Bloch: Don't put the guns away for winter

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This fall hasn’t provided much of a hunting season. From all reports — and I get a lot of reports — no one is getting much in the way of freezer meat. It was beach weather for most of deer and elk season, and the pheasants and quail are, to use the word the Game Dept. uses, “spotty.” It’s a little too early to prophesize about the waterfowl season — it’s just getting into full swing. So far, though, it looks like the ducks and geese are ahead in the contest. The coyotes are still out there howling, though, and with a little snow it might yet be a good predator season.

Perhaps it’s time to think ahead to the end of this hunting season, and find something else to keep us busy before the spring thaw.

If you’re a skier, or a snowmobiler, or just like to throw snowballs, you probably have no problem keeping your hobby up to speed in the winter. Don’t get me wrong, these are all fine things to do. But if you are a hunter, once the season ends, do you just throw the old smoke pole in the closet and watch TV all winter?

Definitely not.

We’re very fortunate here in Walla Walla to have lots of shooting opportunities during the winter.

If you like shotgun sports, please know that Walla Walla Gun Club will shortly begin their Telegraphic Club Shoot. For those unfamiliar with this longtime tradition, this shoot started out as a contest between shooters at all the Inland Northwest trap shooting clubs, from Colville to Coeur d’Alene, and from Wenatchee to Walla Walla.

Every Sunday for eight weeks during the winter, each club would telegraph their club’s scores to the Spokesman-Review newspaper in Spokane, which would tabulate them and print the results on Mondays. At one time, this organization gave a very nice trophy to the winning club, and Walla Walla Gun Club was fortunate to have won several of them over the years.

Nowadays, that newspaper still tabulates results, but they print them online and have forgotten the trophy side of it. Nevertheless, many gun clubs still participate for the bragging rights, and some shooting organizations have picked up the slack and are now sponsoring their own winter time contests.

Walla Walla Gun Club belongs to the Camas Prairie Trapshooting Association, and thus we report our scores to that organization.

The contest begins at 9 a.m. on Dec. 15, and runs each Sunday for 12 weeks until March 16.

Shooters begin the day by shooting a round (25 shots) of 16-yard Standard American Trap. Afterward, shooters may go on to shoot American Trap Handicap and Doubles, and even European style Continental Trap and American Skeet.

The scores are tabulated here in Walla Walla and also reported to the Camas Prairie Association. For the shooters here in Walla Walla, the WW Gun Club gives away a lot of prizes, and categorizes shooters according to known or discovered ability, thus assuring that everyone gets an equal opportunity. This local contest is the one that spikes the most interest among the participants.

You may be wondering just how much of a contest these Sunday shoots really are. Believe me, they’re about 90 percent for fun, and very little pressure is ever placed on anyone, with the possible exception of a shoot-off at the end of the 12 weeks should one or more of the events end in a tie.

These are truly family-friendly activities, with kids of all ages, Mom, Dad, and sundry relatives all invited to participate.

The cost is nominal: $6 per round (25 shots), with all contestants furnishing their own shells and firearms. WW Gun Club does have rental guns available for those who might wish to just come out and give it a try.

While you don’t have to be a member of WW Gun Club to shoot during the Telegraphic or at any other time, you do need to pay the $50 individual or $75 family membership fee to be eligible for prizes.

Youth Shooting Team

On another subject, interest continues to come in regarding Walla Walla Gun Club’s Youth Shooting Team, so here is the latest.

There are currently 16 members ranging in age from 12-18, all of whom have been practicing at WW Gun Club’s range every Sunday since early last September. Their skill and enthusiasm are both remarkable.

photo

Bob Bloch

Walla Walla Gun Club’s Youth Shooting Team members (from left) Reed Bond, Adam Skaarup and Nelson Sams show off their turkey trophies won at the WWGC’s annual Turkey Shoot Nov. 23.

The team is laying off from now until Feb. 2, but the kids and their families are all encouraged to participate in the Telegraphic Club shoot, and all the other shooting activities available to them through WW Gun Club.

For instance, Adam Skaarup, Reed Bond, and Nelson Sams recently participated in the Gun Club’s annual Turkey Shoot, and walked away with Thanksgiving dinner already in the bag.

When the Youth Shooting Team reconvenes in February, they will be accepting applications for a limited number of younger shooters.

Preference will be given to middle and younger high school students because it takes several years to develop new shooters into real competitors, and the team is already long on older athletes.

Anyone interested in applying should go to WW Gun Club’s website and look for the Youth Team information and application.

You may be interested to know that youth teams like WW Gun Club’s chew up a lot of money during the year. For instance, the WWGC team has already gone through 3400 rounds of 12 gauge ammunition, and will use about three times that much when they begin shooting this spring.

Most of the startup money for this enterprise was donated by a couple of benefactors, but henceforth most of the funds will have to come from various fundraisers. Right now, the team is selling raffle tickets for a very nice rifle, donated by MidwayUSA Foundation.

It’s a Winchester Model 70 Super Grade in .270 Winchester caliber, made especially in honor of one of America’s legendary sportswriters, Jack O’Connor of Lewiston, Idaho. Many readers will remember Jack as the longtime hunting editor of Outdoor Life magazine. There were only 150 of these rifles ever made, so the $20-per-three-tickets price to support youth shooting seems like a real bargain.

The drawing will be Dec. 15, so if you have some interest in getting in on the big draw, just email info@wallawallagunclub.com and let them know of your interest.

One reminder: Don’t forget to clean your firearms thoroughly before putting them away for the season. Or better yet, don’t put them away at all, and instead, get out to the various ranges around our area and use the time off to improve your skill, meet new people, and just have some fun.

Be sure to take the kids, and maybe take a neighbor and make a new friend for the shooting sports.

See you at the range.

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