By Tim Eberly
Whistling arrows landed with a thump in the gut of the high-density styrofoam bear.
The shooter reloaded his bow and this time aimed at the long-range targets 30 yards away.
As of Monday, local archers have a clubhouse where they can shoot without the inconvenience of the elements.
"It's indoors where it's warm and you don't have to chase your arrows in the snow," Havre resident Tim Teske said of the Milk River Archery Shooting Range while prepping his bow Tuesday evening.
About a dozen people fixed their sights on the array of targets Tuesday at the shooting lanes, located inside the south entrance of the Holiday Village Shopping Center.
Though he had help from his friends, Havre's Brett Borst is the man behind the operation. A longtime member of the Bear Paw Bowmen archery club, Borst is providing Hi-Line residents with a service that has been absent since the mid-1990s, when a similar business shut down.
"There wasn't one available in town for archers to take advantage of," Borst, 43, said. "I'm not really doing this to make money. I just want to provide local archers a place to shoot."
On Saturday, Borst and a handful of Bear Paw Bowmen members turned the roomy, dank basement warehouse into a full-fledged archery range. Enormous targets nylon feed bags hang from the ceiling. Even bigger targets made of cardboard bales are positioned throughout the room on the floor. Complementing these objects are three-dimensional targets shaped and painted like animals, including a deer and antelope.
"It's going over real well," said Borst, a back-to-back state champion in the National Field Archery Association barebow competition as a teenager. "I've had a good response to it, both with the archery equipment and the lanes."
Twenty-five people showed up on Monday, the range's first day of business. On April 20, the Milk River Archery Shooting Range will celebrate its grand opening. Door prizes, including gift certificates, T-shirts and hats, will be distributed.
Hours of operation are Monday through Friday, from 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. On Saturday, the archery lanes are open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. It costs $3 a day for children to use the facility, and $5 for adults.
Monthly memberships, ranging in cost from $18 to $30, can be purchased for children, adults and families. Bows and arrows are also available for rent.
"It's just a lot more fun if you can get together like this and shoot, and have the camaraderie or socializing with other guys that are in the sport," Borst said. "And it gives me a chance to get people in here to look at the bows and arrows that I sell."
Borst is a full-time salesman at Western Trailer & Marine Sales in Havre, where he also sells high-quality archery accessories.
Bear Paw Bowmen is holding a membership drive through April 15. Borst is offering a free night of shooting for those who purchase $10 yearly memberships.
Borst said he, his wife, Annette, and 19-year-old daughter, Nicole, plan to establish a Thursday night archery league and a winter tournament.