Thursday, August 20, 2009

Winnebago Archers

New York came to Wisconsin, so we had to do it up big Midwest Style for sure.

Dad invited Yvette and I to join him as guests at his private Winnebago Archery Club for Tuesday league night. We quickly and graciously accepted.

I had taken the long bow out for a little practice the week prior. [Must have been around the time of Junior High since I last shot. 'Round here, archery is a short Spring or Summer gym requirement. Public school students also have to learn how to polka during the indoor months.] I shot at one of the targets pitched permanently 'in the back.' I hit the target for the most part, but ended up losing one of the arrows in the brush. My parents have an eight acre property, less than half is manicured, and the wild grass, alfalfa and flowers grow several feet high. After ten arrows or so, I retired for the evening, the bow was awkward and it was a little rough on my fingers. Oh boo.

Though not as bad as when I took one of my Dad's compound bows out to practice a couple weeks later. The bow was strung with about 40-50 pounds of pressure and twice I snapped the soft inside of my left arm, which produced a lovely purple welt immediately. [You cannot legally bow-hunt in WI with less than 30 pounds; you probably wouldn't be able to get a kill shot. Do you know your state's limit? Texas doesn't have one, which some consider unethical. You really only get one chance to kill with bow and arrow, unless you are as quick with your arrow as Legolas, so you need near-perfect visibility (I don't think my dad will venture beyond 30 yards in a tree-stand) and accuracy.]

Anyways, in-between these two events, I went to an archery club with no motive other than to trail behind my dad and our family friend, Russ, while they shot, and drink beers at the club house. I figured it would be a pretty spot-on representation of WI for Yvette as well.

Dad, Yvette and I shared the front bench seat of the F150 and jammed out to the local classic rock station, 93.5 WOZZ-FM, on our way to the club. Yvette and I had just returned from cruising downtown Oshkosh, so we had to quickly change into clothes better suited for the woods. i.e. long sleeves. [I have only found three ticks this summer, but one was a deer tick, which I believe is my first. When I was in girl scouts, I would go to summer camp. One of their tricky ploys to deprogram the innate 'ew!' girl reaction to bugs, was to award prizes to girls who found the most ticks. One night I woke up to a tick tip-tapping around in my ear. I was psyched. It was like my tenth tick that week or so.]

When we got to the club, I actually felt a nervous tightening in my stomach. I felt like a 'fake' and I was afraid our novelty appearance wouldn't be appreciated by the regulars. Hunting is super male centric. Yvette and I were the only women on the grounds. The first guy we saw had been hanging around the parking lot fiddling with something or another. He just stared at us. My dad didn't say 'Hi' to him, so I didn't either.

Dad and Russ did a super short warm-up practice at the targets pictured below. Then we went to the club house for beer. Yes, you totally drink and fire weapons in Wisconsin. There were coolers set-up all over the property for easier convenience. Yvette wound up buying a bunch of club merchandise: t-shirts, can cozies, mugs and hats; the most 'Big Al' has sold all year. He commented that the books would probably look off this month. However, it was the purchase that lightened the air, so to speak. 'We were cool.'

After finishing beer 1 and opening beer 2, we set off to shoot the first 14 out of the 28 targets. The set-up reminded me of a golf course: each target was positioned at the end of a cleared path, there were markers dug into the ground indicating where to stand and shoot, and each next target was accessible by walking the path of the previous.

The actual targets were cardboard cutouts of various wildgame in the area. Each cutout had a 'bulls eye' drawn over the animal's heart to indicate where to aim. Remember that Yvette and I had no intention of shooting, so we didn't arrive with bows. Big Al gave us kiddie bows and 'found' arrows. They couldn't have given more than 25 lbs of pressure, and one we didn't realize was broken until half way through the course. I started out strong and ended weak, Yvette advanced through-out. Our only goal was to 'get cardboard.' Screw aiming. Dad and Russ had sights. I couldn't figure out if I was supposed to close my right or left eye to focus. (see photo below, really poor form.) The harder I tried to make sense of it, the worse I shot. Needless to say I lost another arrow.

Thank God for the coolers. The course was short, each path's distance was no more than 15 yards, but the woods were thick and the mosquitos were hungry. The beer helped numb their presence. I went High Life all the way. Miller = Wisconsin. And it is still the best 'cheap light' beer in my humble opinion. It's even satisfying warm.

Dad and Russ were super patient with us. I think they were just impressed that we tagged along. I found out we were their first female guests. Neither my mom, nor Russ' wife, had an interest. So strange to me. Things can get pretty old-fashioned around here and people do not like to try new things.

After we finished the short loop, we went back to the club house for another round. Yvette and I snapped the photo below, which was taken in front of a mural by the women's (doe's) bathroom.

I had a really excellent time hanging with the guys. Hunters appreciate the quiet (they sit alone all day, still as the tree they sit in, for fun) and nature; my kind of folk. True, as the shirt below can testify, there was a definite air of testosterone, but most guys around here are mild-mannered country boys, rather than of the southern good 'ole boy mentality. I'd like to go back to the club; you can guest twice before membership is required. But, hunting season is around the corner and that means the cold will be coming as well. However, Dad is pretty hell bent on procuring at least one hunter out of the family, so we'll see. I keep telling him I'd like to start with small game (rifle), but he doesn't have any interest. This family loves their venison chops on the grill.

[PHOTO: the man to the left MAY have a goatee, but i do believe the playing cards were in practice, rather than illustration. regarding the man to the right, not sure why the hunter featured on his shirt is wearing a face mask. now that is just over-the-top.]



  1. Was so much fun! Although I am vegetarian, I have to say the sport is addictive. Great times in Wisconsin Land.