AOOC: Family atmosphere in the woods
From humble beginning, group promotes outdoor pursuits for residents
The Aurora Ouisconsin Outdoor Club (AOOC) is addictive.
Chris Bay and her husband Gary took their first trip to the AOOC nine years ago. The two were seasoned hunters, but they chose to take a hunter safety course with their daughter, Holly, to relearn the basics together.
“It was one of the best pivotal moments in my life,” said Bay. Shortly after taking the course, the family spent a few days camped at the AOOC to work on their archery skills. They have been members ever since.
“It was such a family-oriented club,” said Bay. “We were impressed with all the versatile outdoors activities. We jumped in with both feet.”
“They do a lot of things for the kids,” said Linda Ross of Summit. “It’s something for the whole family; a family place where you can go and practice … and learn to do it right.”
Club facilities include an archery range, a rifle range and a 20-station archery trail. The AOOC holds a summer and winter youth archery league, training for community members and local law enforcement officers, social events and much, much more.
“You don’t have to be a hunter or fisherman to belong, because there’s so many things you can do,” said Bay. “It’s a great time.”
One of the big draws for members is the chance to practice their shooting. Bay said she has seen mothers with babies on their backs at the archery range. Kids can start in on the sport at any age, she said with a laugh. “We’ve had little guys out there with nerf bows.” Kids aren’t the only ones who enjoy the club.
“It’s totally family,” said Von Withkopf, who hatched the idea of the club with her husband, Jerry. “It’s just so neat to come out here and see grandma and grandpa with their kids and grandkids shooting and taking classes together.”
A perfect example would be Marge and Jack Clark of Amnicon Lake. The two shoot with their 15-year-old grandson Steven Udeen. When he began shooting, Udeen stayed in the junior leagues. Now, however, he shoots with the adults.
“He already beat grandma,” said Marge Clark with a chuckle. “Now, he’s trying to beat grandpa.” Udeen’s brother, Andrew, has now joined the junior league. It won’t be long before he is shooting with his grandparents, as well.
The AOOC hosts events nearly every month, from 3-D target archery shoots to smelt fries, a spring campout to a summer Family Fun Day. Many of these activities are also open to the public.
Add to that about 10-12 community classes a year, including fly fishing tips, women in the outdoors, winter camping and hunting dog classes. Anyone in the community can sign up for the courses, which are offered through the Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College. The Wittkopfs also offer their specialty – a whole gamut of hunters training classes, including the popular hunters safety campout.
The AOOC has come a long way from it’s inception in 1987.
“We didn’t have anything but an idea at the time,” said Von.
The Wittkopfs, both hunter safety instructors, taught classes at Four Corners Elementary School. But they dreamed of a spot more suitable for their lessons, so they formed the nucleus of the AOOC.
Ross’ husband Dan, one of the club’s first members, can recall chipping in $2 each for the club paperwork.
The name was chosen to spark curiosity. Aurora means northern, Ouisconsin is the original French spelling of Wisconsin, meaning “gathering of the waters.” The unique name worked. People began to ask about the club and to join.
In 1990, the Wittkopfs bought 40 acres of land off the Tri-Lake Road, and the AOOC had a permanent home.
Over the past 12 years, the club facilities have grown. First a pavilion went up, then overhangs for the two gun ranges. A clubhouse was built, as well as storage buildings.
Currently, a new 24x40 foot two – story building is being completed by a Wisconsin Conservation Corps crew. It will be used for storage and classes.
Today, the AOOC has 60 members, all but 10 of whom are members for life. The Wittkopfs have put much of their time and effort in to the club, and in return it has blossomed.
“They are the backbone,” said Bay.
Along the way, their three children have shot, played and volunteered by their side. During a tour of the club grounds, they pointed fondly to a tree their son planted 10 years ago.
Von dreams of even more.
“I see little carts going through the woods for a shooting range,” she said. “An underground shooting range … “
“We want to expand the shooting range so we can do Western shoots,” said Jerry, which involves dressing up in period costume and using 1800s weapons.
Most of all, they envision many more families visiting the club and spending quality time together.
For more information on the AOOC, call 398-6952.
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