Judith Basin Archery Club going strong

Melody Montgomery
Saturday, January 26, 2019
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The Judith Basin Archery Club began its new league season at the archery building in Stanford Jan. 14. Members shown (from left) are Ben Kurns, Andrew Ridgeway, Mike Vossen, Scott Wildung, Ollie Urick and Nick Hammer.

Photo by Melody Montgomery

After getting its start 35 years ago, the Judith Basin Archery Club began its new league season at the Archery Building in Stanford on Monday, Jan 14.

New members from Hobson, Geyser and other surrounding communities are still welcome to join in this fun, non-exclusive, learning opportunity, said club members.

“In these small communities, events become more limited during winter months. This is a great reason for adults and their families to get out and have some entertainment during the winter,” said club member Oliver Urick. “Plus, members get access to the facilities year-round, with the only exception being when the Archery Building is used for 4-H exhibits during the county fair in the summer.”

The Judith Basin Archery Club is available to men, women and children of all ages and abilities. Those late to join the start of the season, or those who encounter conflicting events, can make up any missed meets, club members said.

There are currently around 25 members, but at one time there were as many as 60. They meet weekly on Mondays. They also host an indoor shoot in March, which will be March 3 this year. Additionally, there is an outdoor/3D shoot in the Blacktail Hills in May, which will be May 11.

Over the years, nationally and even internationally ranked archers have competed at the Judith Basin Archery Club, including Joel McNeese, Steve Carmean, and brothers Aaron and Paul Tedford, all from Great Falls.

Aaron Tedford was the first in the club to shoot a perfect match in 2014. The second person to shoot a perfect match was his brother, Paul, in 2017, who was at one time among the top 10 archers in the world, said club member Scott Wildung. Carmean was number one in the world 10 – 15 years ago, added Wildung.

Archers don’t

need to be world class

The main goal of the club is to improve skills and have fun. Further, they make matches fairer, by giving individuals a handicap score, and players are divided into teams.

“Generally, depending on the number of shooters, we form teams of two or three. The shooters are given a handicap score based on their average score, so all shooters are on a level playing field. Teams play each other from week-to-week, and the team with the best score, counting the handicap, is the winner. We then have a playoff at the end,” said Urick.

“Although we do compete, this is mainly a club for people to come and have fun while still learning. This is why we use a handicap. Also a person does not have to be there every night. He or she can make a score up at any point in the week if they miss a meet. They will have a key and can come in whenever it’s convenient,” said Urick.

Club member Wildung is also the 4-H Archery leader and helps tune bows.

“Scott has been shooting in the club for years. He is a key reason why we’ve been able to keep the Archery Club running. He volunteers much of his time to the club and helps a lot of people with their bows. It wouldn’t be possible without Scott,” said Urick.

For a beginner, the starting price for equipment can vary, just like skiing snowmobiling or other sports, but the club does have loaner bows to get started, Wildung said. A bow itself can range from anywhere between $300 to thousands of dollars; hunting bows range from $700 - $1,000, Wildung said. Arrows are around $100 - $150 a dozen, and a site is another $100.

The club can also help keep this equipment tuned up and optimal, Wildung said.

“The club is self-sufficient, in that it has all the supplies a pro shop would,” said Wildung.

Urick added, “You can put your bow in a press to work on it. You can paper tune your bow. And most importantly, you can practice.”

“There are permanent setups in the outdoor range where members can shoot throughout the summer,” said Urick. “It’s also very realistic, there is a mountain course located in the Blacktail Hills, and great practice to get ready for hunting season.”

The shared knowledge of the club members allows them to learn from one another, club members said.

“I learn at every shoot,” said Wildung.

The indoor shooting aspects may help bow hunters keep their skills precise through the cold winter months. While not all of the club members hunt, many do.

“I see twice as many animals during bow season and there is nobody spooking anything,” said Wildung.

Membership, which has a relatively small nominal fee, also has a family discount and gives individuals access not only to the archery building but also the outdoor range in the summer, Urick said.

“We are very fortunate to have this indoor archery facility here and to have the outdoor archery range. It would be very sad to lose it,” said Urick.

The Club’s History

The Judith Basin Archery Club began in 1985 with around 20 initial memberships, said Mike Rue, who helped start the club and now runs the Wolves’ Den in Stanford.

Before the club started, Rue would shoot with his good friend and former Forest Service Ranger Larry Froberg. Mark Petroi and Sam Redfern, who also worked for the Forest Service, joined them to shoot over by the Forest Service’s garage, but they tired of their arrows going through the bales, said Rue, who shot at the indoor facility in Great Falls with a friend who owned an archery shop in Great Falls.Rue and Froberg then decided they needed an indoor place to shoot.

The current archery building, owned and operated by the Judith Basin Archery Club, was originally built by the, now closed, Stanford Rod and Gun Club in the 1950s. This was at the same time the current Stanford School was built, and the concrete for the slab was leftover from the school.Most of the materials were donated and the labor was donated.

The National Rifle Association even contributed by donating some money for the building as well.At that time, the NRA was funding the building of gun clubs, said Rue.

By the early 1980s, the Rod and Gun Club was no longer operating in Stanford.Froberg called Swede Herbolt, one of the only Rod and Gun Club members still in Stanford, and asked him if the Archery Club could use the building, and the Rod and Gun Club said yes.

“They shot at the first meeting and it took off from there. A membership often was a family membership, so included husbands, wives and kids. At its largest, the club had around 60 members,” said Rue.

Initially, the Archery Club paid a small monthly fee for rent, but the Rod and Gun Club eventually just turned the operating of the building over to the Archery Club.

The Archery Club has made several upgrades to the building over the years, including a new roof, siding and propane furnace. There is also a fully functional restroom. Additionally, they host outdoor shoots.

“The club started doing outdoor 3D shoots at that outdoor range in 1987. The Blacktail Hills provides an extremely nice outdoor range.It’s very scenic, and it’s very realistic,” said Rue. “The trail was put in place in 1986.We are very fortunate to have a range on forest service land, which does not allow archers anymore.”

The reason the Judith Basin Archery Club can shoot on forest service land is due to one of the founding members, Larry Froberg, who, was at the time, a U.S. Forest Service ranger in Stanford

“Larry was instrumental in the formation of the club and the outdoor range,” said Rue. “The approval for the permanent special use permit and trail right of way was obtained all the way from the head of the Forest Service in Washington D.C. We are grandfathered in now, so it will remain in place.”

You may contact Scott Wildung at 366-5375 or Oliver Urick at 868-9421 for information about membership and signing up.



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