new range to open in montana


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rshackleford
February 19, 2009, 12:35 PM
an interesting story, that's all. from the billings gazette.

Shooting range to open in May
Complex to be largest of its kind in Yellowstone County

By BRETT FRENCH
Of The Gazette Staff
Yellowstone County has four shooting ranges, but there's plenty of need for a new complex being constructed south of Billings, local gun club officers agreed.

"Actually, it's a good idea because Billings is getting large enough that we need some more places for people to shoot safely," said Irv Wilke, president of the Billings Rod and Gun Club, the city's largest shooting facility, located near the airport.

By May, the Blue Creek Sport Shooting Complex and Preserve, now under construction on 300 acres along Bender Road, is planning to open an even larger facility.

Jim Bailey, president of the range and owner of Hardrives Construction and JB Industrials, said he had originally planned to subdivide the land, but given the current economy decided instead to build the shooting complex. In addition to a 300-yard rifle range, the facility will include trap and skeet shooting, a sporting clays course, a pistol range, a youth air-gun range and two 14-station 3-D archery ranges. Unlike any other facility in the area, the club will also include a live game bird preserve allowing hunting of pheasant as well as dog-training fields and ponds.
"It's a multiuse facility," Bailey said. "We're not catering to just one select group."

Access to the private club will cost $100 a year until May, with membership limited. A limited-time offer of lifetime membership for $750 is also available.

Blue Creek's annual fee will make it the most expensive club in the county. The Billings Rod and Gun Club charges $85 for an annual pass, but doesn't offer a game preserve or dog-training facilities. It also has a waiting list of about 500, so it can take three to four years to become a member, Wilke said. The club's membership is capped at 2,000.

"We're trying to find a way to send folks from our waiting list to go to Jim Bailey," Wilke said. "The Billings Rod and Gun Club is likely at capacity."

That's also the case at the Yellowstone Rifle Club, on Molt Road, where about 230 people are on a waiting list for the 500-member club.

"We quit putting people on the waiting list," said Roman Gillitzer, president of the club. "We've got a lot of people that need a good place to shoot."

The Laurel Rod and Gun Club, with its rifle range near Silesia, picks up a lot of the slack from Billings facilities.

"We get a lot of guys from Billings who come because they can't get on at the Rod and Gun Club or the Yellowstone Rifle Club," said Ernie Freund, secretary for the Laurel club. "We get a lot of members just around hunting season. That's where we pick up quite a few members."

He said he isn't sure whether the Blue Creek complex would hurt the Laurel club's membership.

Paul Even, president of the Billings Trap Club, was pretty sure his public facility wouldn't be affected. "They're competition more with the Rod and Gun Club," Even said. "I welcome the idea of them being there. But they should be open to the public like we are."

The Billings Trap Club is open to all comers with no waiting list and has more than 300 members, Even said.

Membership fees for the Blue Creek Sport Shooting Complex and Preserve will likely go up after it opens in May, Bailey said, to help pay for the new complex, which was planned by Billings architect Jim Foley. Foley's design takes advantage of the site, keeping the sun at shooters' backs and calculating shot zones at the trap, skeet and sporting clay course to ensure safety for surrounding neighbors.

"We're trying to create just a real nice place for everyone, a lot of youth and family activities," Bailey said.

Contact Brett French at french@billingsgazette.com or at 657-1387.

Published on Thursday, February 19, 2009.
Last modified on 2/19/2009 at 12:39 am

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