Right on target
Local skeet, trap and sporting clays Club attracts members from near and far
Gordon McKean knows his way around the New Pioneer Gun Club in Waukee. And he should — McKean first stepped foot in the club at age 13 as a trap boy. Years later, McKean serves as manager of the club that not only attracts clay target enthusiasts from miles away, but also teaches its youth, the sport’s future, about hard work, responsibility and discipline.
“The sport is really an addicting hobby, and it’s not as expensive as some others,” McKean said. “We’re constantly busy even though there is no official season for it. Our members have been great, and we’re always looking for more.”
The New Pioneer Gun Club opened in 1961 and currently has approximately 340 members, a majority of them from central Iowa. The club also has members from South Dakota, Minnesota and Nebraska. Open 12 months of the year, McKean says the club regularly hosts about four competitions a month and sees a participating age range from 5th grade through age 80.
“People can come out and shoot anytime they want,” he said. “Currently, we’re in the busiest time of year since the weather is so nice.”
The New Pioneer Gun Club also supports the Scholastic Clay Target Program (SCTP), which provides the opportunity for boys and girls in the elementary grades through high school to participate in trap, skeet and sporting clays competitions. Entering its sixth year, the club has approximately 35 youth locally. The program has about 1,000 youth statewide and more than 10,000 nationally. Recently the Des Moines Area Clay Crushers competed among 1,500 youth at the SCTP Nationals at the World Recreation and Shooting Complex in Sparta, Ill. The varsity squad placed first in both high overall and skeet, while the advanced intermediate squad placed second in skeet.
“The Scholastic Program was created about 10 years ago to bring kids into shooting,” said Guy Thomas, board member and head coach of the program. “It’s an opportunity for youth to learn life skills —to teach them about teamwork, work and study habits overcoming adversity. It’s a sport they can enjoy for life.”
While many may believe the New Pioneer Gun Club only attracts males, board members say female participation has increased steadily over the years.
“We have approximately 30 female members,” said board member Doug Brower. “Plans are in the works for a women’s league to begin this summer.”
“It’s great that so many women are getting involved in the sport,” he said. “It really does a lot for this hobby — it’s not just one for men.”
As the sport continues to grow, McKean says that the club’s No. 1 priority is still safety. Club officials take 10 to 15 minutes to explain safety at each event.
“There are plenty of rules out here,” McKean said. “We have 16 employees who are always stressing gun safety. This can be a dangerous hobby, but it can be done correctly. In more than 30 years of business, there has never been any major accidents, and that’s a good thing.”
Brower says the club has touched many lives and hopes it continues to be a popular venue for local residents.
“This place is one of the most positive atmospheres that I’ve been a part of,” he said. “I’ve been hunting since I was young, and as time has gone on, I’ve really come to appreciate the sport and this place.”
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Caption: The New Pioneer Gun Club is open five days a week.