Archery clubs are the sport’s local epicenters. This is where bowhunters and target archers gather to practice and have fun.
The Izaak Walton League of America often forms the core of these local clubs, and originated in the early 1920s as a national conservation group with local chapters dedicated to preserving American wildlife. To this day, Izaak Walton League chapters participate in outreach programs, shooting sports, community conservation and other outdoor activities.
The “Ikes” have 230 chapters with 42,500 members in the United States. Of those chapters, 120 maintain shooting-sports facilities for archery and firearms. Target and 3-D archery are the most common ranges at Izaak Walton League clubs, and the chapters range from modest facilities to sprawling 600-acre properties. Many chapters are near suburban areas, where backyard archery practice can be difficult.
Izaak Walton League clubs offer public archery programs like tournaments, summer camps and mobile clinics. Its chapters with shooting-sports facilities offer several opportunities annually for nonmembers to try the sports in safe, responsible settings. For instance, the Rockville, Maryland, chapter offers a popular youth summer program that enrolls 80 students for three-day archery clinics.
Ike clubs also offer mobile archery clinics. Scott Kovarovics, the Izaak Walton League’s executive director, said the League has several chapters in northwestern Indiana that work together to support mobile archery clinics. The clubs have a trailer with bows, arrows and targets; and the trailer visits schools, events and other Ike chapters to introduce people to archery.
Camping, fishing, hiking, conservation and firearms shooting lessons are other common activities at Izaak Walton League clubs. Kovarovics said the clubs work on several fronts to conserve natural resources and help folks participate in outdoor recreation.
The Izaak Walton League was founded in 1922 when a group of hunters, anglers, outdoor writers and a preacher joined forces out of concern for America’s natural resources. Water pollution and rampant wildlife losses were an ecological epidemic, and so the Ikes formed to conserve and protect the country’s natural resources. “They had an incredible passion for what they were doing,” Kovarovics said. “They got very engaged in advocacy at the local and federal (levels) to protect the resources that were so important to them and their outdoor lifestyle.”
Conservation remains the core of the Izaak Walton League’s mission. “Where our chapters are really leading is community-based conservation,” Kovarovics said. The chapters work to protect and conserve resources, such as small-scale habitat-restoration projects and water-quality monitoring in streams. Local projects were the organization’s chief focus in the past, and remain so today.
As with many archery clubs, local members form the heart of the Izaak Walton League. Members volunteer their time to improve the organization and run its programs. “Folks are committed to mentoring and supporting new people,” Kovarovics said. “They’re really passionate about it.”
To join the Izaak Walton League, visit iwla.org to find a nearby chapter. The Ikes offer unique opportunities to practice archery and participate in other great programs. “If folks want to get involved in outdoor recreation and community conservation, the league is the perfect place,” Kovarovics said.