The Straight Shooter

The Straight Shooter

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Cameron Goodman

I’ll never forget when my neighbor lent me his .22 so I could practice shooting in my backyard. Every day it was all I wanted to do. Then my dad bought me a .243, and I couldn’t wait to take it home and practice for the upcoming season. After that, we bought a 20-gauge and a trap thrower, and I was once again addicted. I now realize there was more to my passion for target practice than getting ready for hunting season. Shooting required time, patience, and repetition. Luckily, the Gallatin Valley has several options, whether you’re practicing for hunting season, pursuing a passion for precision marksmanship, or you’re just interested in giving target practice a try.

You can set up a target in your own backyard (provided you live outside city limits and have a safe backdrop), join a shooting club, or head out into the backcountry for some solitude. Gallatin Sporting Clays and the Manhattan Wildlife Association offer great ways to get out before the snow hits.

Located just north of Logan, Gallatin Sporting Clays is open to everyone on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4 to 6:30 pm and Saturdays from 10 am to 3 pm. The club also offers after-hours shooting for trained members. Non-members do not have to be trained to shoot on the range, but a registered member responsible for their safety must accompany them. In 2005, the club began a youth shooting program. According to Dale Spartas, founder of the program, “Youth hunters are the future of our sport and conservation movement.” Cost per 100 clays is $14 for members and $35 for non-members. For more information, visit gallatinclays.org.

A few miles south of Gallatin Sporting Clays, the Manhattan Wildlife Association offers a wider range of shooting opportunities. A $40 membership is required as is an NRA membership. The rifle and handgun range is available to members anytime. Trap and skeet shooting is available on Wednesdays until 5 pm, and trap shooting is available all day on Sundays. For more information visit manhattanwildlifeassociation.com.

The Greenway Indoor Shooting Range at the Gallatin Fairgrounds has pistol and rifle ranges available during the winter and early spring. The winter shooting schedule, which has been 7-9 pm on weekdays and 2-5 pm on weekends, will be out sometime in September or October. The range opens in December and closes in April or May, depending on the weather. For more information, visit gallatin.mt.gov/Public_Documents/GallatinCoMT_Fairgrounds/Greenway.

If you would rather shoot by yourself or with a friend, personal trap throwers are another option and require less driving. With prices anywhere between $20 and $2,000, you choose how high-tech you want to get. Outdoor sporting goods stores carry several personal trap throwers, and Cabela’s has a wide selection available online.

It’s not too late to start fine-tuning your shot in time for hunting season. Before you head to the range or the backcountry, be sure you are familiar with all the local and state gun laws (visit the NRA website for a summary at nraila.org/GunLaws/StateLaws.aspx?ST=MT), and always be sure you can responsibly manage your weapons.

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