Kenneth Henry Taylor
Born: March 25, 1953
Son of Harry Taylor (Rouyn-Noranda) and Jeanine Roy (La Tuque)
Married to Ethel Katapatuk (Waskaganish)
Father of Daniel Taylor (Lisa Shallhorn) and Cynthia Taylor (Dr. Mark Watson)
Grandfather of Annika Mabel Taylor and Autumn Esme Watson
This lifelong woodsman with a vast knowledge of the outdoors walks a singular path as both a hunter and a true citizen of the North. Raised in close proximity to the Cree people, he is akin to Native ways and was able to develop his own philosophy in regards to hunting. His impressive record with the long bow places him among the very best and is nothing short of legendary.
It was a privilege entering the house of this renowned hunter who usually enjoys the privacy of his home and usually only opens his doors for family-related matters. Walking into Ken Taylor’s basement was like entering a sanctuary filled with hunting trophies and souvenirs collected over the years, allowing the inquisitive observer to wonder about the many stories behind them.
Taylor possesses a unique career path and the stories he brings up include many people from the Cree Nation with whom he has shared life-long friendships. His childhood memories take us back when his father brought him along into the woods, at a very early age, and where he encountered Cree hunters and fishermen harvesting for their families. He lived in isolated areas, often without electricity or plumbing. He saw his mother carry water on her back just like the Cree women did.
Taylor explains how the forest became his playground and his “first school”. Both his parents often told him how he learned to catch minnows, frogs and squirrels as soon as he could walk. Taylor says he was allowed to bring silent weapons – a bow or slingshot – while his father sought bigger game, when they hunted together. He collected a good bank of experience while attending school and grew into a strong teenager.
On a beautiful Indian Summer day in September 1972, with the belfry resonating at the All Saints Anglican Church in Rouyn-Noranda, the 19-year-old Taylor walked the aisle with his teen sweetheart, Ethel Katapatuk, 17, whom he met while attending Noranda High School in Rouyn-Noranda. Regarding their respective cultural backgrounds, Taylor and his wife never made much fuss about it. “God made us one. We’re all God’s children,” says Katapatuk.
Taylor is proud to share that he is a fourth-generation descendant of Montagnais Natives via his French mother, Jeanine Roy. His father, Harry Taylor, a master mechanic of mine machinery, gave him a rich mix of English, Irish and Scottish ancestry, not unlike many Crees of James Bay who possess similar bloodlines.
As a hunter, Taylor values his good health. As he explains, he realized early in life that he had a physical advantage over most of his peers. He was tall for his age and had a good bone structure. He started training at the age of 13 and by the time he graduated from high school, he had become a self-employed trainer and a strong advocate of physical fitness. He managed a private gym for competitive athletes and operated Club-Santé K.T. in Rouyn-Noranda. Among his collection of titles, he won two North American Heavyweight Arm Wrestling Championships and in 1977, he was proclaimed World Champion – nothing less for a legend in the making.
Taylor offers his services as a guide to outfitters and several local and foreign hunters. His workload was always physically demanding and often required 15 to 18 hours a day, from May to December. His year planner still starts in late April, preparing for bear hunting season (May and June) and is followed by caribou and moose hunting in the fall. He finishes his itinerary with deer hunting in Saskatchewan from mid-October to December.
Between Past and Present
Taylor’s passion for hunting is an understatement. When hunting for himself, Taylor only uses the traditional long bow, his unique hunting companion. “Throughout history, the bow underwent several modifications according to the needs of the times,” he says. The North American Natives used flat bows, while Mongolians, living a continent away, used shorter recurves for manoeuverability.
Taylor further explains that modern bows have become high-tech; they are made out of composite materials and equipped with pulleys and sights. But Taylor prefers traditional bows that have no sights and no mechanical advantages. “These bows are shot instinctively,” says Taylor.
Using a traditional bow does increase the level of difficulty for the hunter but Taylor belongs to a breed of hunters who finds fulfilment in the complete experience of hunting rather than the simple finality of harvest. “After harvesting a big game animal, I feel the same way the ancestors did,” says Taylor, with a gleam in his eye.
With the exception of migratory birds (hunted with a firearm), a large number of big-game animals have fallen prey to his marksmanship. Several bears – large enough to be listed in the big-game records book – have been stopped by his cedar arrows. Taylor’s reputation has grown over the years.
Eeyou Istchee Resident
Taylor and Katapatuk always kept close ties with her hometown of Waskaganish. They were able to become fulltime residents when the access road was built in 2001, thus allowing Taylor to continue his frequent travels while permitting the couple set up residency on a permanent basis.
Today Taylor is able to share his love of the outdoors with his Cree family, friends and relatives. He is proud of following the Cree ways and traditions while contributing his own experience learned from guiding and hunting across North America. Taylor is particularly grateful to have visited Waskaganish early enough to have met with Elders like the late Frank Moar and Rosy Jolly, and to spend time with Mary Katapatuk, his wife’s grandmother.
Taylor has many fond memories of his father-in-law, the late Walter Katapatuk, who instilled him with many Cree principles over the years and shared hunting stories from days long gone. These include stories of Walter, as a boy, hunting with a wooden bow that his father Abraham had made for him. “The Elders are living history,” says Taylor. “We must listen while we can.” Taylor appreciates this sharing of knowledge as it permits him to increase his understanding of the forest as a living body.
Shy of his 60th birthday, and currently celebrating his 40th wedding anniversary with his wife, the 6’1″ Taylor still weighs 260 pounds and is very active. In recent years, he has been doing some freelance writing for various hunting magazines, where he is able to share his unique experience with a large number of hunting aficionados. We still have more to discover about this impressive man and his remarkable career.
As a parting gesture, Taylor takes this opportunity to salute all his James Bay friends from his old school days in Rouyn-Noranda. Waachiiyaa!