The shooting range in Hay River has existed for approximately a half-century, but it has undergone some significant changes in the last few years and more may be on the way.
Many of the changes have taken place under the leadership of Dominic White, the president of the Hay River Shooting Club, and vice-president Alex Reeves, who were both elected to those positions about three years ago.
“The members that were here felt that it was appropriate to put us in those positions because we do most of the things here,” said Reeves.
One of the big changes is the number of members in the club.
Three years ago, there were about 40 members, said Reeves. “And the most we had is this year and last year with about 120 members.”
There have also been physical changes at the range, which is located just off Highway 2, about 12 km south of downtown, on land leased from the territorial government.
Change is immediately noticeable by turning onto the short access road, which has recently undergone improvements.
“The road was in very rough shape three years ago,” said White, noting that improvements were made a few weeks ago.
Gravel has been added to about three-quarters of the road and the rest will be done later.
At the range itself, there have been changes to the shooting shed – the building from which club members fire at targets on the 450-metre-long range, the longest in the NWT.
Part of the original red shooting shed was removed and an addition built three years ago.
“All we did was upgrade the building technically,” said White, noting that 24 feet was replaced on the 72-foot-long structure. “We replaced what we tore down.”
The old shooting shed was and is completely open air, but the addition is insulated, wired for a generator and has a wood stove.
Both the older and newer sections of the structure have shooting booths on the firing line, but the openings can be closed off to the elements in the addition.
White said that helps with heat retention, and keeps the shooters dry and away from bugs, noting the range is used all year round.
The addition also includes a viewing and warm-up room.
“It’s a nicer environment,” said White. “You can bring the whole family, and that does happen a fair bit.”
On the range itself, the berm at the far end has been raised from about 10 feet high to 20 feet high.
And last summer the berms along the side of the range were raised to 20 feet, and now stretch 100 metres from the shooting shed.
It was a vast improvement and makes the range safer, said White. “And that was a lot of thanks to Carter Industries. They donated the time and the equipment. Otherwise we wouldn’t have been able to afford it. We don’t charge very much – $65 a year for a membership, $20 of that goes to insurance.”
In fact, much of the work done at the range is with the support of private donations and the Hay River business community.
Even a grader has been donated for use by the club.
“The fact that we have a grader is a huge improvement for us because now we’re able to plow the road in the winter,” said White.
Right now, there is a trap-shooting shed on the other side of the right berm.
“In the past with the berms being so low, it was one or the other,” said White. “If somebody wanted to shoot clay pigeons with a shotgun, then nobody could be shooting here. Now you can have simultaneous operations.”
The club is also in the process of building shorter ranges for pistols and archery to the right of the main range.
Reeves said those new ranges should be completed in a little over a year.
White thinks that continuing improvements to the shooting range will attract more members to the Hay River Shooting Club.
“Absolutely,” he said. “It’s the old adage. If you build it, they will come. If you have a decent facility for people to use, I think that more people will use it.”
Plus, White noted, additional ranges will mean more income for the club.
“For us, what’s important is we need rental income to keep the club alive, as simple as that,” he said. “If we rent the facility out, then we have to shut it down to the membership because it’s one range.”
The range is sometimes rented to organizations like the RCMP and the Department Environment and Natural Resources for training.
White said that, if there are multiple ranges, one range could be rented out and the membership could continue to use another one.