2010-02-03 / Columns

Indiana Bowhunter Association Banquet

by Brandon Butler

As a member of numerous hunting and fishing organizations, I attend quite a few banquets each year. Most of these banquets offer a similar agenda: raise money to support organizational goals through ticket sales, raffles and auctions. All support good causes, but the banquet I have grown to look forward to the most is the annual Indiana Bowhunter Association (IBA) banquet. The reason I enjoy this banquet the most is because the IBA strives to feature a keynote speaker truly worth listening to.

This year is no different. When the IBA banquet takes place at the Columbus Holiday Inn on February 27, those in attendance will be fortunate to hear the words of Ray Howell. Howell, one of the gentlest giants hunting has ever known, will take the stage to tell the tale of Kicking Bear – 1-on-1.

Two years ago, at the IBA banquet, I hung on every word as Monty Browning recalled near disaster as he came face to face with an Alaskan Grizzly while armed with nothing more than a wooden bow. Last year, Will Jimeno told his tale of surviving the World Trade Center attack.

The story Ray Howell will deliver this year may not be as bone-chilling as Browning’s, or as tear-jerking as Jimeno’s, but rest assured it will be powerful. Howell was a troubled youth. After his father left the family, and his mother suffered a mental breakdown, Howell was sent to live with multiple foster families. He was headed down a bad path at an early age.

In his book, “45 Unforgettable Bowhunters,” M.R. James begins the chapter on Howell with the following quote, “I started smoking when I was about 12 years old. It was a big thing for me and my friends to stand on the street corner and smoke. I started drinking when I was 13 while hanging around with the wrong crowd. I was what you could call ‘hell on wheels.’”

What saved Howell from a life of utter-despair was bowhunting. He was in jail seven times before the age of 16. Who knows where he’d be today if Tom Poulkey, the man who had driven Howell to his first foster home, hadn’t one day asked him to go hunting. It was hunting with the Poulkey family that made Howell realize he wanted to live a better life. He wanted to be a hunter. Because of this, he turned his life around.

Years later, now with a loving family and a successful business, Poulkey called on Howell. Another teen was in trouble, and it was Howell’s turn to pay it forward. He took a young man named Brian under his wing, gave him a place to stay, a job, and most importantly, a future. He also took him hunting. Howell grasped the power of what transpired, and thus a life of service began.

Today, Kicking Bear 1-on-1 uses archery, hunting and love to turn troubled youths from darkness to the light. If you want to hear Howell’s powerful testimony, I invite you to join me and a number of other Hoosier bowhunters at this year’s IBA banquet.

Although the doors don’t open to evening portion of the event – dinner, Howell’s talk, awards, auction, and raffle – until 5:00 p.m., the banquet actually begins with a members’ meeting at 8:00 a.m., followed by seminars from 12 noon until 4:00 p.m. Seminars include Indiana deer biologist Chad Stewart on this year’s deer harvest, Eddie Brochin on falcons, a talk on pronghorn hunting Montana, and an early seminar by Howell specifically on mentoring youth.

The cost of the entire program, including dinner and Howell’s keynote address, is $27.50 for adults, $12.50 for youth (6-12), with kids age five and under admitted free. Day passes for seminars only are $5. Reservations are required for the evening portion, and must be made by February 19. To purchase tickets, or for more information, contact Tim Labbe, IBA President, at (317) 281-2267.

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