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Traditional archers have their day in the Wisconsin woods

Dale Moore locates the target before he pulls the bowstring back during the 19th annual D.A.M. Chili Shoot bow shooting competition at the Janesville Bowmen Club on Saturday, March 7, 2020. (Anthony Wahl/The Janesville Gazette via AP)

By FRANK SCHULTZ

The Janesville Gazette

TOWN OF CENTER, Wis. (AP) — Dale Moore remembers when it was tough to find a traditional bow.

That was in the 1970s, when compound bows — more accurate, more stable and with greater range — took over the market.

Moore tried a compound bow, but he was soon back to target shooting and hunting with a traditional wooden bow. He didn’t like the composites with their pulleys and cables.

“It was getting too easy to get a deer. The challenge was gone in bow hunting,” Moore told The Janesville Gazette.

And there’s something about a wooden bow that’s pleasing to look at and use, at least in the opinion of the 40-plus archers who turned out on a recent Saturday at the Janesville Bowmen Club off Highway 14 west of Janesville.

“That’s what archery, or bow hunting, is all about, I think,” the 72-year-old Moore said. “It’s just using your own power, your own arms and shoulders, to pull a bow back without any mechanical cams and steel cables and no sights.”

And hunting with a traditional bow requires woodcraft to be able to get close enough to the animal. “Otherwise, you might as well go out with a rifle,” Moore said.

The annual D.A.M. Chili Shoot, as it is called, is a time for archers to get outdoors and resharpen their skills, which can get rusty over the winter months.

It’s an informal event with no entry fees, though the club does accept donations to go toward its educational programs, club Vice President Ed Mathews said.

“They’re not here to keep score. They’re here for fun,” Matthews said of the archers, some from as far away as Chippewa Falls and neighboring states.

If they were scoring, they would get points for hitting the animal’s kill zone but negative points for hitting another part of the body.

A real animal could escape with an arrow in its flank or leg, for example.

Preventing unnecessary pain to the animal is so important that a miss actually gets a higher score than a nonfatal hit.

Moore hosted traditional bow outings for years, and he thinks the sport is having a bit of a revival, even though compound bow users greatly outnumber the traditionalists.

But at the chili shoot, traditional archery loyalists ruled the day, tramping through 40 acres of Janesville Bowmen property and shooting at lifelike targets — moose, deer, bobcats, turkeys, wolves, bears and others — all made in Janesville at Rinehart Targets.

Most of the archers were middle aged to older men, but a few women and youths participated, as well.

Compound bow competitions are much more serious, requiring perfect silence as participants take their shots, Moore said.

“We’re not the uber-competitive guys,” said Michael Theis of Cambridge, vice president of Wisconsin Traditional Archers.

He and friends Bruce Haukom of Cambridge and Kevin Winkler of Monroe joked and practiced their turkey calls as they proceeded from one target to the next through the hardwood forest on a trail covered with icy snow under a sunny sky.

If not for their surroundings and gear, they could have been competitors in a bowling or darts league. They laughed and told stories.

All three men hit almost all their targets and teased each other when they missed.

“Oh, poop!” Winkler exclaimed as his arrow missed a target.

Chili, some delicious smoked venison, cookies and more camaraderie in the clubhouse waited at the end of the trail.

Moore said that for all his opinions about compound bows, “the compounders have their place. We’re not knocking them, really.”

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