Jul 26, 2022

5 Minutes With… National Bowhunter Education Foundation Executive Director Marilyn Bentz

Marilyn is a classy lady – always has been and always will be. She’s a straight shooter (probably why I like her so much) and has been in the outdoor industry for many years, but we won’t get into specific dates. She’s a problem solver, like what I experienced with her at the recent POMA Business Conference when I discuss South Dakota being a potential conference location. She jumped right in and contacted the local Visitor’s Bureau – I think she even had lunch with them! That’s partly a South Dakota thing and partly what Marilyn just does – she gets things done. It is high time we, in the archery/bowhunting industry, pay our respects to her and all of her years of dedication to our lifestyle. Enjoy this quick chat with Marilyn Bentz – Michelle Scheuermann, editor, Archery Wire.

Q: Marilyn, please share with the Archery Wire audience what NBEF does

A: Sure! The National Bowhunter Education Foundation provides the bowhunter certification and class content that some states and certain circumstances require to legally bow hunt. NBEF also provides instructor training and certification. We’re all about helping bowhunters learn to become safe and successful hunters and stewards of the sport. NBEF oversees the International Bowhunter Education Program and works with the International Hunter Education Association and state agencies to coordinate a unified program. Europe and other countries offer full reciprocity for the NBEF (IBEP) certification and conduct IBEP classes.

NBEF also oversees the International Crossbow Education Program and works with state agencies responsible for crossbow education to develop comprehensive online crossbow safety courses that teach students important laws and regulations, game identification and safe, responsible handling of crossbow equipment.

NBEF is a 501(c)3 corporation that isn’t a membership-based organization.

Q: And what is your role in NBEF?

A: As the executive director I oversee the program and work directly with state agencies, partners that utilize our program and the NBEF Board of Directors.

Q: So, what's new at NBEF?

A: At the NBEF we realize today’s bowhunter is more socially engaged so we are stepping up our social media and marketing game as well as getting out there in person where the strongest potential for new bowhunters exists. Organizations that support hunting and bowhunting are an important part of our existence. The NBEF has been a Cornerstone Corporate Partner of the Professional Outdoor Media Association since 2005. Organizations such as the R100 tournament scene and NASP events are family friendly and are proven to be rich in bowhunter potential. The NBEF wants to be the resource leader for learning potential and also to recognize their achievements along the way. So, whether that is a sticker or hat at a tournament or presenting a prize at an R-100 event, we want people to know we are here for them! Part of our support also extends to coverage of events via photos on social media and we are creating a new section of our website, www.nbef.org, for people to submit their favorite photos of their bowhunting experiences.

Although we like to work with organizations that bring new people into the sport, we also like to reward those organizations that have worked hard to preserve some of the history of the sport. We continue to support organizations such as Pope and Young. Many of our long-time instructors are Pope and Young members and many of the record book big game trophies were taken by Pope and Young members who were graduates of the bowhunter education program.

Q: How did you get into this industry? What is your archery/bowhunting experience? How did you learn?

A: I got into bowhunting when I started a second career 35 years ago. In 1990 I took a bow ed class followed by an Instructor Course. Since then, I have taught classes as well as serving on the NBEF Board of Directors prior to becoming the Executive Director. I have very strong midwestern ties to conservation and bowhunting fits that model. I have bow hunted in many states, primarily for whitetail. I’ve also taken hogs, rabbits, and squirrel with a bow as well as an Osceola turkey with a firearm. My favorite bowhunting location is an old oak grove in Nebraska with a meandering spring-fed creek; it’s idyllic.

I was fortunate both from a career aspect as well as a proficiency aspect to have had extremely talented and knowledgeable mentors. When I got into the industry, Chuck Saunders taught me about the industry as well as many marketing tips which have proven to be timeless. Although there have been many advances to the technology side of archery, the marketing appeal remains the same. The flight of the arrow, regardless of the equipment it is shot from, has a romantic mystic that is not found in any other shooting sport. Advertising needs to sell this and the dream of the sport….whether that dream is every shot in the gold or a trophy animal.

This is a very opportunistic time for not only the sport of archery but the entire shooting sports community. COVID slowed down everyone’s life and reduced distractions that had previously kept people from going outdoors and participating in nature. Some attempts to venturing outdoors were no doubt baby steps. Many people enjoyed the solitude and at the same time the loud chatter of a squirrel or snort of a doe that can be heard when everything else quiets. From our years of experience with new hunters, we know to retain these new outdoor enthusiasts we need to make them successful in their endeavors. If their goal is to put food on the table, we need to have materials available so that they can learn how to be successful quickly. Bowhunting can be a very difficult sport and today’s new bowhunter may not realize that until their first attempts. Our job is to provide tools for their success regardless of their learning curve.

Q: Final words: Anything you wish more bowhunters did?

A: Show you are a responsible hunter by taking a bow ed course! Responsible hunters (bow, crossbow and firearm) leave the woods cleaner and better than they found them. They learn everything possible about tree stand safety, practice to become a proficient shooter, know when to shoot, where to shoot, plan for the hunt and hunt with a plan, know the laws and obey them.

Check out Marilyn’s office – she has quite the memorabilia stacked in a small space. From left to right:

  1. Oval wall plaque. Received when inducted into the Legends of the Outdoors Hall of Fame, 2005.
  2. Signed Saunders Archery Target Clock. A gift from Chuck Saunders, Christmas 1986.
  3. Ishi bronze (#58) by Max Greiner, former NBEF Board Member. Limited edition used as a fund raiser for the NBEF in the mid to late 80’s.
  4. Various items on file cabinet including a camo moose, ‘target’ pen holder made by Marilyn’s father-in-law to recognize my involvement in the archery industry, a special little friend photo, and resin replicas of ‘famous’ deer….and Ishi.
  5. Certificate of Thanks from Nebraska Game and Parks Commission for Peer Review efforts, 2010.
  6. Golden Eagle Recurve. Gift from a friend.
  7. Elk Antler and Elk teeth Cribbage set. Crafted as a gift from Lyle Prell, 1997.
  8. Framed eclipse drawing. Created by Marilyn’s Grandson, Hayden, after a trip to witness the solar eclipse, 2017.
  9. Personalized framed turkey feather art by Lynda Wood from Ann Clark during a Diana’s hunt in Wisconsin.
  10. Small replica bow popular in the 90’s.
  11. Three good friends: (L-R) Dick Mauch, Marilyn, Dick Turpin