ROANOKE, W.Va. — Robert Delaney spent his career counting beans for the Chicago Tribune as its chief financial officer, but he’s spending his retirement counting points and calculating Pope and Young Scores. Delaney, who makes his home in Connecticut, is an accomplished bowhunter. Now at age 78, Delaney works regularly with the Boy Scouts and was introduced to West Virginia through that connection at the Summit Bechtel Family Scout Reserve.
“Archery and the Boy Scouts is all about physical fitness, proficiency, the outdoors and nature and communing with nature,” said Delaney during the grand opening of the exhibit at the recent National Hunting and Fishing Day Celebration at Stonewall Jackson Lake State Park. “I learned to shoot a bow at Boy Scout camp at age 11 and I’m still shooting today at age 78.”
Over the years, Delaney has killed some magnificent animals while hunting around the world on some of the wildest adventures ever experienced. Now he wants to share the enjoyment. Delaney generously donated his entire collection of mounted game animals to the state of West Virginia as an educational tool.
“I had this collection and this is 20 years of bowhunting. I wanted to leave a legacy to educate youth about the American model of wildlife management, fair chase hunting, and ethical hunting,” he said. “I thought this might be a hook to get youth into the outdoors. This is an educational wildlife exhibit.”
The collection, which is permanently housed in the Administration Building at Stonewall Jackson Lake State Park, includes a number of animals you’ll not see in West Virginia. There is an American bison which Delaney killed at 50 yards in British Columbia moments after a herd of nearly 100 animals stampeded by.
“When you’re standing behind a tree and a herd of bison run by you, the ground shakes,” said Delaney.
Also included are a number of plains animals from Africa including many of the big cats. There’s a cape buffalo from Africa and a mountain lion from the western United States. However, the most poignant piece in the collection is the polar bear which Delaney took in the Arctic at 40 below zero with three days of white out conditions. All of exhibits teach lessons which children in West Virginia may or may not realize.
“The polar bear is not endangered. In the United States it’s the poster child for global warming, but if you go to Canada and talk to the Canadians where most of the polar bear in the world live, they’ll tell you they’re not endangered,” said Delaney. “The polar bear is thriving and the population is in fact growing.”
Further adding to the educational attraction is a brown bear, which is black and a black bear, which is brown.
“The brown bear that looks black is really a dark, dark chocolate brown,” he said. “Black bears come in color phases. You can have black ones, I’ve seen a white one, but that is a very good educational tool.”
When he’s not on another globetrotting trip with his bow, Delaney dedicates his time to sharing his passion for archery with the next generation.
“It’s about studying the anatomy of each animal, but also practicing every day with your bow,” he said. “I shoot my bow most every day and I teach archery. I have 15 students at the moment.”
He also shows no signs of slowing down. Since donating his collection to the state of West Virginia, Delaney has killed two more animals which will be added to the exhibit and he has visions of growing it more and improving it with time.
“This is a permanent exhibit,” he said. “We hope to make this one of the best educational, wildlife exhibits in the state of West Virginia.”