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Vehicles line up during a busy Sunday of shooting in Horace at The Shooting Park, which opened earlier this spring under new ownership. Tyler Shoberg / West Fargo Pioneer

BACK WITH A BANG

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Nearly 1 1/2 years after going bankrupt and closing its doors to the public, a Horace landmark and popular destination for gun lovers is back with a bang.

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Located two miles north and three miles west of Horace, at 4333 167th Avenue SE, The Shooting Park officially reopened for business earlier this spring. Boasting pistol bays, a rifle range, and several trap and skeet fields, the public gun club offers shooting enthusiasts a myriad of options within a stone's throw of the Fargo-Moorhead area.

But the big keys that new owners Mark and Karen Erdmann, of West Fargo, want to emphasize are tradition, safety and fun: in essence, The Shooting Park is going back to its roots.

"I feel like we've listened to people," manager Jesse Molstre said. "We're giving them what they want."

Reason to celebrate

In celebration of their grand reopening, The Shooting Park is hosting a spring open house and fun shoot from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. A complimentary lunch will be provided, and guests are encouraged to bring their firearms to experience all the range has to offer.

Other club standards returning to the lineup include league shooting, which kicks off May 6 and runs for 14 weeks, and the traditional Wednesday Steak Night.

The Shooting Park is open Tuesdays-Thursday and Saturday-Sunday from April until roughly late November, weather depending. Membership, which includes an 11-round punch card, is $100 for individuals, $125 for families, and $50 for youth. Pay-as-you-go fees are $8 for a round of trap or skeet, or $8 per visit for rifle and pistol ranges. The latter includes targets or pistol stands.

Hearing and eye protection, mandatory safety precautions for all shooting events, are available for purchase, as is shotgun ammunition. There also is an assortment of refreshments, including Pepsi products, snacks, burgers and pizza.

Beer and wine is served on the premises, but absolutely no alcohol is allowed past the sidewalk that surrounds the lodge. Molstre said The Shooting Park has the right to prohibit anyone from utilizing the shooting facilities if they have been drinking.

All this boils down to happy shooters and relieved gun lovers; something that might not have occurred had the Erdmanns not rescued the dilapidated facility.

Back from the brink

The Shooting Park had been an area staple since it opened in the late 1970s. But when new ownership took over in May 2007, some things changed - to the chagrin of regulars.

The facility's iconic namesake was switched to Adventure Shooting Sports, even though "everyone still called it The Shooting Park," Molstre said.

A year later, the high-end Home on the Range Restaurant also was added on.

Then in November 2010, Adventure Shooting Sports, which boasted 1,200 members at one point, abruptly filed for bankruptcy and locked its doors.

While rifle ranges still were available nearby (a free one operates in Casselton), it was a tough pill to swallow for shotgunners now forced to travel a minimum of 45 minutes to the next nearest gun club.

Enter the Erdmanns.

Months after Adventure Shooting Sports was locked up tight, the West Fargo couple purchased it and began the arduous process of remodeling.

The 4,200-square-foot lodge, which needed to be updated, was gutted, and a tractor was required to mow the waist-high grass that covered the property.

Approximately 1,500 truckloads of dirt also were hauled in to build up the berms surrounding the pistol bays and rifle range.

It was a lot of work that the owners hope pays off.

A labor of love

Guests to The Shooting Park now will have a full range of options to explore, including 13 trap fields, three skeet fields, three pistol bays and more than a dozen benches at the rifle range, which has target areas set at 25, 50, 100 and 200 yards.

For Molstre, who has frequented Horace gun club his entire life, the upgrades and changes are a labor of love.

"It's been a huge learning experience," he said. "I've spent a lot of time at this range, in particular, and have been to hundreds of ranges across the country. We've tried to incorporate the good things from those places here."

And because The Shooting Park is intrinsically linked with guns, safety is of utmost concern, Molstre said.

Because of that, the pistol bays originally located directly east of the rifle range have been moved to the south. Now, rifle shooters and pistol shooters can blast away unimpeded and without fear.

Also, the berm at the end of the rifle range was raised to 17 feet; a full four feet higher than required by code to account for soil settling.

While there currently are no range officers available for the rifle range - users instead are required to police themselves - Molstre said The Shooting Park hopes to have at least a half dozen trained individuals in the near future. At that time, a minimum of one range officer will be available during regular business hours.

Trap and skeet fields operate both manually and automatically, depending on what type of shooting is taking place. For example, during league shoots when a scoring judge is on hand, manual feeds likely will be utilized. Likewise, during open use, the shooter can opt for automated clays, which launch by voice command.

Even the skeet towers have a fresh coat of red paint, and new "The Shooting Park" signs soon will be erected around Horace to direct travelers to their destination.

Other changes include the removal of the archery range and sporting clays, the latter of which The Shooting Park hopes to have available at a later date, Molstre said.

For now, the trap, skeet, rifle and pistol ranges will get broken in before any more additions are created. Time will tell if The Shooting Park reemerges as one of the region's top shooting destinations.

"I think the need is there, but we'll have to see what happens," Molstre said. "We're excited."

For more information on The Shooting Park, visit their website at www.theshootingpark.com, e-mail them at theshootingpark@aol.com, or call 701-282-3805.

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