Range a haven for shooting sports enthusiasts

Alisha Wyman

For John Rickman, the Sierra Valley Shooting Range is where he practices for the upcoming hunting season. When he can, he grabs his 12-gauge semi-automatic Browning and joins other members from the Sierra Valley Sportsman’s Club Sunday mornings for trapshooting.

The range is a place for both club members and the general public to target shoot, compete, hold barbecues and enjoy the company.

“We really do well for Podunk, California,” Rickman said. “It’s a pretty good range.”

Tucked off highway 89 North, the range is easy to miss at first glance. But past the green forest service gate lies a spectacular view of Sierra Valley, not to mention three separate ranges, a picnic area and restrooms.

The shooting range sits on a 240-acre piece of the Tahoe National Forrest. Cyndy Hobbs, the recreation specialist at the Sierraville Ranger District, oversees its use and maintenance. Her job is part of a partnership agreement between the U.S. Forrest Service and the Sportsman’s Club.

Although shooting is legal on National Forrest Land, the range is a good place to hold events and target practice said Hobbs. Entry is free, and keys can be checked out at four locations in the Sierraville and Truckee area.

The trap shooting has proved to be the most popular, Rickman said. “Because it’s a competitive thing.”

During a competition, five members of a team shoot from different lanes. The first round determines the handicap, or where the team will shoot from along the lanes. Those teams who do well in the first round shoot from farther back, said Rickman.

Each member shoots five times from each station, then rotates to the right. A round consists of 25 shots.

The Sportsman’s Club holds annual competitions, such as the annual Intercounty Team Shoot, the Buckle Shoot or the Fun Shoot. Teams from Greenville, Quincy, Susanville, Sierraville and other towns come together to compete for the “perpetual” trophy. The winning team holds the trophy until the next year and has their name engraved on a plaque at its base.

Prizes for high man, high woman and high junior are silver belt buckles engraved with a shooter. Although Rickman has yet to win one, he doesn’t mind.

“That’s not what it’s about,” he said. “(It’s about) just going out and having a good time. I always enjoy it”

The rifle range will also be busy this time of year, with hunters hoping to improve their chances of taking home game after hunting season starts, Rickman said. It sits opposite from the trap shooting range, with five targets ranging from 50 to 500 yards.

The cement stalls in front of the pistol range are relatively new additions. Although they are not quite finished, they serve their purpose, Hobbs said.

“Stalls keep people shooting in the direction they’re supposed to shoot,” she said, as well as protecting others from flying shells. From there, shooters aim at paper targets they hang from stands.

Plans for the range began after the Sportsman’s Club proposed it to the Forest Service in the late 80s. It opened by the mid-90s with the three existing ranges. Since then, grants, the Forest Service and volunteers from the club have assisted in making new additions and improvements, Hobbs.

“The facility is what it is today because of (the Sportsman’s Club),” she said.

Along with their functions, the club holds basic safety and firearms training for residents of the area at the range.

With a grant from the National Riffle Association, the club plans to make improvements to the electronic trapshooting machine, which tosses the clay pigeons into the air, said Rickman.

They also hope to add a sporting clay range, he said. Like a trap shoot, the targets are clay pigeons, only they roll and bounce on the ground. The target can come from multiple directions and is meant to mimic game like rabbits or birds.

There is some confusion as to exactly when the Sierraville Sportsman’s club began. Bill Fowler, the president, believes it was in the late 1940s. Now, it boasts a membership of more than 100 people from Sierraville and its surrounding counties.

They welcome new members, Rickman said. “The more the merrier.”

He joined about 12 years ago after he discovered its existence and is currently the vice-president.

“They do good things-things that I want to be involved it,” Rickman said.

Along with upkeep of the range, the club participates in other outdoor sports and sponsors local youth activities like the Roy Bullard Free Fishing Day for kids at Graeagle Mill Pond. The event is named after a club member, who passed away last year and was active in starting it, Fowler said.

Other frequent users of the Sierra Valley Shooting Range are local law enforcement agencies, Hobbs said. The Sierra County Police, the Highway Patrol, the Forest Service, and the California Fish and Game have training and drills there.

The range opens in April and closes November 15 for deer migration, Hobbs said. Until then, Fowler plans to be there “every chance I get.”

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