CLARA CITY - Today's compound bows fling arrows at rocket-like speeds of over 200 miles-per-hour.
Traditional bows like those of Robin Hood's day zip an arrow at about 150 miles-per-hour, but can be just as effective as the modern bows when in the right hands. Stan Meyer once used a recurve bow he crafted with his own hands to drop a 498-pound, black bear. She was about 10 feet from the trunk of the tree holding him and the stand in which he was perched about 15 feet above the ground. Or in real terms, about two leaping bounds by the bear had his shot not been true.
Everything from modern, compound bows to traditional bows can be seen at their best at the Hawk Creek Archery range in Clara City. It's where archery enthusiasts have been gathering to enjoy their sport since at least 1988, according to Meyer, 84, and one of the earliest members of the club.
Not everyone in the club is necessarily looking for the adrenalin rush that comes with taking on the biggest bruins in the forest. But everyone certainly enjoys the challenge that is archery, according to Troy Ahrenholz, club president.
"It's an addiction, like everything else,'' laughed Wade Buss, the club's secretary-treasurer, when speaking about his love for the sport.
They visited about their sport and club as the Hawk Creek Archery club held its open house on Monday. The club is getting ready for a new season of league shooting in early January.
The Hawk Creek Archers originally opened a range in the old Red Owl grocery store, thanks to the work of founders such as Bill DuHoux, an avid outdoorsman from the Clara City area. Since around 1990, the range has been housed in the basement of a former bowling alley just off the main drag in Clara City in the Tholen building. There are eight lanes of shooting at 20 yards, and room adjacent to the shooting area for members to jaw-bone and rib one another.
A $30 a year membership provides a key and 24/7 access to the range. Cheap rent for the space holding the range, and members sharing the duties of taking care of it, make it all work, said the board members.
The club's 13-week season of league shooting includes two nights of competitive shooting each week where members test their skills with modern, compound bows. Thursday nights are reserved for the hunter league, where many of the members prefer traditional bows.
The range also hosts fun shoots, where multiple and moving targets are used.
The competitive shooting leagues employ a handicap scoring system, like bowling, so those still developing their skills can compete with the best. And the club includes some of the best: "Troy shoots 300's on a regular basis,'' said Buss of the club's president. A 300 being a perfect score.
Not all of the club members join for league shooting. There's a number of members who just want the opportunity to practice, and will come down at whatever hour works for their schedule to do so, said Ahrenholz and Buss.
Many become members by virtue of their love for bow hunting for whitetail deer, and are looking to improve their skills. Buss first picked up a bow for the hunting opportunity, but now enjoys the competitive shooting nearly as much.
The club continues to count about 50 members every year. They come from an area extending to Wood Lake, Granite Falls, Clarkfield and Montevideo. The membership include men and women, and youth as well. "We like to see young people down here and get them started,'' said Ahrenholz.
Like so much today, lots of the buzz in archery is about the technological advances. Today's compound bows are lighter, fire arrows with more velocity, and are easier for hunters to hold back once drawn.
Perhaps more important, today's archer has access to far better arrows than those of years ago. "Arrows are the most important,'' said Meyer of the equipment for this sport. "You can shoot pretty well with a bow that is cheap, but you can't shoot well with cheap arrows.''
Despite the technological changes, Meyer and his fellow shooters at the Hawk Creek range will remind you that shooting a bow is still very much an individual sport, where the challenge is on the archer. It takes practice, practice, practice and concentration, they agree.
"Clear your mind, concentrate,'' said Ahrenholz when asked how he hits those perfect scores.
"That's what I've learned. Clear your mind and concentrate on your target,'' added Buss.
All of which is why they find it worth the effort to maintain the club and range. Along with providing a place to practice, the range offers the opportunity to socialize and learn from others, they pointed out. It's especially valued through the winter, where at season's end the club members always celebrate with a banquet.
To learn more about the club and its range, visit the Hawk Creek Archery Facebook page.