Range planned for young shooters


January 21, 2006, 01:15 AM
Needed; many more of these.

Range planned for young shooters
It could be open by summer and serve as site for safety classes

WHITE CITY ó Ron Sherva looks out across the football field-sized lot and sees land wrought with rocks, mud puddles and standing water from this winterís perpetual rains.

"The groundís so soft that anything you drop will sink right down," Sherva says.

But closing his eyes, Sherva envisions dozens of young guns happily taking their first shots at targets from shooting benches under a large canopy that shelters the kids as well as instructors and parents.

Sherva believes his vision should be reality this year with the opening of a new shooting range in White City designed and dedicated for shooters under 18 years old.

The range, along with an accompanying building for hunter-education classes and meetings, could open as early as this summer and become a permanent home for hunter-ed classes and youth groups that teach shooting skills.

"Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, 4-H. Itís for anyone who wants to teach kids and use this range," says Sherva, a hunter-education instructor and officer in the Rogue Valley Chapter of the Oregon Hunters Association.

"Iím really happy that everythingís coming together so we can open it and use it," Sherva says. "There could be 600 to 800 kids using this each year."

The range will be the sixth public shooting area on Jackson County lands off Highway 140 and operated by the Rogue Valley Shooting Sports Association.

But as the only one dedicated for youth, it will create greater opportunities to recruit young hunters by ensuring plenty of range room for hunter-education courses, says Diane Bauman, a Medford woman who organizes hunter-education through the United Hunters and Sportsmen Inc.

"I think thereís going to be a real demand for a dedicated range like that," Bauman says. "If weíre going to continue with our hunting heritage, we have to have a place for live fire.

"Weíre gung-ho on it," she says. "Iím glad to see it finally happen."

When completed, it will sport eight covered shooting benches with targets available up to 100 yards. Three shotgun-shooting spots also will be available with automatic clay-pigeon throwers, while walkways ó and one day some trees ó will round out the area.

The range has been in the works for about two years, with a combination of volunteer time, donated materials and about $10,000 in cash so far dedicated to the project, Sherva says.

Sherva also has applied for Pittman-Robertson Act funds and a National Rifle Association grant to help finish off the project, which will cost about $60,000 to $70,000 when done.

The Pittman-Robertson Act money will be used to build the classroom building, which will be at the nearby bow range because water and electrical services reach only that far onto the range property, Sherva says.

The range will be open to the public, but closed to walk-up use during organized classes, Sherva says.

The need for a youth-only range surfaced more than two years ago as a safer way to run the mandatory range requirements for hunter-education courses amid a sometimes busy public range, Sherva says.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 776-4470, or e-mail mfreeman@mailtribune.com.

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