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Archery club celebrates 40 years

The members of Mit-Ti-Quab archery club have aimed, released and hit their target in Wadena for four decades. In honor of their 40th anniversary in 2007 members created a club history book celebrating the art of shooting a bow and arrow.

Mit-Ti-Quab's president, Dave Trout, and its secretary/treasurer, Elroy Podratz, presented the book to Wadena County Historical Society Director Sandi Pratt this month. Before parting with their binder, though, the dedicated members took some time to discuss their love of archery and the history of the club. State tournaments, bow hunting, parades and league shooting have all been a part of the men's lives for many years.

Trout, a retired journeyman toolmaker, was first intrigued by the bow and arrow when he saw an American Indian-made bow his neighbor owned.

"Ever since then I've been interested in archery and shot archery a lot," he said.

He didn't discover Mit-Ti-Quab until his son was in high school, he said. Trout has been a member for 14 years.

The allure of archery captured Podratz, a retired school librarian, when he was 10. A cousin's uncle made him a bow out of ash and arrows out of cedar with tips made from shell casings.

It was Podratz's idea to assemble the book, he said. He asked club members to bring in their newspaper clippings and photos so he could scan them. It was a year-long process. Club members also researched newspaper archives.

"It was really interesting to go through pictures at the beginning," Podratz said.

The book begins prior to the club's designation as Mit-Ti-Quab. The club started in Verndale before moving to Wadena in 1967.

A 1965 newspaper notice of a free archery demo and a clipping of a national award for Paul Eiswald of Wadena start off the book. The book ends with photos of the club's 2007 parade float and the second annual Wildlife and Conservation Expo in Wadena.

In between are pages of photographic and written memories. A member included a page of American Indian terms used in an attempt to determine how the club was named Mit-Ti-Quab, which loosely refers to "bow and arrow." Don and Jan Cizek and Bob and Judy Schultz were instrumental in the early years of Mit-Ti-Quab. Foreign exchange student Harumi Inatomi of Japan learned American archery in the club in 2006. And just last year Macey Hoeper, at age 16, became the first woman in the history of the club to shoot all 60 arrows in the bull's eye and get her name engraved on the 300 club plaque.

Deciding on a favorite memory wasn't easy for Trout and Podratz.

"Just about any day," was Trout's immediate response.

Podratz's favorite memories extend throughout his years with the club.

When Podratz first joined Mit-Ti-Quab in January 1969 the club's location in the basement of what is now Spectrum Printing was also the home of the Pizzadena restaurant, he said.

"We had to learn to concentrate with people talking, food cooking, the jukebox going, smoke so thick you couldn't hardly see," he recalled.

"That's one of my more cherished memories," Podratz said with a smile and a hint of good-natured sarcasm.

Winning first place for a parade float the club constructed for the 2002 June Jubilee was a favorite memory, Podratz recalled. It was the first float the club ever did.

"That really gave our club a boost in membership," he said.

Podratz also mentioned the tournaments Mit-Ti-Quab once had with archery clubs in Alexandria, Fergus Falls and Park Rapids. The competition was great, he said. The clubs had tournaments each year in the winter and the summer at outdoor ranges.

"That was so much fun," he said.

The book's record of yearly archery action and accomplishments sparked memories of state tournaments and names listed in the Mit-Ti-Quab Hall of Fame for Trout and Podratz. The dated photos from decades gone by elicited a few chuckles as well.

"You can sure tell from all the hairstyles what year it was," Trout said with a smile while paging through the book.

Flattops circa the 1960s and long hair and mustaches from the 1970s are all preserved for posterity through the plastic-covered photos.

While the distinctive hairdos of the passing decades are easy to spot in the book, the black and white palette of the photos disguises some of the archers' other style choices. In the 1960s the official team uniforms were yellow with black trim. Currently, Mit-Ti-Quab's official color is forest green.

The woodsy color is an appropriate choice. It hints at the major reason why people join the club -- hunting.

Shooting in the club during the winter season keeps bow hunters in practice for hunting season, Trout said.

"You're so used to it you take a couple of shots 'yeah she's sighted in good for hunting' that's all you do," Trout said. "It's like riding a bicycle."

People who don't shoot all the time have to shoot a lot when hunting season comes around, he said. Practice makes the bow hunter a better shot, too.

"You're not going to wound as many animals," Trout said.

Family fun is another reason why people join the club, he said.

"It's been a very wonderful thing for kids," Trout said.

He's watched young and old enjoy the sport at state tournaments, he said.

"You've got everybody from 80-year-old people down to these little guys that are 9 years old," Trout said.

Podratz is 65 years old and he plans on shooting his bow for as long as his muscles will let him, he said.

Trout and Podratz were two of the 69 members who shot their arrows in the Mit-Ti-Quab archery range during last year's season. The club started its 2008 season this January.

Membership in the club has fluctuated over the years,

Podratz said. But recently it's been up.

"It's come back really good," Trout said.

Podratz added, "I think we have a good core of people that keep the club going."

It looks like the archers of Mit-Ti-Quab are on target to bring their club into another 40 years of bull's eyes and camaraderie.