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Numerous summer shooting sports opportunities exist in GF area

Summer, for many outdoors enthusiasts, might be the season for fishing and camping trips, but it's also a time for shotguns and rifles. For proof, look no further than Grand Forks and East Grand Forks. From events featuring vintage military rifle...

Northland Outdoors
Herald file photo Smoke flies as a young shooter fires a muzzleloader in this 2004 photo from the 4-H Shooting Sports black-powder class at the East Grand Forks Rod and Gun Club. The black-powder class, offered again this year, is just one of the numerous shooting sports opportunities available to shooters of all ages this summer in Grand Forks and East Grand Forks.

Summer, for many outdoors enthusiasts, might be the season for fishing and camping trips, but it's also a time for shotguns and rifles.

For proof, look no further than Grand Forks and East Grand Forks.

From events featuring vintage military rifles to sporting clays courses that will humble even the most accomplished shotgun aficionado, shooting events are available basically every day of the week throughout the summer.

And if you're thinking about joining a league, or perhaps trying your skill with a rifle or a shotgun for the first time, there's no time like the present to get involved in the shooting sports.

Here's a closer look at what's available in Grand Forks and East Grand Forks:


Dakota Hunting Club and Kennels

Sporting clays -- or golf with a shotgun, as some people call it -- is the big attraction at Dakota Hunting Club and Kennels southwest of Grand Forks.

According to club owner Mike Elgin, the summer sporting clays league started May 17 and continues for 10 weeks. There's a four-week fall league after that.

This year's summer league features 32 teams comprised of at least six shooters per team. There's still room for latecomers, though, Elgin said, because there's no limit on the number of shooters on each team. The top five scores plus handicap are used to determine team standings.

The summer league and a youth league that's offered through the Grand Forks Park District and the 4-H Shooting Sports Program keeps the sporting clays course hopping Monday through Thursday nights, Elgin said, but open shooting is available Friday through Sunday. Cost is $19 per round with a minimum of two shooters. He said it's best to call for reservations a day in advance.

"Five-stand" shooting also is available, Elgin said, although it's tied up Thursday nights for the youth shooting program. Instead of following a course like they do with sporting clays, five-stand shooters line up at one of five stands, or cages, to try their luck at hitting clay targets thrown from seven different traps.

Elgin said the youth shooting program has grown from about 20 kids two years ago to 42 last year. "We're hoping for 60 this year," he said. The season gets rolling with an orientation and safety session Thursday night, with shooting set to begin June 10. Cost is $30 for the 25-target league and $60 for the 50-target league.

The sporting clays course has 10 stations, Elgin said, and a typical trip around the course features 50 rounds. He said four shooters can complete the course in 1½ to two hours.


Because sporting clays is so challenging, Elgin said it's not something he'd necessarily recommend for first-time shooters. Better to practice up on more traditional trapshooting first.

"It's humbling," he said.

For more information, contact Dakota Hunting Club and Kennels at (701) 772-8789. For more information on the youth program, contact the club or Don Dietrich at (701) 739-5312.

Forks Rifle Club

Handgun and rifle shooters won't lack for shooting opportunities at the Forks Rifle Club, located 8½ miles west of Merrifield on Grand Forks County Road 6.

According to Tom Reiten, a longtime club member, the high-power silhouette league started earlier this month, and new this year, an outdoor handgun league gets underway Tuesday night.

Monday nights are set aside for junior small-bore shooters and the high-power rifle silhouette league. Tuesday, it's handguns; Wednesday is the high-power rifle league with 200-yard targets; and Thursday is the John C. Garand League for vintage military rifles at 200 yards and F-Class practice, which is a prone-supported precision shoot at 300- and 600-yard targets. The F-Class league shoots Sunday afternoons a couple of times a month, Reiten said, and the schedule is available online at www.forksrifleclub.org .

Reiten said there's still time for interested shooters to join a league because the highest five weeks out of the 10-week leagues are used to determine scores. He said about 50 club members participate in the leagues, some shooting multiple leagues and others just one.


Membership, which costs $45 annually for adults, $15 spouse and $15 for 20 and younger, is required to use the club's shooting facilities, Reiten said, and applications are available on the club's website. A new sighting-in range with eight benches and targets from 100 to 200 yards is available Wednesdays through Sundays, Reiten said, and if all goes according to plan, a three-sided building will enclose the range by the end of the summer.

The club also holds several matches during the summer, Reiten said.

Info: forksrifleclub.org.

East Grand Forks Rod and Gun Club

Located about 10 miles north of East Grand Forks, the East Grand Forks Rod and Gun Club isn't necessarily easy to find, but that doesn't mean it's not a busy place most days.

Trapshooting takes center stage Monday nights, when the club fires up its international target thrower, which propels the clay targets at 90 mph -- nearly twice as fast as American trap targets, the club says on its website. Shooting starts at 6:30 p.m. Mondays throughout the summer and is open to both league and general members.

Starting this week, owners of curio and relic firearms will shoot at 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays in a league that continues through August.

According to club member Ron DePue, a vintage rifle enthusiast, guns should be more than 50 years old and have some sort of historic significance. The criteria, he said, is less restrictive than the John C. Garand matches that also feature vintage rifles.


"What we wanted to do was come up with something more broad scope so anyone with any kind of old vintage military rifle could drag it out and participate," DePue said. "We just want to get together as a sporting group and have some fun shooting." Info: http://cr/egfgunclub.org .

Thursday nights beginning this week will be set aside for young shooters taking part in weekly 4-H Shooting Sports black-powder classes. The black powder program is open to youths age 10 to 18, and enrollment in 4-H is not required. Cost is $30, which includes guns and all shooting materials. Contact Grand Forks County extension at (701) 780-8229 for more information.

Membership is required to use the club facilities for everything but the 4-H black powder classes. Annual membership is $50, plus a $5 initiation fee for new members. Info: egfgunclub.org.

Grand Forks Gun Club

Trap and skeet shooting is available from 5:30 p.m. until dark Tuesdays and Wednesdays at the Grand Forks Gun Club, located two miles west of Grand Forks on U.S. Highway 2.

According to Jon Secord, club president, shooting leagues for teams, doubles and singles started Wednesday night and continue for 12 weeks. A youth trap and skeet shooting league offered through the Grand Forks Park Board starts Tuesday night, he said.

"We had 30 (youths) last year, and we're hoping for more" this year, he said.

Secord said 12 teams are shooting this year's team league. Each team can have seven shooters maximum, and at least one must be a youth shooter. There's still time to join a league, he said.


"We actually have a lot of teams that need people so if there are people that want to shoot and they don't have a team to shoot on, we'll place them on a team," Secord said. Shooters don't have to shoot at a designated time or compete with their team.

Even with the various leagues underway, Secord says the course is available for open shooting for anyone who wants to sharpen their skills. The cost for a practice round (25 targets) is $6.50 for nonmembers and $5.50 for shooters who purchase the $25 annual membership.

Wednesday nights generally are best for shooters who aren't league members to visit the club, Secord said. Also, he said, NRA-certified coaches are available to help shooters who might be having trouble hitting the targets.

The club has a limited number of shotguns available for youth and female shooters, Secord said. Events on tap include a shoot June 6 to commemorate National Trapshooting Day.

"We welcome visitors to come out and give it a try," Secord said.

Info: ggfgc.com.

Dokken reports on outdoors. Reach him at (701) 780-1148; (800) 477-6572, ext. 148; or send e-mail to bdokken@gfherald.com .

Brad Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and has been the Grand Forks Herald's outdoors editor since 1998.

Besides his role as an outdoors writer, Dokken has an extensive background in northwest Minnesota and Canadian border issues and provides occasional coverage on those topics.

Reach him at bdokken@gfherald.com, by phone at (701) 780-1148 or on Twitter at @gfhoutdoor.
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