SHOOTING SPORTS — A view of the Pondera Shooting Sports Club building west of town. Expansion for the facility is expected to begin soon. Photo courtesy of Scott Johnson
What started out in 2007-2008 as numerous separate groups needing a home for their activities, to becoming the PSSC (Pondera Shooting Sports Club) was an impressive achievement, but little did any of the initial leaders know back then that we would be expanding in 2013, thanks to the Mary Ellen Brownell Family and Pondera County Commissioners.
The PSSC has out grown its original plan and is adding on to accommodate the expanding needs of the community. What originally was a couple of acres has expanded into 4.5 acres and now will expand to 9.45 acres.
The groups in need of a facility in 2007 were Pondera County 4-H shooting sports program (air rifle, air pistol and archery), Pondera Valley Small Bore rifle league, Hunter Safety needed a facility to teach and shoot in (Rifle & Bow and Arrow), and the Conrad Trap Club was in very marginal shape and needed new equipment and facility also.
All these groups came together along with MSU extension agents to become an asset to Pondera County residents and a great example of what rural towns can do with tremendous community support. How did all this come about? Who would have ever guessed that the PSSC building gets used, to some degree three days of the week, year round? Where did the money, energy and enthusiasm come from?
Although 4-H was the first to contribute and continues to do so, they are certainly not the only group to donate.
Each of the shooting groups’ members volunteered energy, time and money to see the project to completion. In addition, the outpouring of support from individuals, local organizations, businesses, and grant funders has been tremendous.
The largest contribution came from the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks grant program.
Other funding came from smaller grants from Northwest Farm Credit Services, NorthWestern Energy, Sun River Electric and a series of grants from Friends of the National Rifle Association (NRA). These funders provided a solid foundation for the project, and the ability to complete it came from many other vital sources.
Professionals donated their expertise in construction, fundraising, appraisal, and even legal services to make the group an official non-profit entity. The local Lions Club and Pheasants Forever chapter contributed money to the project, as did numerous individuals.
Currently the facility has 13 lanes of indoor .22 rim fire small bore range, 4-H air rifle, pistol and archery, and two trap fields outside.
The expansion that is about to take place is multifaceted. First we are putting in two more trap fields, to accommodate a growing trap league (70 shooters last spring, 100+ anticipated this spring), and registered ATA trap shoot schedule, along with the doubling of our parking lot.
There have been meetings held out at the PSSC with between 275-350 people attending, parking space was greatly needed.
One of the newest projects that we are also doing is an outdoor, center fire pistol range on the west end of the facility. This will be surrounded by earthen embankments on three sides, to safely contain shooters and for sound abatement, shooting will be towards the west. It will have paper target boards, steel round up dueling trees, and metal pop up targets and gongs, for pistol plinking and possible future competition events.
This will help fill a void in Pondera County for people that have wanted to shoot center fire pistols (9mm, .40, .38-.357 and .44’s-.45) but do not have a place to do it. There will also be classes offered for woman and men on how to safely handle and become familiar with a hand gun. And this will be available to members.
A little longer term we are looking at installing 10 RV hookups, as we have people that come to competitive events with RV’s and it is a added bonus on getting larger participation. Along with the facility expansion the total 9.45 acres will be surrounded on all sides by a combination of Karaganda, chokecherry, spruce and Rocky Mountain juniper.
The trees are for visual enhancement, wildlife habitat and more sound abatement, the PSSC board wants to be a good neighbor to our neighbors near the club as they have been very supportive to us.
Where are we now? All the labor to develop this expansion will be done by PSSC members, along with people and contractors in the local community.
Currently the two new trap fields were made possible by businesses and individuals donating money per trap lane for a total of 10 sponsors. The Pat trap throwers and voice releases were submitted to the Friends of the NRA grant committee and approved by the state committee, we are waiting for National approval.
Estimated costs on the Pistol range for completion is $4,000 to $5,000, gravel for the parking lot estimated between 250 and 300 yards, we are still anticipating donations to accomplish this.
One might think after five years of work to construct the facility, develop policies to operate it, and continue to fund raise to maintain it, that PSSC members and the community who supports them might be ready to sit back and take a breath.
Instead, they continue to look at how to improve and expand the facility that has breathed new life into local shooting programs and provided a much-needed public use facility.
PSSC’s goal is to continue to develop a facility that will be an asset to the community that built it for generations to come. This is the kind of facility you may find next to a highly populated city in the Midwest or west coast, but we in Pondera County have it here in rural Montana, a great example of a super supportive Community.
The PSSC is a non-profit organization and charitable donations are welcome to assist with ongoing facility expansion.
Contributions can be sent to Pondera Shooting Sports Club, P.O. Box 691, Conrad, 59425.
PSSC is a 501 (c) (3) so donations are 100 percent tax deductable, anyone interested in donating can also contact a PSSC board member.
Anyone wanting to become part of the PSSC, the annual dues are $55 for an individual, $80 for a family, contact Sherry or Scott Johnson.
Editor’s note: This article was submitted by the PSSC board.