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More Michiganders Are Participating in Target Shooting

Ortonville Shooting Range  range officer with customers

October 6, 2005

When the public shooting ranges operated by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources were transferred to the Law Enforcement Division in 2001, Conservation Officer Scott Berg was thrilled with his new job assignment.

As a shooting range specialist, Berg's duties included visiting all six ranges on numerous occasions to make sure the operations were running smoothly.

"Several of the ranges were in need of some major renovations," Berg said. "As soon as we were able to make the improvements, more and more shooters started coming out to see what the department had to offer. Most people were pleasantly surprised."

According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, there are nearly 20 million active target shooters in the U.S., and national participation in target shooting has increased by 48% over the past five years. One reason for this growth is the popularity of sporting clays.

Sporting clays is a clay target sport that is designed to imitate actual hunting conditions. In the past, most shooting clubs featured only skeet and trap ranges where clay targets are thrown at known distances and at set speeds and angles.

In contrast, a sporting clays course features multiple shooting stations which are set at varying and unknown distances, leaving the shooter to judge length of leads and how quickly the target must be broken.

"Many people like to compare sporting clays shooting to golf," Berg said. He was one of the first shooters to try out the new sporting clays course at the Island Lake Recreation Area when it opened in June 2002. "You think it's an easy putt and you miss it. The key to shooting sporting clays is to relax and enjoy it. Like golf, frustration over a missed shot will only lead to more misses."

There are 634 registered sporting clays courses currently in operation around the country. All courses are designed differently, just like golf courses, and stations, targets and combinations of each can be changed daily.

"There is no question that sporting clays can make anyone a better shooter," said Lt. Sherry Chandler, supervisor of the DNR's hunter education section, which includes the shooting range program.

According to Chandler, one visit to the DNR's Bald Mountain or Island Lake shooting range is all it takes to see why sporting clays is the fastest-growing shooting sport in the country.

"It's fun, it's challenging and no special guns are needed," she said. "Twelve-gauge guns are preferable, but small gauges are very acceptable."

On a national level, the number of target shooters who actively participate in sporting clays has almost matched the total number of individuals who participate in trap and skeet shooting.

Michigan has more than 140 shooting ranges across the state; more than 80 are open to the public, including the following DNR shooting ranges:

Island Lake Rifle and Pistol Range, 13600 E. Grand River, Brighton; (248-437-2784). Rifle, shotgun, muzzleloader and pistol range.

Ortonville Shooting Range, 1350 Sawmill Lake Road, Ortonville; (248) 627-3828. Rifle, shotgun, muzzleloader and pistol range. A 15-station, 3-D archery range to be built in partnership with the Archery Trade Association is scheduled to open next summer.

Pontiac Lake Shooting Range, 7800 Gale Road, Waterford: (248) 666-1020. Rifle, shotgun, muzzleloader, pistol and archery ranges. The range is fully accessible for persons with disabilities.

Range fees for Island Lake, Ortonville and Pontiac Lake: $4 per shooter, age 16 and older, per day. A state park motor vehicle permit, available at each park entrance gate or office, is required for entry.

Rose Lake Shooting Range, 14500 Peacock Road, Bath. Rifle, shotgun, muzzleloader, pistol and archery ranges.

Sharonville Shooting Range, 14520 Sharon Valley Road, Grass Lake. Rifle, shotgun, muzzleloader, pistol and archery ranges. Rose Lake and Sharonville do not charge fees at this time.

During October, the DNR shooting ranges are open Wednesday-Monday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Island Lake, Ortonville and Pontiac Lake. Rose Lake and Sharonville hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. From Nov. 1-15, the ranges are open daily, and from Nov. 16-Sept. 30, they are open five days per week, Thursday-Monday.

The DNR also oversees concessionaire-operated shooting ranges at the Bald Mountain Recreation Area in Lake Orion and at Island Lake Recreation Area in Brighton. Both ranges are fully accessible for persons with disabilities and feature a sporting clays course.

The Bald Mountain Shooting Range is open Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. for clay target shooting, archery, rifle and pistol; Monday and Tuesday, noon to dusk for clay target shooting and archery and 3 p.m. to dusk for rifle and pistol and Wednesday, 10 a.m. to dusk for all ranges. Range fees: $5 per round (25 targets) for skeet and trap; $4 per person at the archery range and $17 per round (50 targets) at the sporting clays course. For more information, call 248-814-9191.

The Island Lake Shotgun Range is open Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday and Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Wednesday and Thursday, 10 a.m. to dusk. Range fees: $5 per round (25 targets) for skeet and trap; $7 per round (25 targets) for the 5-stand field and $17 per round (50 targets) at the sporting clays course. For more information, call (248) 437-2784.

As the opening day of firearm deer season draws near, now is a good time for hunters to sight in rifles and shotguns at one of the DNR shooting ranges listed above. All shooters must wear eye and ear protection and shooters under 16 must be supervised by an adult.

"The DNR range officer on duty will be happy to answer any questions regarding shooting rules," Chandler said, "and the officer also can provide information on obtaining a special use permit that is required for group events or when someone wishes to use the facility outside of normal range hours."

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