CLINTONVILLE - More and more outdoor enthusiasts in and around the Au Sable River Valley are enjoying the results of a recent effort to revitalize one of the area's most long-standing sites for the practice of shooting sports.
According to Bill Mitchell, president of the Chesterfield Fish and Game Club, activities at their 150-acre property on Green Street in Clintonville had been few and far between for the better part of a decade; that is, until he and a handful of other members decided to bring the club and its facilities back to life last fall.
"We've really put a lot of work into it since last October," said Mitchell, who was one of several local businessmen to donate materials for the renovations. "It's really something for a few dedicated people to get the place back up and running.
Club members renovated the 50-foot indoor shooting range, which is now heated, and added a new shooting shed for the outdoor range. Trap- and skeet-shooting ranges were given a much-needed make-over.
The Chesterfield Fish and Game Club was established in 1969. Mitchell, a 25-year member of the club, was one of several new club officers elected in December at the first meeting the club had held in more than six years.
Monthly meetings have been held ever since. Meanwhile, work has continued on grooming and renovating the club's facilities, and weekly activities have been scheduled at the indoor shooting range with a special focus placed on youth.
A Youth BB-Gun League has been instituted where children age 10-12 receive lessons through a national instruction program aimed at gun safety. 15 youth have enrolled in the 10-session program, and Mitchell said more may join when the program re-starts later this year.
"We know there is some interest from other fish and game clubs in the area," said Joanna D'Ascoli, the club's secretary. "Our hope is that they will use the same national instruction program and there will be some inter-club competitions the kids can be involved in."
"We've go to do more to get the youth out from in front of the TV and get them interested in the outdoors," said Mitchell, noting how youth are encouraged to try their hand at archery, fishing and the trap field.
Every Tuesday evening, from 7-10 p.m., the club hosts archery shooting, which is open for both members and non-members. The indoor range is open for pistol and small-bore rifle shooting every Thursday evening, also from 7-10 p.m.
The revitalized facilities, together with the return of regularly-occurring activities at the club, have significantly boosted membership.
"We were at 120 back in October," said Mitchell, "and we've gained about 40 members since we cleaned the place up."
"It's still not overcrowded in there," he added. "On a Tuesday night or a Thursday night, you'll be able to walk up to one of the stands and shoot."
Annual membership dues for the club are currently $25, which many members say is more than reasonable for the opportunities it grants them.
The club hopes to attract more new members as they host an Open House Saturday, April 24. The event begins at 8:30 a.m. with a pancake breakfast and registration for a youth fishing derby.
Activities for all ages will continue throughout the day with BB-gun shooting for youth, trap shooting, a 50-yard egg shoot for adults, and an archery clinic taught by one of the top archery shooters on the East Coast.
"It's been amazing to me how much experience there is among the people in our own backyard when it comes to shooting sports. The fish and game club is a place where these people can share this experience," said D'Ascoli, a self-proclaimed shooting novice.
"It's really important for people like me and kids to be exposed to the safe way of doing these things," she added.
The club is also planning a 3D fundraiser shoot for June 20.
For more information about the Chesterfield Fish and Game Club, visit their Web site at www.chesterfieldshootingrange.com or contact Mitchell at 834-2051.