By MAGGIE SCHUETTE-VOSS
In the mind's eye, the same images can be seen as if they took place hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years ago: people gathering together for fellowship and to practice the skills of archery.
The place is the old bowling alley, at the corner of Second Street and Main Avenue in Winsted.
A few years ago, it was turned into an archery club, the bowling lanes a perfect place for target practice.
It is the home of the Winsted Archery Club.
Membership fees for the club also include joining either the Minnesota Bow Hunters Inc. (MBI), Crow River Chapter, or the Minnesota State Archery Association (MSAA).
Improvements are being made to the club building and the archery club is growing, according to Neal Noetzelman, president of MBI.
MBI and MSAA each have their own presidents and board, but work together under the auspices of the Winsted Archery Club.
Forty-four people belong to the archery club, up 25 since December. Seven years ago, there were only 15 members. Noetzelman foresees the club to keep growing.
Club members have made improvements to the facility and will keep doing so as funds allow.
Stacks and stacks of boards used for sound insulation were used to make a base behind the targets for the arrows, replacing straw bales. The restrooms have been updated, cupboards added, and members are slowly adding to a living room type area where kids can stay while their parents target practice.
The archery club is a key club, meaning each member is given a key allowing him/her the ability to shoot any time that is convenient.
Only two women are members of the archery club, but Noetzelman said more are becoming involved.
"They really don't have the desire to hunt, but they enjoy the shooting. (Recently) my wife beat me by 70 points," he said.
Noetzelman noted that more youth are becoming interested in archery, and to encourage this, Noetzelman said the club will arrange times for youth groups to shoot by request.
Noetzelman has been hunting with bow and arrow for 10 years.
"It's a challenge," he said. "It's more work than with a gun, a lot of work.
"It's a lot of responsibility. Most shots are taken at under 20 yards. It's also being outside and observing nature . . . time spent alone in the deer stand and letting yourself unwind. There's something about sitting outside when it's 20 degrees below. It's real desolate and peaceful," he said.
For those interested in archery, Noetzelman advises not to buy the most expensive equipment, as it is not always the best. He suggests having someone who knows archery equipment come along before a purchase is made.
"Finding equipment you're comfortable with is most important," he said.
Noetzelman is also a member of the United Foundation for Disabled Archers (UFFDA).
The organization provides guides to assist disabled hunters and a place for them to hunt. The last four years, UFFDA has used a Boy Scout camp near Grand Rapids.
"Many of the people used to enjoy hunting and thought they couldn't do it anymore," Noetzelman said.
For more information about the Winsted Archery Club or UFFDA, contact Noetzelman at 612-955-1815; Wayne Harris at 320-485-2329; Delmer Bentz at 320-395-2864; or Jim Richardson at 320-395-2721.