Celebration was in the air last Thursday when the Eagle Cap Shooters Association closed the deal on a piece of property for a shooting range off Ant Flat Road near Enterprise. The 1,760 by 400 yards property was sold by Randy and Barbara James, owners of Outlaw Motor Sports. It was partitioned off a 900-acre parcel the James' own.
Several board members met at the Wallowa Title Company to commemorate the signing. Bruce Penoske, president of Community Bank, also came out to mark the occasion. Community Bank recently made a donation of $2,500 to the shooters association, which was applied toward the down payment on the property.
Penoske noted that the purchase signified the end of a multi-year search for a safe place for residents of Wallowa County to sight in their weapons and practice shooting. Penoske, himself, recalled going to the county commission eight or nine years ago to ask that they set aside land for that purpose.
The search for a shooting range became a matter of real urgency when the county closed its gravel pit to shooters about two years ago. Without a legal place to practice, complaints were increasingly filed about people shooting guns on private land.
The Eagle Cap Shooters Association formed in September 2003 with the goal of securing and operating a shooting range in Wallowa County. The nonprofit organization is supported through donations and membership fees.
The Community Bank donation helped leverage two subsequent $1,000 donations from Portland areas businesses, Blount, Inc., and Leupold and Stevens. Blount, Inc., makes chainsaw chains and Leupold and Stevens makes rifle scopes. The owners of the companies often hunt in Wallowa County and learned about the shooters' efforts and the Community Bank donation through a Chieftain column by E.H. Van Blaricom.
The Shooters Association has identified a potential insurer for the range, which is the next puzzle piece needed before construction can begin.
According to its agreement with the Wallowa County Planning Commission, the Shooters Association will have a certified range safety officer on site when the range is in use, Hunter said. Forty-one people successfully completed NRA-certified range safety officer training last Saturday.
Four individuals from the Snake River Gun Club, located near Ontario, came to the county to provide the training. "We are indebted to those fine people for a quality class, and since they were in our community both Friday and Saturday we were able to utilize their expertise regarding range planning. Friday they toured our range property providing many useful suggestions regarding layout and construction," Hunter said.
To learn more about the Shooters Association, or to volunteer time, equipment or funds for range construction, contact president Duncan Hunter at 569-2008. The association holds a regular meeting on the second Tuesday of each month at 7:00 p.m. in the courtroom chambers.