Grow Archery Participation in Your Community

The flight of an arrow can captivate kids and positively impact their lives. Hosting a Kicking Bear Adventure Day is how you can get a bow and arrow into their hands and make a difference.

Grow Archery Participation in Your Community

One day, a non-hunting family with young kids attended a free event at an archery shop. These folks really weren’t even outdoors people. During the event, they shot bows, had some food and experienced other fun and exciting activities. The kids, in particular, had the time of their lives. While driving back home, they probably didn’t stop chattering about all of the fun that they’d had.

Following the event, they returned to the same archery shop. Wouldn’t you know? The parents and kids all got outfitted with their own bows. Just like that, a family that was looking for something positive that they could all do together found archery, thanks to a free community event. The event was a Kicking Bear Foundation Adventure Day held at Coyote Creek Outdoors located in Rochester, Minnesota.     

“At the time, those kids were what I’d call non-athletic,” said Craig Reichel, owner of Coyote Creek. “With most sports, it’s the athletic kids who usually find their way onto sports teams, and that leaves other kids feeling like they don’t fit in anywhere. Well, with archery, virtually everyone can fit in. Even non-athletic kids can learn to hit bull’s-eyes with a bow and arrow, and it gives them a sense of belonging and something they can fit into. They just need someone to give them the opportunity to try it out.”

The flight of an arrow can captivate just about anyone and change their life for good. Archery is something positive for kids who’d otherwise be glued to video games or roaming the streets looking for trouble. But, you have to put a bow and arrow in their hands. Kicking Bear Adventure Day can help you connect with all sorts of kids and teach them to shoot archery. Follow along as Reichel discusses some of Adventure Day’s ins and outs.  

Free and Open to The Community

Kicking Bear Adventure Days, which are single-day events held in partnership with archery shops around the country, are well-attended because they’re free. This might sound counterproductive since making a profit is a big part of running an archery shop, but this is your chance to give back to your community, and you never know what will come out of it.   

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“These events are free,” Reichel shared. “People like free stuff, and because Kicking Bear events are free, people attend them. This gets people to try something they normally wouldn’t; in this case, they get to try archery. We also let families know that their kids can return to Coyote Creek Outdoors and shoot archery for free anytime.

“The program and the benefits to the kids, especially those who’re growing up without a biological father or parents, are very important to us. There are many different programs and causes that we can support, but we truly believe that Kicking Bear is making a difference, so we’re thrilled to partner with the organization and play a part in what they’re doing.” 

Adventure Day at a Glance

Besides offering Adventure Day for free, Reichel said that you’d better be prepared to roll up your sleeves.

“I’m not kidding when I say that hosting an Adventure Day is a lot of work,” he explained. “But, we feel that it’s definitely worth the time and effort, and we really like it. Plus, we’ve done enough events over the years that it isn’t such a big deal like it was in the beginning. We’re fortunate to have very good volunteers and a great staff to help pull off these events. We’ve gotten more organized and better understand what we’re doing now. We’re fully set up and prepared. I can’t say that was true of the first one we ever did; we had approximately 2,800 in attendance. We weren’t prepared for that.”

Each Adventure Day looks a little bit different depending on the location and weather, but at Coyote Creek, the event offers archery, BB-gun shooting, tug-of-war, prizes and more. In other words, kids get to have the time of their life doing things they don’t normally get to experience. And before all of the fun is over, Ray Howell, Kicking Bear’s founder, gives a message talking about life experiences and sharing his testimony about giving his life to the Lord — Kicking Bear’s mission is to put a bow in a kid’s hand and lead them to the Lord. And when Howell isn’t available, another leader shares.  

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“Shops can hold community events without Kicking Bear,” Reichel said. “But, the attractions that Kicking Bear brings in along with the message that Howell and sometimes others give makes it such a powerful event. It gives these kids hope. That’s really what we’re trying to give these kids. Hope.”  

Reichel explained that Kicking Bear does a lot of marketing to promote Adventure Day. The organization has folks on board to handle the promotions, a big part of which entails social media. Of course, shops are encouraged to promote it in their communities, too.

Ray Howell, the papa bear and founder of Kicking Bear Foundation, shares his passion of following the Lord and shooting archery with attendees at Adventure Day.
Ray Howell, the papa bear and founder of Kicking Bear Foundation, shares his passion of following the Lord and shooting archery with attendees at Adventure Day.

Kids Are Searching

There's no doubt that kids are searching for things to do, and the ones who aren’t have their heads buried in their phones and are numb to reality. However, the social climate we once knew changed dramatically over the last 3 years or so, limiting the amount of community events available in some areas of the country.

“A lot of events through different organizations seem to be going away,” Reichel said. “That has been the case ever since the onset of Covid-19. Some people just don’t seem to care anymore. 

“If archery clubs and other organizations are willing to put in the work, there will be a great return. I’m not talking about a good financial return; I’m talking about a good return on changing lives. Too often businesses look at an event like this and ask, ‘Did I make any money?’ That isn’t what this is about. It’s about giving back and making a difference. Remember, kids are searching for things to do.”

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As Reichel had mentioned earlier in the conversation, he waives range fees outside of Adventure Day for kids to encourage archery participation and offer them something positive to do. 

“Kids always shoot for free in our ranges, firearms or bows,” he said. “They don’t have to rent equipment or pay range fees. I see other shops charging kids $8-$10 to shoot, and it kind of upsets me. A lot of kids don’t have that money. Cost shouldn’t be a barrier to trying archery. They should get to try it and shoot for free. It’s a small investment that shops can make to ensure the future of archery and bowhunting.

“One day, a guy asked why I let my expensive targets get all shot up by kids who aren’t paying shooting fees. I just told him that worn-out targets and church hymnals are the same; if they’re getting worn out, something good is happening.”

More Participation Equals More Customers

The point of Kicking Bear Adventure Day is to offer youths, especially at-risk and underprivileged youths, something positive to do and hopefully change their lives. That’s the main thing. But, it’s obvious that gathering them to shoot archery at your store will get many of them hooked on archery, which means you’ll gain some customers, too.  

“This isn’t the most important part, but the byproduct of Kicking Bear events is that almost all of the kids who want to continue forward with archery is that they’re already our customers. They felt comfortable in our shop because of the atmosphere we cultivate. They ate food, played games and had the time of their life. When they reach the point when they want to pursue getting their own bows, where do you think they’re going to buy them from? They’re not going to a box store or somewhere else. They’re coming to us because they felt welcomed and comfortable, and they had a wonderful experience at Coyote Creek.

“I don’t know exactly what percentage of kids come back after the events. Even if it’s only 25 percent, to me, that’s a good number. And I’m only using that hypothetically because I don’t measure a return on our time invested. Not for this deal. Again, it’s given freely with no expectations. The fact that we get customers because of the event is just a bonus, and we really go above and beyond to work with these kids just as we do with all of our customers.”

Join Forces

When I asked Reichel what encouragement he has for archery stores considering an open-to-the-community event such as Kicking Bear Adventure Day, he didn’t hesitate to say, “They absolutely should do it. It’s so great to give back to the community. But, it’s only a gift if you expect nothing in return. Having that mindset will help you to genuinely keep the community’s best interest in mind so that you’re doing it for the right reasons. 

“The purpose of a Kicking Bear event is to draw in kids — especially underprivileged kids — and put a bow in their hands so that they can experience something they’ve never experienced before. And they get to do it all without spending any money. That’s very beneficial.”

Reichel could probably tell stories for days, but I asked him to choose one to close out our discussion. 

“One time a young boy came in with his mother,” he shared. “I don’t believe he’d ever touched a bow before. They spent 2 or 3 hours here. We had food and games. We set up tables so kids can color and stuff like that. They ate a lot of hot dogs. When Ray gave his message, I think it really affected the mother. It gave her hope. And they came back and shot. Eventually, the boy’s younger sister became old and big enough to shoot a bow, and she started coming along, too. I remember the mother saying, ‘We got our start here. Thank you.’”

If you like what you’ve read and want to take a crack at growing archery participation in your community while giving hope to kids who aren’t athletic, don’t have parents or are struggling in other ways, then it’s time to have an open-to-the-community event. Why not make it a Kicking Bear Adventure Day?  

Author’s Note: If you’d like to inquire about hosting a Kicking Bear Adventure Day, visit or e-mail 

What could be more fun than archery and face painting?
What could be more fun than archery and face painting?

Sidebar: Other Ways to Serve the Community

Not that he wants the spotlight for it, but Reichel gets involved with his community in ways beyond Adventure Day. One is opening his range to recovering drug addicts. 

“In our local county, there’s a group of people who’re part of a drug-court program,” Reichel said. “They’ve gotten into a lot of trouble. They’re in this drug-court program because they’ve been given a chance to stay in society, but they have to qualify and keep taking drug tests. They’re already convicted felons, so they have to keep their noses clean in order to avoid going to prison.

“The group that comes to Coyote Creek really thrives. These aren’t what most people would consider ‘desirable people.’ Some have had terrible meth addictions. Most have done crime to support their addictions. Most of them don’t look right. Some look mean. Some are missing lots of teeth. For those reasons, society basically shuns them, but we don’t. These folks come in at least once weekly to shoot archery for free. We know that the program is important to them, and we want to offer something positive that they can do. They thank us all of the time for giving them a chance.”

Reichel said that those same folks come and help out with the Kicking Bear Adventure Day. They’re obviously supervised, but they’re volunteering, and some of them work very hard. It works really well because kids who come to the event aren’t judging them as an adult likely would. They get to feel accepted in that atmosphere, which is a huge step in their attempt to keep clean. Reichel mentioned that it’s really neat to make a difference by giving these societally rejected folks a chance to feel “normal.” 


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