Jack McKey is a man who hails from Valdosta, Georgia. He has never lived in one place very long and has spent much of his life traveling across America. He worked to develop Georgia’s first two canoe trails and continued his work south to help develop 14 more trails with Flordia’s Department of Natural Resources. He was hired on at one point to help manage the 87,000-acre Glasscock Ranches in Texas, and also served as Captain of a commercial fishing vessel. McKey, who has extensive work experience outdoors, is also an adept writer.
During the ‘60s and ‘70s, McKey was a member of the Outdoor Writer’s Association of America, worked as an editor with the Southern Sportsman Journal and also struck out on his own as a freelance photographer, columnist, artist and cartoonist for other outdoor publications.
ABAC students Randie Sumner and Jessie Shiflett spent their summer semester working as interns on a documentary about McKey that took them on a journey across the United States. Their goal was to gather interviews with people who knew of McKey and his work in hopes of better understanding the man who is now in his 70s. McKey has devoted much of his life to the research and development of Native American and naturalistic technology. His immersive research has led him to develop and recreate multiple artifacts: spears, clubs, harpoons, atlatls, arrows, canoes, clothes and bighorn sheep bows, that he uses as visual aids when teaching others.
McKey, a man who some have referred to as a renaissance man, is what Hazen Audel, of National Geographic’s show “Primal Survivor,” refers to as a maker: a person that has “been living off the land” and “knows how to maximize everything out of their environment.” Sumner and Shiflett were able to record McKey meeting Audel at his home in Spokane, Wash. for the first time this summer. Audel has spent much of his youth living and traveling in foreign countries, has immersed himself in the culture of makers who live off the land.
Throughout his travels, Audel has amassed a private collection of handmade bows, baskets and backpacks that he claims not many will understand. For this reason, Audel was slow to show McKey his collection. The two quickly hit it off. As McKey and Audel began going through the private collection, the modern world seemed to fall away as the two engaged one another about the skill and craftsmanship that went into the shaping of a bow or weave pattern of a backpack.
Ken Wee is an expert in primitive bow making, who lives in Boulder, Colorado, and first heard of McKey in the ‘80s from a mentor of his. Wee was supposed to meet him at a primitive gathering then but was unable to when McKey’s flight was canceled. Wee was unable to meet McKey during this summer, but he was able to tell Sumner and Shiflett about a time when Mckey harvested three bison with a sheep horn bow from horseback. Wee went on to say that it is rare to find a person with as much knowledge and experience crafting sheep horn bows as Mckey, and was excited to hear that Mckey was still showcasing his work. During the spring of 2019, McKey showcased some of his work during a presentation at the Georgia Museum of Agriculture and Historic Village (GMA). The event was so popular that McKey will be returning to the GMA during the summer of 2020 with a month-long exhibit of his work.