The unmistakable “thump” of an arrow hitting a target can be heard time and time again Wednesday afternoons in the Chain o’ Lakes Elementary School gym.
A group of Waupaca High School and Waupaca Middle School students head to the gym after school once a week for a couple hours of archery and camaraderie.
“It kind of started as just a club,” said Bill Kroseberg, who oversees the program with Terry Stults and Andy Gilgenbach. Kroseberg and Stults teach tech ed at Waupaca High School.
“Two girls came to me a couple years ago and said, ‘We love to shoot archery, but we don’t have place in the winter with the snow outside,’” Kroseberg said. “Terry and I hunt and shoot and decided it would be a good thing to do.”
Students shoot from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. from late December through early April.
“It breaks up the winter,” Kroseberg said. “It gives the kids that don’t want to go home and watch TV an opportunity to learn a little bit about archery.”
Anywhere from four to more than 15 students show up.
“Some of them are just learning how to shoot,” Kroseberg said. “They took the NASP (National Archery in the Schools Program) archery class in school, liked it and wanted to continue. Others are hunters and we have a couple of target archers that shoot competitively. It’s kind of smattering of everything. We offer it from about seventh grade right through seniors in high school.”
Chuck Krueger, a member of the Chain o’ Lakes Conservation Club, helped the group find a permanent home.
“Bill called me to find a place,” he said. “I saw (former Chain principal Susan Davenport) and she said, ‘Oh sure, you can use it.’”
“We were lucky enough to find the Chain,” Kroseberg said. “We went around and looked for a place that could accommodate shooters and we just had a hard time finding one.
“This was about our last resort,” he added. “We were actually going to shoot in an old warehouse in town, but that wasn’t really going to work out so well. We ended up finding this place and it works out really well because the kids can ride the bus right over here and it drops them right off at the door.”
Students that currently participate include Charlotte Bergsbaken, Alex Ziegler, Brandon Engle, Hunter Wheelock, Seth Piencikowski, Cassandra Larsen, Quenten Schmit, Grant Fass, Erik Hemmila, John Ammeter, Shahn Gilgenbach, Vanessa Graham, Jenna Ammeter, Harley Schmidt, Willie Schmidt, Hunter Abhold and Maverick Grall.
Some show up most weeks, other show up when they can.
“It’s not like a varsity sport where if you don’t show up, you don’t play,” Kroseberg said. “Kids can come and go. There are a bunch of kids that are in the play at the middle school. We want to foster archery. At the same time, we want them to come when they can. Homework comes first, bow shooting comes second.”
Most of the kids are introduced to the sport in middle school or high school through the National Archery in the Schools program, which introduces the sport of archery to students in grades 4-12 and provides an opportunity for participants to compete in local, state, national and world tournaments. Besides teaching basic skills, the program also aims to improve student motivation, attention, behavior and focus.
Kroseberg and former WHS physical education teacher Paula Olson were the first Waupaca teachers to be certified to teach the course.
“In order to purchase the equipment, you needed somebody to take the classes for safety and liability,” Kroseberg said. “I think there are four (teachers) that are NASP-certified.”
The schools provide the equipment used in the after-school session.
“We’ve had a raffle the last number of years that has raised a significant amount of money,” Kroseberg said. “If the targets get a little worn, that money kicks back to the school district and we update the targets. If we need new strings, we can foster that. It’s a good event and it’s usually somewhere in the neighborhood of $1,000.”
Krueger has helped the group raise funds in the past.
“I became the maintenance man for the bent arrows and such,” he said.
“Unlike getting kids into trapshooting or other outdoor activities, a box of shotgun shells is $8 or $10,” Kroseberg said. “Once you’ve swallowed the cost of the initial equipment, (archery) is cost-effective for students. You get the bow, you get the arrows and all you do is shoot until your hands fall off.”
Stults and Kroseberg have also had students build target frames and bow racks in their tech ed classes.
“We try to make them better shooters,” Kroseberg said. “The kids that want to shoot for score in a league format, we allow that. It gives them a measure of where they lie. Some of them work on basic form. It goes from the fundamentals to the seasoned archer that just wants to keep their skills honed.”
There’s more to the program than just shooting at targets indoors.
“Last year, we shot in our first organized event against other schools,” Kroseberg said. “We have one of the best ranges in central Wisconsin with the King Archers. I’d love to host a high school 3D shoot. I do a lot of 3D shooting in the summer with foam animals and it’s just a gas.”
“It is very important to get kids involved in archery,” Krueger said. “It keeps them off the streets after school. All the kids that aren’t involved in competitive sports like football or basketball, some of them can do this very accurately. This has been a very positive thing.”
“We give them something to do that’s a lifelong sport,” he said. “That’s why I like it.”