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HORICON — “To foster, direct and perpetuate the practice of archery in accordance with the high spirit and honorable tradition of the most ancient sport” — that is the purpose statement of the Horicon Marsh Bowmen Club.

The club celebrated its 65th year in 2017. It began in late 1952, when a group of bow hunters from south of the Horicon Marsh in Dodge County decided to form what has become one of the first archery clubs in the state. Bow hunting was just in its infancy; the first bow-only hunt on the Horicon Wildlife Refuge was still four years away. The wooden long bow and wooden arrows were equipment of the times.

Although much has changed, such as the invention of the compound bow and the modern laminated recurve, the club’s mission has stayed the same. Sharing, maintaining and promoting the sport of archery is still the focus of club members and instructors.

The Horicon Marsh Bowmen regularly offer free archery instructions for the public. As temperatures take a nosedive during the next two months, the club invites children and adults to come to its heated facility and learn a new sport.

Russ Hampton of Horicon, head of youth instruction, said the club will hold archery lessons for children from 6-7 p.m. Mondays through the end of February, except for New Year’s Day and Feb. 5. Adult lessons will immediately come after from 7-8 p.m. Preregistration is not necessary and equipment is available.

Children may take the introductory classes as soon as they are able to pull back a youth bow. They are started out at five yards on the indoor range with five arrows per child. Range safety and archery basics will be taught. Children may bring their own bow or use one of the club’s Genesis bows.

“The Genesis bows are designed for kids. They are easy to pull and come in two sizes,” Hampton said.

Instructor Dave Kottwitz of Waupun feels the free lessons are one of the best-kept secrets in the county.

“The quality teachers here are amazing,” he said. “Last year we had a 2-year-old that was shooting well. I couldn’t believe it, but we like to say, ‘If they can stand, they can shoot.’”

Kottwitz said Horicon and Mayville High Schools take part in the National Archery in the Schools Program and he would like to see more area schools get on board with the sport.

Exposure is the key to getting new participants and the Horicon Marsh Bowmen are doing their part by offering lessons and hosting scout and 4-H groups at the indoor range.

“We have 14 lanes at the range and will have 14 instructors on Mondays,” Hampton said. “We don’t limit the class size as the kids will take turns. The instruction is one-on-one and we found that is how they learn best.”