The late Joe Thompson was a pioneer in Maryland Archery. He was one of the founding members of Baltimore Bowmen, a major Archery equipment vendor, and instructor in the archery industry. He was a great inspiration during the heyday of both target and hunting archery in our great state.
When I first moved to Maryland in 1985, I did not know a soul. I already had an established resume in archery and I quickly wanted to get to know the lay of the land. Upon scouring the phone book, I spied a neat ad for Joe Thompson’s Archery shop. I immediately called, got directions to his shop, and drove over directly. His shop was located in Baltimore County near the Gwynnbrook Wildlife management in Owings Mills, Md.
I was greeted with a warm welcome and offered a seat so we could get to know each other better. Joe gave me his undivided attention and all knowing advice. After several hours in his shop, I left half broke, with an arm load full of archery gear, and a few more collectable items. Little did I know the impact he had on the archery industry and the sport in the state of Maryland.
For some, it was thought that Joe Thompson was never recognized for his work in Maryland archery and bowhunting. Joe Thompson and the importance of his role in organized archery and bowhunting, is now being realized with his 2011 induction to the Maryland Bowhunting Hall of fame posthumously.
Leaving this earth at the age of 72, Joe Thompson left behind a legacy that would have made him proud. His Baltimore Sun obituary read:
“In the basement of his Baltimore County home, Joseph D. Thompson meticulously glued short rows of colored feathers to dowel-like rods that would become arrows for bowhunters.
It was a delicate job, done after he had painstakingly painted thin lines on the wood in the hunter's preferred color.
Mr. Thompson, who made and sold archery tackle, died of cancer Thursday at his Owings Mills home. He was 72.
He had operated Joseph D. Thompson Jr. Enterprises Ltd. out of his home since the mid-1950s, supplying archers in Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania. He sold other bowhunting equipment but arrows were his specialty -- each made by hand to the user's specifications and each with the "Tarco'' (Thompson Archery Company) trademark.
Mr. Thompson produced 75,000 to 100,000 hunting, field, target and flu-flu arrows a year -- about a third of them specialty or fiberglass models. Flu-flu arrows have wide circular feathers designed to control the flight and speed of the arrow.
"He started the business because he loved archery and wanted to preserve it,'' said his daughter, Sherri A. Thompson of Baltimore."He not only sold [equipment], but he'd spend time with the customer teaching hunting. His business was through word of mouth and he had a lot of repeat business.''
"It was a hobby as well as a business,'' said his son, Joseph D. Thompson III of Baltimore."So he really had the best of both worlds because he was doing something that he really liked to do.''
A Towson native, Mr. Thompson graduated from Towson High School in the early 1940s and joined the Army in 1943 during World War II. He was discharged in 1945, attended the Johns Hopkins University and worked as an engineering aide for the engineering firm of Thompson, Grace and Mays, of which his father was a founder.
In 1954, while still at the engineering firm, he began his archery tackle business and by 1958 it was his sole occupation.
"I'm a lucky man,'' he told The Sun in 1977."I might not make as much as some shift workers, but being my own boss is worth $8,000 to $10,000 a year.
"My wife and I have purposely kept the business small. It reached a point eight or 10 years ago where we either had to stay as we were or get as big as hell. I didn't figure the ulcers were worth it,'' he said.
George Peterson, a friend, said he encouraged Mr. Thompson to give archery lessons to novice bowhunters. "But I don't think he really wanted to go that route,'' Mr. Peterson said. "He'd help out in the store or go hunting with you, but I don't think he wanted to teach.''
An avid bowhunter who learned archery as a Boy Scout, Mr. Thompson was a member of several bowhunting clubs, including the Pikesville Sportsman's Club, the Baltimore Bowmen and Vingt-Neuf Bowmen. He won several archery contests in the Mid-Atlantic region over the years.
He bagged a 300-pound Russian wild boar in Pennsylvania and a 350-pound black bear in Canada from 35 yards.
"He never believed that something that big could be that fast,'' his son said, referring to the bear. "I think his adrenalin was racing for that.''
Added his daughter: "He just loaded that sucker on top of the station wagon and drove it home.''
Services were held Saturday.
Other survivors include his wife, the former Thelma M. Bull, whom he married in 1956; another daughter, Jane P. Thompson of New York; and a grandson. (Note: After countless hours, I was unsuccessful in locating any surviving members).
Publish Date: 6/18/97.”
Known for his aggressive approach to getting things done, Joe Thompson fought hard to keep Field Archery for the purpose which it was originally conceived...practice for hunting archers to improve their shooting skills under simulated hunting conditions. As evolution would have it, the sport of archery also evolved. In the end, field archery became the 3-D archery we see today.
Joe Thompson became one of the last hold outs for bowhunters in the MAA (Maryland Archery Association, and NFAA (National Field Archery Association). But eventually he also yielded to the times. For many years beyond those days, Joe remained very active in Maryland archery until his untimely passing.
In addition, besides being one of several founding members of The Baltimore Bowmen archery club, he was instrumental in working with the DNR to develop archery seasons for deer hunting.
Joseph D. Thompson Jr. factoids:
Owned and operated a licensed retail archery shop out of his basement shop in his home.
Joe was a licensed wholesale archery equipment distributor to several major sporting goods retailers throughout the State.
Joe also sold archery equipment at weekend Archery Tournaments & The MD State Archery Championship from rear of his station wagon. Joe frequently shot archery at many archery Club sponsored Field Archery and broadhead shoots.
One of several founders and long standing member of Baltimore Bowmen as well as The Vingt Neuf & Pikesville Sportsman’s Club.
Past President of Baltimore Bowmen
Board of Directors member of Baltimore Bowmen, Pikesville Sportsman Club and Vingt Neuf Bowmen
Council Member of the Association of Maryland Bowhunters (AMBH)
Back in the 50’s & 60’s he could be found bowhunting the Pocomoke State Forest Public Hunting Lands in Worchester County, Eastern Shore of Maryland, using an old four-wheel drive military jeep to travel the unpaved sand roads.
Shot and bow hunted with a left handed 45# Root recurve Bow.
Favorite broadhead for bow hunting deer was a Hilbre.
Joe really enjoyed having his customers and friends visit him at his Owings Mills home/shop and just spend hours talking archery and bow hunting.
Many new archers of the 50s - 70’s bought their very first recurve bow from Joe Thompson.
Joe provided his “beginner” customers with instructions on shooting a bow at his backyard target.
Joe stood behind his products and had a stellar reputation as a fair and honest businessman.
Joe did a lot behind the scenes for the promotion and protection of archery and bowhunting in Maryland.
Joe donated equipment prizes for Archery Club Charity Shoots and Maryland bowhunting Events. In closing, Joe Thompson passed on way too early. He was one of the Forefathers of organized archery & bowhunting in Maryland. The sport of Archery and bowhunting in Maryland owes a debt of gratitude to Joe Thompson, gone but not forgotten!