able to perfectly split an arrow lengthwise using a modern laminated longbow for the History Channel special "Extreme Marksmen". The average archer has a chance to shoot the "Robin Hood" stunt every 1 in 10,000 shots.[citation needed] Byron Ferguson, however, did not split a wooden arrow but telescoped a modern aluminum arrow into another. The aluminum and carbon fiber arrow shafts used by modern archers are more consistent and straighter than wood arrows, making for more consistent shots. This makes Hill's feat truly unique since he used only cedar wood arrows. Hill had designed and used specially made aluminum shafts to hunt African elephants for his full length color film Tembo.

The splitting of the arrow story is refuted by Hollywood stuntman Buster Wiles, in his book My Days With Errol Flynn. In the book, Wiles revealed that although Hill had split the end off of several arrows, he had been unable to split the arrow exactly as scripted (from end to end), and finally a specially constructed arrow with a large bladed head had been used, shot along a concealed wire. Nevertheless, Hill's accuracy was so great, he regularly hit tiny targets in live performances and on film.

Both Wiles and Hill were long time friends of Errol Flynn and frequent guests at his house and on his yacht.


  1. ^
  2. ^ "The Legend's Story". 
  3. ^ a b "The Legend of Howard Hill - The War Eagle Reader". 
  4. ^ Alabama Sports Hall of Fame
  5. ^ a b Huntington, C. (2002). L' One- shot! website. Retrieved December 10, 2012
  6. ^ Ekin, C. (2008, July 15). The Legend's Story. Retrieved December 10, 2012. Howard Hill Archery website.
  7. ^ Wiles, Buster (February 1989). My Days With Errol Flynn: The Autobiography of Stuntman Buster Wiles. Roundtable Publishing. ISBN 0-915677-36-9. 

External links[edit]