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Support growing for new shooting range in game area

Tree clearing is already underway at the site of the proposed new shooting range in the Barry State Game Area off of M-179 east of Peets Road in Rutland Township. (Photo by Greg Chandler)

Greg Chandler

Staff Writer

Shooting enthusiasts could soon have a dedicated public shooting range in the Barry State Game Area.

Plans are in the works for development of the range on more than 12 acres of land in the game area on the south side of M-179, just east of Peets Road in Rutland Charter Township. Trees have already been cleared from the site in advance of the project.

An application is pending with the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund for $200,000 in funding to help make the project possible. The project has an estimated cost of about $800,000, said Randy Heinze, a wildlife biologist for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources regional office in Yankee Springs Township.

Currently, shooters are using a secluded 3-acre site in the game area off Yankee Springs Road, north of M-179. For decades, the Moose club in Hastings maintained the location.

“When the Moose managed it, it was a trap and skeet range,” Yankee Springs Township Supervisor Mark Englerth said. “They opened the gate and locked the gate and took care of it.”

Eventually, though, the Moose club ended up building its own shooting range between Hastings and Nashville, Englerth said.

Meanwhile, over the past two decades, two subdivisions have been constructed 300 yards north of the site, and a third one is under development, Heinze said.

“Being secluded as it is, it's hard to police. We get a lot of undesired activity,” Heinze said. “It's not big enough to house all the people who want to come there and shoot. We have overcrowding issues, which also leads to people shooting into directions they shouldn't be shooting.”

As a result, several homes in those subdivisions have been hit by stray bullets from the current range, Barry County Commissioner Vivian Conner said during Tuesday's county board committee of the whole meeting, where commissioners moved onto their regular agenda a letter of support backing the new shooting range project.

“[The DNR] put up signage. Then the sign would be all shot up. There are problems with night shooting now with all the night-shooting goggles,” Conner said.

The new range should not have issues with stray bullets striking nearby homes.

“The closest house is a little over a mile to the corner of Yankee Springs Road and the corner of M-179 where there’s a house,” Conner said.

The new range must meet standards set by the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, including the development of berms to prevent deflected bullets and limit sound levels, Heinze said. 

“The new range is hopefully going to have multiple range sightings – you'll have a 10-[yard], a 25, 50, 100 and 200-yard sighting benches,” Heinze said. “Those sighting areas are going to come with some open stations for shooting, but also some concrete benches.”   

In addition to getting funding support through the Natural Resources Trust Fund, as well as from hunting organizations such as Ducks Unlimited, backers are hoping to tap into federal funds that have been collected under the Pittman-Robertson Act. That 82-year-old federal law provides funding for projects that restore and improve wildlife habitat, as well as for development and operation of public shooting ranges and hunter education programs.

Funds for Pittman-Robertson come from an 11 percent federal excise tax on sporting arms, ammunition and archery equipment, and a 10 percent tax on handguns. One-half of the excise tax on handguns and archery equipment is used for hunter education and target ranges. These funds are collected from manufacturers and are distributed each year to states and territorial areas by the U.S. Department of the Interior.

“We have to go back and solicit for those funds and say 'We sold X amount of hunting licenses, so we should get X proportion (of the available funding),'” Heinze said. “There's always that jockeying for funding like there is for any governmental agency.”

The Yankee Springs Township board last Thursday approved a letter of support for the new shooting range. The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund board is expected to consider the grant funding request for the new shooting range at its Dec. 11 meeting.      

Once the new range gets its funding in place and the area is cleared of trees, volunteer labor will be sought to construct the benches and berms, Englerth said.



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