Gone, but not forgotten
By Sarah Morris for The Mandan News
A hobby can be found almost anywhere, but it takes something special inside of a person in order for that pastime to become a passion. And passion may make life, whether short or full of many years, something so extraordinary, that it may affect the lives of many people.
So it goes with the life of Travis Hilfer, who passed away in a pickup rollover in March 2008. Travis went to Mandan High, wrestled and had friends, a rather normal life. At age 12, he got his first bow from a family friend, starting his love of hunting.
“He just had a passion for the outdoors,” said Brent Hilfer, Travis’ father.
Now that desire of bow hunting is being passed on in the form of a better archery range for Mandan. Ryan Maddock, a friend of Travis and an archery lover, along with Brent Hilfer, decided one February night while ice fishing that the Mandan Archery Range was in need of remodeling. The flood of 2011, along with many safety concerns in general, created a need for the renovation of the range.
So Maddock one day in March went to Cole Higlin, Mandan Parks Director and brought to him the idea to create a better archery range.
“The dirt on the property was used for saving homes along the river (during the flood),” said Higlin. “As the dirt was replaced, this seemed like the right time to address the layout of the archery range.”
Maddock then got permission to come up with a design for the range from Higlin and other city officials. But as the designs were finalized the question of funding came up.
“Brent Hilfer asked the park board of commissioners if they would consider naming the facility after his son Travis, and in exchange he would help with soliciting donations and improvements to the facility,” said Higlin. “To date (as of July 18), they have raised $2,500 from Scheels, $2,000 from American Foundation for Wildlife, $2,500 Mandan Park District, $500 from Dakota Foot and Ankle, and materials at cost from Lowes.”
In June, construction began on the Travis Hilfer Memorial Archery Range. The old archery range did not have a shooting line, nor were there any established targets.
“It was always kind of helter-skelter and not really safe,” said Hilfer.
Maddock took on this project mostly from an event that he observed in 2012. Three children and their father were practicing archery at the range and they were shooting at their target which was about 30 yards away.
“The children were standing at 15 yards and the father was shooting from 30 yards, at the same target as his children,” said Maddock. “He was shooting right past his children.”
New improvements to the range include an all-around safer atmosphere. A designated shooting line, 14 new targets capturing expanses of 10 to 60 yards, bow and arrow holders, a16 foot tall platform, and a bigger parking lot will be the new look of the range.
“We don’t need anything fancy; we just need something safe and useable,” said Hilfer.
Back in this wooded area with the quiet chirping of crickets and the warm sunshine that filters through the trees, people will be able to enjoy the sport of archery. But for those who knew Travis, it is far more than an archery range. It is a place where memories of a young man whose life was perhaps too short will forever caress the lives of those he loved.
“I’ve really never known anyone like him,” said Maddock. “He was always the first person there when you needed help, no matter what he had going on. He was an extremely hard worker, and was very loyal to all of his family and friends.”
Travis’ life is a reminder that a person never knows how much time he or she has left, but to make each day count.
“Travis was only around for 23 years but he lived a full life, I mean he was always on the move,” said Hilfer. “The world didn’t spin fast enough for Travis.”