Mike flat-out missed the deer. He had been walking along the edge of a hayfield behind his grandmother's farmhouse when he jumped the buck from a briar patch, at which point the deer revealed his hiding place and bolted for safety. As they often do, the buck looked back before slipping over the ridge, giving Mike a window for a safe shot. He took it, but, unless the deer suddenly died from fright, Mike had no hope of filling his tag.
Only later-after another miss-did we learn that Mike's .30-06 was barely hitting paper at 100 yards. The gun must have been inadvertently bumped, or perhaps dropped, to knock it off line that badly. If Mike had practiced his shooting prior to the start of hunting season, he would have known that his rifle was incapable of hitting the broad side of a barn.
But Mike does not belong to a shooting club, and there's no convenient public range where he can practice.
In other words, Mike is in the same boat as a lot of hunters.
The NRA has long maintained there is a need for more informal public shooting ranges where hunters and target shooters can sight-in, practice, test equipment and work with new shooters-without having to join a club or pay a fee.
To turn this problem around, NRA is creating and strengthening partnerships with state game departments, federal agencies and local municipalities to get more public shooting ranges built on public land. Through the NRA Public Range Fund Grant Program, NRA offers matching funds for public shooting range construction and/or improvement projects, contributing hundreds of thousands of dollars to such projects since the program began in 2009.
For 2014, NRA has awarded 12 public range grants, including a $30,000 grant to the South Dakota Game Fish and Parks Department for its overhaul of the Oahe Downstream Range near Pierre. You can learn more about this range improvement project from our friends at the NRA Blog.
Here's the full rundown of 2014 NRA Public Range Fund grant recipients and the projects that money will benefit:
Nebraska Hunter Education/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission-Lincoln Shooting Park and Education Center
Nebraska Hunter Education/Nebraska Game and Parks Commission-Outdoor Heritage Shooting Park
North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission-Cleveland County Shooting Range
Eastern Divide Range District/USDA Forest Service-Blacksburg Shooting Range
Town of Chugwater-Southeast Wyoming Economic Development - Public Range
South Dakota Game Fish and Parks-Oahe Downstream Range
Idaho Department of Fish and Game-Farragut Shooting Range
Meriwether County Board of Commissioners-5 Stand/Sporting Clays/Trap and Skeet Range
North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission-Holly Shelter Shooting Range
South Carolina Department of Natural Resources-Twin Ponds Range
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources-Waushara County Public Shooting Range
Platte County Shooting Association (Platte County, WY)-Shelter/Building Over Existing Shooting Benches
Hopefully one of these projects will benefit your local community. If not, NRA will be looking to fund even more public shooting ranges in 2015.