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Lakes Area Archers out of Erdahl offers 3D shoots, winter leagues and 24-7 archery access at affordable cost to members

The purchase of a church the group turned into an indoor archery range less than 10 years ago gives archers near Alexandria a chance to stay sharp during the winter months.

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From left to right, John Pikop of Dalton, Mike New of Evansville and Tom Johnson of Fergus Falls stand for a photo at the indoor archery range that the Lakes Area Archers own in Erdahl, Minnesota. The Lakes Area Archers offer winter leagues, 3D-target shoots and 24-7 access year-round to this 20-yard indoor range for archers looking for a place to shoot in west-central Minnesota. Annual memberships are $35 for an individual and $50 for a family. Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press

The question has often been asked to members of some of the bigger outdoor groups in Alexandria like the Viking Sportsmen. Is there a place to shoot bow near town?

There has been talk of trying to find a location for an archery range in Alexandria and the logistics of setting one up with the feeling that there is an interest locally.

Just down the interstate about 20 miles near the Grant and Douglas County border, there is an affordable, year-around opportunity for archers who want a place to shoot casually to stay sharp, in a winter league or on 3D targets, thanks to a club called the Lakes Area Archers.

“I think that’s one of our biggest issues is getting the word out that we are even here,” club member Tom Johnson of Fergus Falls said.

The clubhouse for the Lakes Area Archers that features a 20-yard indoor range is in an old church that came up for sale a little less than 10 years ago in Erdahl, just 4 miles off I-94 west from the Evansville exit. The physical address is 26066 122nd Ave. Elbow Lake, MN.

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A few friends met at the American Legion in Ashby in 2013 trying to get the ball rolling on actually setting up a club that could make a shooting range a reality during the winter months in west-central Minnesota.

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Members of the Lakes Area Archers purchased this church in Erdahl that serves as the clubhouse for archers to shoot on a 20-yard indoor range. Members have access to the range any time of day throughout the whole year with the use of a key code. Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press

“We had board members, went to the bank, got a loan and started shopping for building a structure on a property,” Lakes Area Archers member John Pikop of Dalton said. “Then this one came about, and the price was right. It’s somewhat centrally located, close to the interstate. In the beginning we had quite a few members.”

Membership has since dwindled to a little more than 20 active participants. Pikop, Johnson and fellow member Mike New of Evansville said they would love to see that number grow. The club started for the camaraderie and the chance to shoot bow and share stories for people who love archery. The more the merrier, they say.

“When I first came here, I was surprised membership wasn’t greater,” New said after moving back to the area about 4 years ago after growing up in Forada. “I just know many people around the area who bow hunt. This is an easy way for them to bring their kids, they can shoot their bow. I usually send the message around and get a handful of people to come.”

Part of the confusion on how active the group is might come from an outdated website. It's the first site that pops up on a Google search of Lakes Area Archers. Details for events hosted by the group are from 2018.

A former active member of the group who knew how to build the website had started it and updated it, but life got busy for him. The Lakes Area Archers Facebook page is now where the club has its most up-to-date information on all they offer.

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Annual membership fees are affordable at $35 for an individual and $50 for a family. Guests can shoot for $5.

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The 20-yard indoor archery range in Erdahl owned by the Lakes Area Archers group allows people to shoot on both paper bullseye and 3D targets. Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press

A paid membership gives archers 24-7 access to the 20-yard indoor archery range with the use of a key code for the door. There are multiple 3D targets and standard paper bullseyes to practice on, along with youth bows that the club owns for kids to use if they want to give archery a try.

In the warm-weather months, a target at a longer distance is set up outside on the large lawn that came with the church.

Archers are required to shoot field points only. No broadheads.

The purchase of that annual membership will also allow an individual to shoot in the Lakes Area Archers’ upcoming winter league for no additional cost. Scores will be handicapped in the league to create competitive balance.

The group will host two, six-week competitions currently set for Thursday nights at 7 starting on Jan. 6. Archers will shoot 10 rounds of three arrows per night.

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“Then if the participation gets up, we’ll think of doing a partners league,” New said. “The second six weeks we’ll figure out. It will finish a couple weeks before Easter. It gives people something to shoot for in the winter.”

Non-members can also take part in the league for a cost of $35.

“Last week, we made a motion that passed that we’re going to have league free for members,” Johnson said. “It will be $35 if people don’t want to join, but they want to shoot league. Maybe they don’t want to be involved (with a membership), but I don’t know why they wouldn’t.”

Fees for the club go toward electric and gas bills for the building, along with helping to purchase new targets when needed.

The Lakes Area Archers host an annual banquet as a fundraiser at the clubhouse in the fall where they have prizes and a 3D shoot set up outside.

The first weekend in May, they host a 3D shoot on an expansive course on property owned by the Viking Valley Hunt Club near Ashby. This two-day shoot drew almost 100 people this past spring. It features 40 total targets, 20 each on a front and back course, with a long target of about 60 yards.

“They have a big chunk of land, and that takes three hours to walk through and shoot 40 targets,” Pikop said. “It’s a lot of hills. Different terrain with open country and woody country.”

Pikop said they would like to host more summer activities. The key is getting additional members on board. They would love to have more join them in sharing their passion for archery.

“We need some new stories,” Johnson said with a laugh.

Lakes Area Archers contact information

Anyone interested in joining the Lakes Area Archers or learning more about the group can call Mike New of Evansville at (320) 424-3253 or Tom Johnson of Fergus Falls at (218) 205-6747.

Eric Morken is a sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press Newspaper in Alexandria, Minnesota, a property of the Forum News Service. Morken covers a variety of stories throughout the Douglas County area, as well as statewide outdoor issues.
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