Behind the Scenes With Morrell Targets

Butch Thomas, sales manager for Morrell Targets, says the company is laser focused on building the best targets in the industry.

Behind the Scenes With Morrell Targets

Archery retailers and shooters know about Morrell Targets, the bright and durable bag targets that have taken millions of arrows over the years. For decades these targets have been staples at stores and competitions, and in back yards and hunting camps, for shooters of all ages and abilities. They’re a no-nonsense, easy-to-use target that can be used at home or tossed in the truck for a road trip and used for years.

Sales Manager Butch Thomas has been with Morrell Targets for almost three decades. In the latest Archery Business Spotlight, he gives us some insight on the company and how it has navigated the ever-changing archery industry.


AB: Butch, thanks for taking the time to visit with us this month. Morrell Targets is a well-known name and product, with a great American success story about how Dale Morrell started the company. Can you tell us more about that?

BT: Morrell Manufacturing was established in 1986, and targets have come a long way from being originally distributed in Dale Morrell’s garage. Dale started his career in brick-laying in the 1980s and was an avid bowhunter. He would sit in his treestand when he could, but only to think of archery. It’s what excited him. He started building gadgets for archery, like his signature bow rest. Although this idea didn’t succeed, his archery target design did. His patent on the floating burlap center is a standard among most bag targets today. This patented design launched Morrell Manufacturing in the archery industry. Year after year, Morrell’s bag targets have improved around the foundation of the floating center design.


AB: What is something people don’t know about the company?

BT: As we’ve said Morrell Targets is a family owned and operated business. Not many people know that there are eight family members employed here at Morrell. With that being said, that’s another reason why we take so much pride on having the name Morrell on millions and millions of targets sold since 1986.


AB: Not everything always goes as planned. Can you give us an “Oh, my!” story that turned into a great learning lesson or success for the company?

BT: Colored targets! Many years ago, all target companies, including ours, produced a white target with different colored bull’s-eyes. One year at the ATA Show, I noticed flames on everything from bows, caps, shirts — it was literally hot (no pun intended). This gave me the idea to come out with a target that had flames on it. I could see in my mind the flames at the bottom of the bag, and the new Morrell logo with flames called Wildfire Targets by Morrell. At this point, I had told no one.

When we got back, I had the guys make me a solid white target and with colored Sharpies in hand, I began to draw the flames and the Morrell Wildfire logo. When Dale Morrell, the owner, walked in, he saw me working on this bag and asked what I was working on. At this point the target was shielded from him. I stepped back and when he saw it, his jaw about hit the ground. He said, “We are taking our line of targets in this direction!”

Morrell Outdoor Range Wildfire Target
Morrell Outdoor Range Wildfire Target

A few years later, we came out with the Yellow Jacket series of targets. Wow! What a home run this was. With the same concept from the Wildfire Targets, we launched the yellow fabric on the Yellow Jacket targets. We crossed over into the fishing industry and pulled out Hank Parker and Jimmy Houston to launch the first Yellow Jacket commercial. This commercial, along with the eye-popping graphics, was a huge success! A lot of people in the industry thought we were crazy for crossing over into the fishing industry. However, just about everyone we knew that fished also hunted. So, we felt sure that even those these guys were fishermen, we would be able to reach them in a way where no one else had thought of. This decision paid off! It was one of those home run, knock it out of the park decisions!

With the release of all this colored fabric and designs, it caused Morrell Targets to stand out in the stores. So, if you were a customer walking in to buy a target, the majority of the customers would at least walk over and look at our targets because they were so different. We won half the battle just by getting them to take a look! The release and success of the Wildfire Targets and Yellow Jackets caused a huge stir in the industry, and caused other companies to chase after what we did with the colored fabrics and graphic designs that we had created. Morrell Targets has been and always will be the industry leader when it comes to creating and building quality, dependable, and affordable targets. The chase is still on!

Morrell Yellow Jacket Targets
Morrell Yellow Jacket Targets

AB: How has the business changed over the years for Morrell Targets and the archery industry in general?

BT: Over the past several years we’ve seen a lot of companies being bought by conglomerates. Morrell Targets is still a family owned and operated business. Some may call us old fashioned, but to us it is vital that we treat customers the way we would want to be treated. We believe in customer service. As an example, if by the rare chance a customer calls us with a problem with a Morrell target, that customer’s problem 99 percent of the time will be taken care of before the phone call is over, and if not then, certainly by the end of the day. We believe in getting products shipped out in a very quick and timely manner, and we believe in taking care of the dealer from the sale, shipping, invoicing and everything in between. To us, the dealer isn’t just a number, but literally an extension of Morrell Targets. We want them to be confident in knowing when they sell a Morrell Target, they are selling not only a quality target, but they also are selling a target from a company that stands behind its products.


AB: What’s driving your research and development? What is changing with bows, crossbows and arrows that is catching your eye in relation to what you producing?

BT: I’ve been the sales manager here going on 27 years, and we’ve seen a lot of changes. I guess the biggest change over the years has been the speed in which compounds and crossbows have evolved. With those changes it has caused our company to constantly search out new technological ways in which to stop the blistering arrow speeds of today’s hard-hitting bows. We constantly test not only our brand, but also our competitors’ brands. We know our competitors’ products and what they will do compared to ours. Our team works hard at making sure Morrell Targets are best for longevity, best for easy arrow removal, and best for taking a beating.


AB: Aside from the immediately recognizable yellow, red and black color scheme, what makes Morrell’s Yellow Jacket targets and the High Roller targets stand out from its competitors?

BT: Our patented designs. Our targets have been patented since 1986. Dale recognized the problems with bag targets. All bags were just a bag that was filled with something. Dale took the bag and made it with many different layers of material, which in turned created a breaking system that slowed down the arrow much like as if pushing the brake pedal on a car. The car doesn’t come to an automatic stop, but as the pedal is pushed, it very suddenly comes to a stop. So does the arrow coming out of a bow. When it hits our target, every single layer causes the arrow to come to a screeching halt. Plus, our targets are built to take a pounding due to this patented design.

Now, when it comes to the High Roller series of foam targets, there is nothing in the industry quite like them. The High Roller targets are simply the most durable, flexible, self-healing and easiest arrow removal target we’ve ever come out with. The High Roller targets are taking over the market. Everyone is blown away with just how durable and easy the arrow pull is. They are astounded at the longevity of these targets. To put it quite simply, one of my dealers, J.J. Campbell, owner of Archer’s Pro Shop in Cotter, Arkansas, said, “ In all my years of doing business, I’ve never seen a target quite like the High Roller. They have a ‘Wow!’ factor, the arrow removal is so easy, and they are so durable.” From the moment you touch a High Roller, you will notice the difference. These targets will stop arrows from compounds and crossbows with speeds ranging from 400-500 fps depending on the model.

Morrell High Roller Foam Targets
Morrell High Roller Foam Targets

AB: You produce only targets, instead of branching into other accessories in the archery market like some companies. How has this singular focus paid off for you?

BT: While conglomerates are chasing so many different avenues of revenue, here at Morrell Targets we are laser focused on what it takes to build the best targets in the industry. Our time and energy are solely spent on innovating through our Proven Grounds Program on what it takes to build a superior target.


AB: I’m a dealer: Tell me why should I carry Morrell Targets?

BT: We have quality products at competitive pricing and customer service that is second to none! We also want the dealer to know they are doing business with a company that is dedicated to staying in tune with today’s technology by providing targets that will stand up to the test of time. Plus, it’s having the confidence knowing you’re doing business with a company that is family owned and operated just like most retailers are. As a bonus, we spend a tremendous amount of money each year promoting Morrell Targets by using the absolute best there is in the industry such as Michael Waddell of Bone Collector, Pat & Nicole of Driven TV, Jimmy Houston, Cameron Hanes, John Dudley of Nock On, and Tim Wells of Relentless Pursuit, just to name a few. We also have a very large social media presence. Our products are made right here in the good ol’ USA! So, you see doing business with Morrell has a lot of advantages.


AB: You advertise “Any Bow. Any Speed. Easy Arrow Removal.” Sounds like you and your crew do a lot of field testing!

BT: Absolutely! We take pride in producing high-quality products that will stop these newer high-speed bows. But in doing so, we must be on top of our game, so that’s where testing comes in. We have tested every archery target on the market today. Everything! Of course, we test all of our targets, but we most certainly test all of our competitors’ targets. If we see a new target, we test it. We believe we have the most thorough and rigorous testing process because we want to know who is really on top. Before we enter a product on the market, it must pass our Morrell Quality Standards. We are very conservative with our fps (feet per second) durability rating because we as a company never want to appear misleading like many of our competitors. We test for arrow penetration durability (which is what we call our APD test) and ease of arrow removal (what we call AR test).


AB: How does Morrell Targets stand out to retailers? Do you offer special pricing, deals or other programs?

BT: With being in the game this long, we are proud to say that Morrell Targets is a brand that dealers have come to know, trust, and believe in. Morrell offers multiple pricing structures for different customers. We are always happy to discuss pricing, deals and other programs with our dealers and customers. One program that stands out the most is our Freight Paid Program. With freight cost skyrocketing, Morrell is constantly working on better ways to get product to dealers at better prices allowing the dealers to keep their profit margins where they need them to be successful.


AB: As crossbow speeds increase and other technological aspects of the market change, what can dealers expect from you in the next few years?

BT: There is no doubt we will keep raising the bar. We will consistently work hard to make sure we are leaders and innovators when it comes to the technology that it takes to stop these crazy-fast bows.


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