Tackling sportsmen’s shooting range a real blast

It all started with fishing.
And now that I’ve gone and shot off rifles, revolvers, and pistols, my transition from city boy to rural outdoorsman seems to have been set in action.
After Times’ publisher Jim Cumming took me out fishing for the first time earlier this summer, I put out a call for suggestions in this space back in July. And seemingly no sooner than ink hit paper, I got a call from Rob Dokuchie of the Fort Frances Sportsmen’s Club, who invited me out to try my hand at shooting some guns—another experience I hadn’t yet tried.
I finally was able to take him up on his offer this past Sunday morning at the club’s facilities on Frog Creek Road near the airport. We were joined by club president Brad Houghton for a morning of firing guns running the gamut from rifles to pistols.
One quick note before proceeding. While my fishing piece primarily was a self-deprecating piece about how hilariously terrible an angler I am, this report probably won’t be quite as much of a knee-slapper.
That’s because, well, I actually wasn’t completely awful at shooting. Oh, and something else to do with the danger involved that being completely and utterly inept would bring.
That still ended up being the basis of all the razzing from all my co-workers when I announced I was going to pursue this story (“Well, we had better evacuate the town,” I remember Bryce saying). But I digress.
The day started with a bit of skeet shooting, in which I used an over and under 12-gauge shotgun.
The club’s skeet facility has eight different angles, each marked by concrete pad. Targets are released from one of two points—a high house (about 10 feet off of the ground) or a low house (about three feet off the ground).
I exclusively shot (er, tried to shoot) targets released from the low house since they’re a bit easier to hit as they’re not so high off of the ground and, therefore, not quite as distant.
Dokuchie and Houghton gave me a brief rundown on how to use the gun, with Houghton taking a couple of shots to show me how it’s done. I then slipped on my ear protection and was surprisingly calm as I pressed the barrel of the gun into my right shoulder to minimize the effect of the recoil.
I started off on the easiest pad, shooting from a roughly 15-degree angle from where the target was released—giving me a little more time to try to pick it up in the morning sky.
“Pull!” I commanded, instructing Dokuchie to let my first target fly. I squeezed the trigger.
Bang! Missed it by that much—just a little bit behind it.
Same with the next couple before I finally nicked one. Success! Apparently all those years in front of my family’s big ol’ television playing “Duck Hunt” paid off after all.
I switched to a slightly wider angle, grazing a couple more from there, and then was unsuccessful at two more along the outside of the semi-circle.
I couldn’t leave without going to the inside of the semi-circle, though, shooting the targets pretty much straight on. At 60 m.p.h., that’s not exactly the easiest task.
I saw the target fly. Target acquired. Follow-aim-shoot. Still just behind it. Yep, it’s that fast.
Next up was the rifle range, where I was able to use a Browning BL-22 and a 1955 SKS rifle. Targets can be set at 25, 50, 150, or 200 yards, but I was just starting with the simple 25 distance.
Dokuchie showed me how to load the weapon, and I slid 10 bullets down into the BL-22 (although range officers generally only will allow five at a time if the range is busy).
I sat down at the 25-yard station, took aim at the bull’s eye, and fired off my 10 rounds. It ended up taking me a couple of minutes to empty the entire thing since I had to find my aim after each shot.
We opened up the gun and placed it on the table so that a range officer or anyone else walking by could quickly confirm the chamber was empty (an excellent habit to get into at the range), then hiked up to see the damage.
Not bad—there were seven holes in nine-point territory and three for eight. But Houghton encouraged me to pick one of the other smaller targets on the fringes of the paper and assured me that my 10 shots should be closer together.
The advice he had was just to keep my cheek pretty much flush with the stock so I was looking straight down the sight and not at an angle.
Sure enough, six of my shots were within just a couple inches of each other, including one dead-on on the bull’s eye.
The final activity of the day was heading over to the pistol range to fire off a pair of Smith & Wessons—the model 28 highway patrolman (a revolver) and the m&p 0.40 calibre.
We started off with the revolver, taking note that the gun always should be grounded when loading (essentially, digging the barrel into the table pointed away from everyone) just to ensure absolute safety. A gun, loaded or not, should never be pointed at anyone.
There are some differences in firing a revolver and a pistol, especially in holding it. A revolver, for example, can be cupped on the bottom and held near the chamber since the heat emerging from the chamber can burn the shooter’s hands.
A pistol, by contrast, should not be held on the bottom because a discharged clip can be fired at a high speed and cause injury to the hand.
With that in mind, I took a careful grip and lined up to take some shots from 20 yards away. Sizing up the sight was a little more difficult to do with a pistol, especially while trying to figure out a comfortable stance, which wasn’t a consideration when sitting down to fire the rifles.
My biggest problem initially was that I was moving my head to look down the sight, no doubt resulting in some gawky positions. My aim ended up being much better when I brought the sight to my eyes instead.
Also, given that the revolver was supported by just my arms instead of a table like the rifles, combined with the shorter barrel for the bullet to travel through, it’s easy to make a small mistake in aim that causes the shot to be way off.
That’s exactly what happened.
After my first round, I received the most helpful piece of advice of the day from Houghton—it should almost be a surprise when the bullet is fired, so concentrate on the target right up until the last millisecond.
That worked with both Smith & Wessons, for the most part, and I shot a few more rounds until I was fatigued.
• • •
The Fort Frances Sportsmen’s Club is looking at building on its current 270 members. Adult memberships cost $50 while family memberships are $60.
In addition to the shooting ranges, the club’s Frog Creek property also includes a boat launch and an archery range.
The club holds a skeet competition every Tuesday night at the cost of $4 per entrant.
There are opportunities to try before you buy, thought, as Thursdays are beginner nights. Those interested in giving the sport a shot (ahem) can call Len Noonan at 274-9131 for more information.
• • •
Of course, I’m up for another new experience to write about, so if anyone would like to take me out to give something a try, I’m game.
I can be reached at 274-5373 ext. 236 or via e-mail at dfalloon@fortfrances.com

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