|New Experiences – Same Old FUN!
By Ray and Karen Howell
|Since last fall Darren Grefe, Sarge Symons, Austin Siewert, and other KB leadership members had been planning our KB bowfishing adventure day. We had been working together with Brandon Schultze from Genesis on our own Kicking Bear Signature bowfishing bows. The excitement was building over these bows and equipment purchased from Genesis and Mission by Mathews. We were set to go for June 20, 2020. Then we were hit with bad weather, i.e., torrential rain, and we had to postpone the event until June 27th. We all met the Wisconsin Bowfishing captains at Goose Island near La Crosse, WI. These amazing captains volunteered their time and stepped out of their everyday lives to help kids in need that they didn’t even know yet. Then Sarge opened the afternoon with a powerful prayer thanking God for our outdoor opportunities and to keep our adventure safe.
A picnic followed with tons of hot dogs, brats, and snacks all prepared by “general” Greffe. After the picnic we surprised the kids with an awards ceremony where we presented them with their trophy mounts from last year’s deer, bear, and turkey hunts. Then the boat captains came up and talked about safety. The mentors taught the kids, one on one, how to be safe and accurate with the bowfishing equipment. It was incredibly impressive how accurate these kids were.
Many of these kids have never had the opportunity to bowfish and the excitement was extremely high!
We paired up a few kids and mentors on each boat and as soon as darkness started to fall, the boats were launched. We planned on fishing from sunset to midnight. Each boat had halogen lights all the way around from the middle of the boat to the front which lit up the water like daylight. All the boats went in different directions.
As we were trolling back into the shallows, right off the bat we got stuck on a sandbar! Our Captain Paul jumped off the boat into the muddy water and physically pushed the boat free. We started working our way into shallow water along the weed patches and just like that a giant dogfish appeared and before I could even think, Elias released an arrow and made a perfect shot! The fish went ballistic with water splashing everywhere! The whole boat erupted with uncontrollable excitement! It was almost like when Aaron Rodgers throws a “hail Mary” for a touchdown and the place goes nuts. We pulled the fish into the boat and it was huge. Elias was smiling from ear to ear. As the night went on, every kid had several opportunities. There were fish being added to the barrel. On one occasion, Isaiah shot a monstrous carp and while the fish was taking out line, Jerome put a second arrow into that fish. You could not believe the hooting and hollering and excitement by all of us as that giant fish was brought into the boat.
As I was on the boat as a mentor, it hit me pretty hard that most of these kids didn’t know each other very well but you would have thought they were all best friends. Everyone of them helped each other out by moving to a different position to give another kid an advantage for more shooting opportunities. Here we are in the middle of the night, on a boat, with a bunch of kids having the best time of their life instead of being on the streets involved with whatever the devil would lure them into.
In a few of the areas we went into, the bugs were so thick it looked like a snowstorm, but not one person was complaining. Everybody had their eyes locked on the water looking for any kind of movement.
On two separate occasions we had beavers pop up alongside the boat. I think we got stuck in the mud three times and each time Captain Paul was our hero. He was soaking wet with mud up to his waist; a big, burly man with a smile on his face.
On one occasion we hit a submerged stump that was undetectable. The boat came to a sudden stop, just like hitting a brick wall. I was amazed at how quickly everyone grabbed hold of each other, and no one flipped into the water. Midnight came around way too fast. We found ourselves heading back to the landing where we met up with the other groups and it started all over again—all kinds of stories and laughter—getting the boats out of the water—everyone chipping in to put all the equipment away—and taking pictures of the kids with their fish. God is good – always!
Thoughts from Mentor Ben Lipke:
Introducing a kid to the outdoors can change their life forever. I was fortunate enough to grow up with a Dad and a family that got me into hunting and fishing at a very early age. I know without hunting and fishing I would be a different person today. However, not every kid has a Father or someone in their life to introduce them to the outdoors.
Kicking Bear hasn’t been able to put on the normal number of camps, but that hasn’t stopped them from making impactful changes in kids’ lives throughout the nation. Instead of putting on larger camps, Kicking Bear has been more focused on helping kids one on one and in much smaller groups.
When Ray told me we were going to be taking some kids bowfishing on the Mississippi River I was like a kid on Christmas Eve; I was counting down the days for this trip. I would be mentoring kids and helping them enjoy the great riches God’s creation offers. While we were teaching the kids the setup of the bowfishing reels some of the kids noticed that there were a bunch of bullfrogs by the bank.
After confirming that it was legal to shoot frogs, I pulled out my blowgun and approached the bank. One of the kids was practicing with the bowfishing rig and flung an arrow at the frog. He missed and the frog jumped to a nearby rock, I took a deep breath lined up the end of the barrel with the frog and blew. The bamboo dart was like a falcon diving for its prey — thud the dart struck. The frog jumped to the edge of the water and expired. The few kids who witnessed what had just transpired went ballistic. They were yelling and jumping up and down; I’ve never seen anyone get so excited over a bullfrog. The next thing you know a bunch of kids are at the water’s edge with the bowfishing rigs trying to shoot bullfrogs, and it was awesome! Some of the kids ended up getting frogs and you would have thought they had just won the lottery. I showed them how to filet a frog; we put them on the grill and enjoyed the tasty frog legs!
To be able to witness the smiles and glow on these kids’ faces was amazing. I knew even if we didn’t get any fish that night the kids were still going to have fun. A lot of these kids had never been bowfishing before, so to be able to introduce them to it was super cool.
Once we got onto the river, and the lights got turned on it was truly one of the best experiences of my life. Arrows were being flung, fish were being skewered, kids were yelling in excitement, it was just an awesome trip to experience. To be able to get these kids off the streets, or off the couch, or distract them from their broken home life was truly a blessing. We need more people taking kids outside with everything that is going on in the world today. God’s creation can certainly become the calm in the storm.
I would like to see more people step up and introduce a kid to the outdoors. They have no idea how much fun they are missing! It doesn’t need to be something big or magnificent to get a kid hooked on getting into the outdoors. Something as small as a camping trip, catching a fish, or shooting a frog, can influence a kid for the rest of his life. If you enjoy the outdoors, it’s your responsibility to expose kids to the outdoors too. You never know, it might just change their life forever.
A single Mother’s viewpoint:
Upon our arrival there were warm greetings, friends gathered around, hotdogs on the grill, and boats preparing to launch as the KB team made sure everyone was acquainted and comfortable with each other. The team leaders didn’t hesitate to start right in to make sure we all had practice shooting the bows and understanding the safety rules. I got very confident with my shooting abilities along with my sons. Now my kids and I have found a new, fun activity that we can do together with archery.
It didn’t take long before sunset, and we were divided into several groups and out on the river. I had the pleasure of being with the little ones and a few mentors along with Brandon as our guide. I can’t help but smile remembering the “giggles” and “awes” of the children. Captain Brandon got the first fish which really excited the kids. Everyone was fortunate enough in our group to shoot fish. I even ended up shooting two big fish myself. I can’t say any of us cared much for the bugs, but overall it was the light in the children’s eyes and the Spirit of the Lord upon us that made the trip most memorable. That night even brought me down memory lane remembering late nights in the boat fishing with my Dad when I was a little girl. When it was time to return to the landing, we were all exhausted with a barrel full of fish, I believe in all honesty we all felt like kids that night; cause in God’s eyes we are. I’m so blessed for the experience because it’s one my kids and I will never forget; we’re looking forward for more to come!