Business sees spike in young women competitors — and many are finishing in top spots
By Brandi Makuski
On any given day of the week, Bucks & Bulls Archery is bustling with activity.
Tucked into an otherwise unremarkable strip mall on Church St., experienced archers — and those curious about the sport — can be seen practicing on shooting lanes through the business’ large glass windows. During spring break, the business was a destination spot for young people from throughout the county, and according to owner Gary Hintz, its customer base is increasingly female.
“There an increase in girls, I think they see it’s something they don’t have to be afraid of and it’s not just for boys,” Hintz said of his younger clientele. Some of these girls shoot competitively but they’ll never hunt, for some of them it’s just a sport.”
Archers of all skill levels are welcome, he said. While no formal classes are held, Hintz takes groups of young shooters to tournaments all over the country — and many of them are breaking long-held records and placing in the top spots in the state and nation.
“I got 600 [points] out of 600,” said Katie Szymanski, a shy 11-year-old who attends public school in Stevens Point. Parents Mike and Nicole said Katie has been shooting for the past two years.
“She saw her older brother do it, and her dad, and she kind of got excited,” said Nicole Szymanski, who added her daughter’s accolades had piled up to such a degree they were all difficult to keep straight. “She holds a state tournament record, she won at the Badger State Games, she won at Great Lakes Sectional and at nationals.”
Szymanski was only one of a handful of young ladies from the area who are dominating boys their age in the sport. Kacie Roth, 11 of Stevens Point, said she grew up in a hunting family.
“I just thought it would be really cool,” said the Kennedy Elementary School student. “I like that everyone who does it is phenomenal; it’s just awesome to learn new things, and then know what to do and what not to do.”
Roth added she’s not one bit intimated by participating in a traditionally male-dominated activity.
“The boys don’t razz me at all; they probably get razzed by me because I beat them,” she said.
Fellow archer Austin Richmond, 12, agreed with Roth’s sentiment but said there’s no animosity between the boys and girls.
“It’s really fun when you’re on the range, and it’s a cool thing to watch, too,” said Richmond, who comes to practice with his friend, 10-year-old Jordan Schlice. “Some of these girls are really good, and even though the girls are better than me, it’s still fun to be here and hang out. You meet a lot of good people here.”
Roth said doing well on “the lanes” boosts her confidence in other areas of life, including school. It’s a sentiment that was echoed by other young women who frequent Bucks & Bulls.
“When I’m frustrated with school, I just think about this,” said Kaitlyn Lee, 15. “I think, ‘If I can do this, I can do anything’.”
Roth, a freshman at Ben Franklin Jr. High, said she’s been shooting competitively for about two and a half years, and recently took first place in a state competition.
“We actually had an archery unit in gym class and I got hooked,” she said. “Then my dad brought me here and got me practicing, I met Gary and it was amazing, everyone here is so into it.”
Kaitlyn Lee shoots competitively as a team with her younger sister, 12-year-old April. The young women impressed officials from the archery company Prime at a recent competition so much that company officials asked for the team’s help in designing its newest bow.
“They’re going to send us the bows and ask for our advice,” said April Lee. “That’s so cool and it’s really exciting that they’re looking for what we want.”
Getting new equipment from a sponsor isn’t uncommon for young competitors, said Hintz, and it’s one way to obtain professional-grade equipment without paying the hefty price.
“You can get a good setup somewhere in the $600 dollar range, but some of these bows are like $2,000,” Hintz said, adding several local businesses also sponsor competitors.
Hintz offers indoor lane rental for $5 an hour, and archers can try before they buy, he said.
“We’ve always got people coming in who’ve never shot a bow, or a crossbow before,” Hintz said. “We teach them everything they need to know.”
Hintz said there’s no age limit to participate in practice or tournaments, which range in cost from $15 to about $80, he said, depending on the location. This year, he said, the team has traveled to Las Vegas, Kentucky and various spots in Wisconsin.
Hintz purchased the business in 2012, relocating it from Plover to Stevens Point. Afterwards, a growth spurt forced the move into a larger space, located at 3296 Church Street. The business offers a full line of archery services.
For more information contact Bucks & Bulls Archery at (715) 341-2825, or find the business on Facebook or online at www.bucksandbullsarchery.com.