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Volunteers Create Free Shooting Range
Folks near Franklin County, Iowa, have a place to target practice for free, thanks to a community of volunteers who transformed a former landfill site into a first-class shooting range.
  Just a couple of miles from Hansell, Iowa, the North Hansell Shooting Complex has shooting benches and pistol, rifle and shotgun ranges in a safe, fenced area that is supervised by volunteers. Locals started the project in January 2008 and welcomed shooters by September.
  "We built it, and they're coming," says Ray Baltes, a former shooting competitor who initiated the project. A native of the area, he was away for many years, moving back in 2000 to work as editor of the Hampton Chronicle newspaper. He remembered target shooting on his family's farm property as a youth. His son's town-dwelling friends didn't have the same opportunity to practice.
  "This last winter, I took it on as my mission," Baltes says. "I'm a big advocate of shooting sports and getting kids into hunting. We have lots of public hunting grounds and opportunities here, but no place to practice shooting."
  He talked to the Franklin County Conservation Board, who offered their support if he could find an appropriate location. Baltes scouted the county and found an old landfill closed by the Department of Natural Resources in 1996. Next to the 45-acre landfill mound was 23 acres in the valley that had never been used. The entire site was surrounded by an 8-ft. steel fence. The conservation board, the county engineer and county supervisors agreed it would be a suitable location. The county even offered to cover liability insurance, but it was up to Baltes and his growing group of volunteers to take care of everything else.
  Baltes's first job was to talk to the dozen neighbors in a 1 1/2-mile radius. They unanimously supported the idea. After a site plan was approved by the DNR, he used the power of the pen at his newspaper to explain the project. He was overwhelmed with the response - even non-shooters donated.
  "We have not had anyone say no to a donation request," Baltes says.
  A local drainage contractor spent a month moving dirt to build berms and target backstops - for free. A retired businessman offered the use of his tractor, loader, blade and snowblower. Businessmen donated a commercial lawnmower. Woodworkers built furniture-quality shooting benches. A rural electric company - that doesn't even serve that area - installed floodlights. Volunteer farmers and town dwellers raked and packed shooting lanes. Thanks to a widow's donation, the Larry Windelow Memorial Outhouse provides luxury outhouse accommodations.
  Even the targets were donated. Sukup Manufacturing, which manufactures grain bins and drying equipment, donated 3/4-in. steel scraps. Volunteers cut the steel into targets ranging from playing card size up to 2 by 2-ft. With steel rings welded on the back, they are held up by solid steel rods run through the holes of old grader blades pounded into the ground. With the targets at a slight angle to the ground, bullets deflect safely downward.
  The pistol range has targets at 15, 25, 50 and 95 yards. The rifle range has targets at 100, 200, 225, 250, 300 and 325 yards. There's also a shotgun range with a sporting clays launcher that can shoot four clays simultaneously. Rules are posted, and the range is only open specified hours with volunteers on hand.
  "It's a good thing for the county, bringing people in from outside the county," Baltes says. A 4-H club and local school plan to add shooting teams. Law enforcement tactical teams use it for practice. Shooting clubs plan to host competitions. Baltes hopes to bring in top-ranked national competitors for an event. Many women are interested in classes.
  Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Ray Baltes, 715 3rd Ave. S.E., Hampton, Iowa 50441 (ph 641 456-0115; us30cal @earthlink.net).

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2009 - Volume #33, Issue #1