7/3/2014 12:41:00 PM Sportsman's Club is an ageless asset
by DENISE MARTIN
The Chisago Lakes Sportsman’s Club is neither for men nor sports. Now that that’s perfectly clear, what is it for, you ask. For nearly 60 years the 11 acre site on the frontage road between Chisago City and Lindstrom, has quietly been a place to go and relax in a pastoral setting, while blasting the daylights out of airborne clay discs.
But club members aren’t just about the marksmanship. The club helps support conservation and bringing up a new generation of youth doing the right thing. To coin a business cliche, it’s for networking; about firearms, hunting and fishing; what’s new and what’s tried and true.
They do keep track of who shoots the best individual and team rounds, however. Plus there are contests on-going for game and fishing conquests. But, one club officer, Rick Ekstrand, says “...nobody’s trying to be a hot shot here.”
There’s just a group (120 or so target shoot and about 30 more are casual members) who find a comaraderie in shared interests in the outdoors and conservation. They also feel a connection being involved in the legacy the club represents.
All this for less than $1 a week in annual membership dues. Club Vice President Pete Johnson was located in ‘the shack’ where the Tuesday night shooters buy their rounds. He tells a reporter that the clay targets are pretty much unchanged over the years, except manufacturers used to stamp “TOXIC TO HOGS” on them and they don’t anymore. The shards breakdown into the soil eventually.
A casual bunch mills around between the target range and the clubhouse, some with a beer or pop can in one hand, cutting a classic pose with a long gun angled over a shoulder. Gals and guys in T-shirts and plaid take turns on the rise at the edge of the field, four at a time on the shooting schedule. The atmosphere is the eponymy of mellow, which weirdly works against the backdrop of the nerve-wracking explosions from shooters. “You get used to it,” Pete shouts.
Ekstrand says whether you are skilled in handling long guns, mediocre or don’t even do target shooting, you can have fun here.
For a spectator it’s comparable to watching a golf event or perhaps tournament bowling. Each marksman has their own style of standing and moving into a shot. Their command to “pull” is met by a soaring clay target coughed out of the tiny concrete hut.
Ekstrand said the club employs local youth who eject the clays, keep scoring sheets, do cleanup on the grounds and other assorted tasks. Inside the clubhouse Angie Johnson holds down the concessions/beverages fort.
You shoot at your own pace and a wall of stats inside the clubhouse is where rounds are posted. You can “practice” or you can inform the scorekeeper your round is for “league.” The club gate is open for the shotgun-only shooting from about 5 p.m. until dark on Tuesdays.
Directors and club officers were meeting the night the Press stopped by-- the last Tuesday night of the month. This is when the nuts and bolts of running the organization are laid out. Committee assignments and “chairman” updates are given by those heading up various fundraising and activities. Directors review grounds maintenance needs, fence mending, building repairs or whatever else is on the agenda. You can become involved at whatever level you want.
Last week Bruce Gockowski thanked everybody for providing funds to send a Taylors Falls girl to T.U.N.E Camp at the Eagle Bluff Conservation Area facility, near Lanesboro. He talked about the multi-day camp, and how kids learned to tie flies, cast, received firearms training, and learned about habitat ecology and how certain terrain provides what species need to survive. “The reason for groups like this,” he tells a reporter, “...is for the next generation as much as for the members.”
At these camps youth are immersed in hunting and fishing wisdom and also learn how nature conservation plays a role. Later this month two girls will go to Outdoor Explorer Camp with help from the club. The Chisago Lakes Sportsman’s Club also sponsors area youth to attend Long Lake Camp, and officers noted that the local Pheasants Forever Chapter partners on efforts like these scholarships. The club house is also homebase for two youth firearms classes that take place annually. And, the facility generates income. Anybody who wants to can rent the whole space for $275.
Obviously most of the Chisago Lakes Sportsman’s Club activity happens in warm weather months. Club members are already gearing up to show-off the grounds during the annual public picnic held each August. And, in the winter time, if you see the clubhouse lights on, it’s probably volunteers who assemble the bat, bluebird and wood duck houses the club sells. (See them at club officer Vince Marier’s WheelHorse in Lindstrom, across First Street from the coffee pot water tower.)