Saturday, October 31, 2020
Luke Rethwisch stares down his target and steadies himself as he prepares to let go of an arrow. Herald photos by Nicole Vik. The Tomah-Warrens Sportsman’s Alliance hosts an average of 20 kids each week at Tomah Recreation Park for an indoor archery shoot.

Sharing a love of archery

Tomah-Warrens Sportsman’s Alliance hosts indoor archery shoot

For over 40 years the Tomah-Warrens Sportsman’s Alliance (TWSA,) formerly Wakoda Bowmen, Tomah Conservation Club and the Warrens Gun Club, has been instilling a love of the outdoors to local area youth. 

Club members volunteer their time every Tuesday night to help teach kids and adults how to safely use a bow and arrow by hosting an archery shoot at Tomah Recreation Park.  

Kids of all ages line up in a single row waiting to hear volunteers yell the word “clear,” giving them the go ahead. With looks of intense focus, the kids let their arrows fly, quickly followed by the resounding echoes of thuds as dozens of arrows make contact with the targets. 

The kids then wait for the second order of “clear” to collect their arrows and inspect their targets. 

The club typically sees an average of 20 kids inside the gold building where they set up several targets at five yards for the younger or less experienced kids and three targets at 10 yards for the older, more experienced shooters; adults shoot at 20 yards. 

“For this style of shooting, most indoor ranges are 20 yards,” club member Al Potter said.

Member Bob Whaley added the kids get to take their targets home with them after they’ve finished shooting for the night. Something he says the kids love to brag about and show off. 

The club also provides bows and a quill of arrows for the kids. TWSA raises money through various fundraisers throughout the year, which helps pay for supplies. 

“They are now designing smaller bows so there are much younger kids that are able to shoot earlier,” Potter said. “It’s a lifetime sport that you can do at any age.”

The volunteers supervise safety and are on hand to offer advice and help, however, kids must be accompanied by an adult.

“We don’t have the facility at our clubhouse to do this indoors,” Potter said. “I think we get a lot of kids that live in the city and it gives them a chance to do it. It’s a great location here.”  

It is definitely a family-friendly activity. Some families they see every week and quite a few of them have been coming for several years. 

“Over the years, you can just see them keep growing up,” Whaley said, adding his own sons started shooting with the club at 7 and 11-years old and now his son Jared is a junior at the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point and shoots for its archery team.   

Club member Derik Atkins said they’ve seen a slight incline in interest over the years, which he attributes to parents worrying about their kids playing contact sports for fear they may sustain concussions.

For $1 per child, kids can shoot from 6 to 7 p.m., then adults shoot from 7 to 8 p.m. for $5. 

“To be able to come for $1 and have everything supplied for them, it’s pretty hard to pass it up,” Atkins said. “And we haven’t raised that price for years.”

On March 31, TWSA will host its last indoor shoot of the year and move the activity outdoors to their clubhouse grounds throughout the spring and into the summer and fall on Thursday nights. 

The organization’s clubhouse sits on an 80-acre piece of property. In the summertime, the club provides up to 28 3-D targets, which include caribou, elk, moose and deer, along a big course. 

“It’s a nice facility,” Atkins said. “We host all kinds of activities.”

Club members also have access to field archery, a fishing pond, skeet shooting, a heated five-stand trap shooting and more. TWSA also hosts hunter safety classes and trapping classes. 

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