Jerry Hokkala didn’t buy his first bow and arrows until he was 40 years old.
Despite the late start, he became a highly respected – and record-breaking – participant in the sport over the next three decades. And last month, Hokkala’s distinguished archery career saw him be inducted into the Minnesota Archery Hall of Fame.
“It’s a great recognition,” said Hokkala. “I’m super proud of this.”
Hokkala was one of seven inductees in a ceremony on August 14 when more than 180 friends and family gathered in South Haven Town Hall for the ceremony.
They came together to celebrate a career that so far has included:
- 5 Minnesota Bowhunters Inc State Championships;
- 1 championship of the Archery Association;
- 2 Minnesota State NAA State Championships;
- 5 Minnesota Archers Alliance Championships;
- 64 Minnesota State Archery Association Tournament Championships.
And as if the various state tournament championships weren’t enough, Hokkala also set 39 state records, some of which still stand.
It’s an impressive resume, especially for someone who wasn’t sure they had time for archery in the late 1980s.
According to Hokkala, it was only after a close friend “bugged me” over and over again to try bow hunting that he finally agreed to go out into the field to learn more about the game. sport.
“All I did was hunt guns,” Hokkala said. “But, so I finally got to when with him, and I was hooked. I thought, ‘I have to do this. It’s just awesome. ‘ And that’s how it started.
Shortly after this first field experience, Hokkala bought his first bow. And he asked for advice on how to improve his archery skills.
“I knew my boyfriend wasn’t going to teach me how to shoot really well, because he didn’t know how to do it himself,” Hokkala said with a laugh.
He went to see another old friend from school, whom he knew to be an experienced bow hunter.
“Jerry (Sandel) introduced me to Target Archery,” he said. “And from there I got into target archery.”
Soon after, he worked with Roger and Jan Eckert of Kingston – inducted into the state Hall of Fame four years ago – to establish an archery club in the area. They found an empty building, a former hardware store, in Kingston that they believed could be converted into an eight-lane indoor archery range.
The shooting range, which opened in 1995, helped spark great interest in the Kingston Archery Club, of which Hokkala was the first president. The club started out slowly, with around 10 members in the early years, but as word spread it grew to around 40. Each of the members was given a range key, allowing them to shoot 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Hokkala says.
The club eventually lost their lease on the Kingston shooting range after several years, so Hokkala traveled to Hutchinson or St. Cloud to hone his winter archery skills.
“After the first year, I told my wife, Sharon, I say it’s too much to drive just to get off and shoot,” Hokkala said. “But I said, ‘I have a pole barn. It is 40 by 60 (feet). I said, all I need 10 more feet, and she says, ‘OK’.
Shortly after, the Hokkala had added a 10 x 40 lean-to at the north end of their pole barn, and “I now have an indoor stand at my house, so club members can come and shoot if they have it.” wish. ,” he said.
As much as Hokkala enjoys archery himself, however, he thinks it is important to share his knowledge with others – just like his friend did many years ago. Hokkala’s willingness to train others was part of his Hall of Fame nomination.
“I have known Jerry for almost five years and he never ceases to amaze me,” wrote Reverend Christian Muellerleile, pastor of Zion Lutheran Church in Litchfield and one of Hokkala’s archery students, in a note to the Hall of Fame Selection Committee. “He’s not just the best archer I know, he’s a great human being. Jerry has been very generous to share his time, talent and love of archery with me and my son. have to thank Jerry for our family’s love for archery.
These words mean a lot to Hokkala. He is eager to do whatever he can to broaden interest in archery.
Among the projects undertaken by the Kingston Archery Club during its heyday in the late 1990s was the cleanup of what is now Woodland Park off Minnesota Highway 15 between Dassl and Kingston. The club has asked the county for permission to organize 3D archery in the area of a former county-owned gravel pit. This quickly developed for the club to cut trails and clean up the pitch.
“It was a bit like a dumping ground. People would drive in and throw away their things, ”Hokkala said. “We said, ‘We’re going to clean this up. You just took him out for us. We cleaned everything up and everything turned into a park. And they still let us use it two weekends a year for our 3D hunts.
Hokkala also offered technical assistance when Litchfield set up their outdoor archery range on the south shore of Ripley Lake.
It was all part of sharing the joy of the sport, he says.
“Bow hunting is still important, not as big as it used to be. Of course, a lot of sports are not like they were now, ”Hokkala said. “The target number of archery shots has gone down a bit though.
“I just appreciate it… there is no such thing,” Hokkala said. “More people should try.”