Reed City Sportsman's Club a boon for recreational, competitive shooting

REED CITY — Bright orange discs fly through the air before exploding into pieces from a carefully aimed shell shot by skilled, experienced shooters.

The shooters are members of the Reed City Sportsman's Club, who gather each Wednesday and Sunday for a time of skeet and trap shooting along U.S. 10.

"It's a hobby for us," said club member John Ashcraft. "We like to shoot and we like to shoot together. Most of us grew up in hunting families."

The club, which formally began in the early 1900s, has about 150 members from across the area, but less than 50 regularly use the range. The cost is $40 per year, and working members of the club receive discounts on rang time. Besides skeet and trap shooting, the club grounds offer a heated clubhouse.

Club member Eric Fransen has been using firearms since he was about 10 years old and shooting in shotgun sports since he was 11.

"I enjoy the camaraderie and I enjoy the shooting," he said. "I like guns, I like watching the targets break. When I was younger, there were a lot of small game animals and I would hunt a lot of pheasants. That was initially that got shooting into my blood. When I was 10 years old, I got a pump Ithaca Shotgun and I lived just west of Grand Rapids. I could walk out my back door and shoot pheasants right there."

The club attracts people of all ages, skills and backgrounds. Mike Adrianse, a Vietnam veteran and avid shotgun collector, remembers his first experiences shooting at 3 years old, when his father would allow him to shoot.

"My dad was a big man and he carried me around on his shoulders and I carried the gun," he said. "When he caught a rabbit or a pheasant or something sitting, he'd go into his shirt pocket, get a shell out, set me down and let me plunk it. That's how it started."

His shooting skill progressed as he grew, and now, with 6,000 disks (known as birds) thrown this season, Andrianse's average is a 96 out of 100. He attends open shoots often, shooting trap.

Safety is first and the shooters abide by strict club rules, such as wearing eye and ear protection at all times, never pointing a firearm at an individual and always keeping the gun barrel open while walking on the grounds. Spectators are instructed to stand behind a picket fence separating the shooting ranges from the rest of the property.

The club also hosts a number of annual events which are open to the public, including a chicken shoot at 10 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 21, at the grounds. For registered shooters, a trap shoot will take place at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 20. Fees apply for both events and attendees must bring their own firearms.

Despite all of the negative outlooks regarding firearms and shooting, Reed City Sportsman's Club members say they offer a way for people to become educated about shooting and see the positives regarding guns and using them for sporting and hunting purposes.

"In my opinion, there shouldn't be anything negative about firearms," said Osceola County Sheriff Deputy Eric Lockhart, who joined the club late last year. "The firearm isn't the negative, but maybe the individual that's using it isn't familiar with it or is using it improperly."

Lockhart likes to shoot trap and skeet as often as possible with his wife, and believes the experience can teach the usefulness of firearms and the proper way to wield them.

"The hand-eye coordination that you learn here in trap shooting does carry over to pistol shooting and does enhance my job abilities as well," Lockhart said. "The club is a good bunch of guys, a lot of former military and a lot of good, down-to-Earth people who love shooting and believe in the right to carry firearms.

"I feel that if someone who has never shot a firearm before, but is interested in skeet or trap shooting, come on out. We have a bunch of good guys who might be willing to lend them a shotgun and some shells and have them take a couple of shots at some targets and see what they think, and at the same time, instill the proper etiquette and safety rules that apply here at the range."

The club welcomes people of all ages who wish to join the group or those who are interested in shooting on the ranges to expand their skills or for pure entertainment.

"We need some young blood and ladies, too," Fransen said. "We'd like to keep the sport going and we'd like to share in that fun."

For more information about the club, visit reedcitysportsmansclub.org.