© By Othmar Vohringer
When we moved to Merritt one of the first things I did was to join the Nicloa Valley Fish & Game Club. Previously, when we lived in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, I was a member of the Mission & District Rod and Gun Club. With the move to Merritt it seemed only appropriate to join the local hunting club.
On a Sunday two weeks ago I visited the Nicloa Valley Fish & Game Club grounds, set into a beautiful 160-acre forested landscape. The moment you arrive you feel like in a hunting camp. The club features a wide variety of shooting ranges for big bore rifles, rifles, pistols, trap shooting, black powder, small caliber firearms and archery. In addition there are two trails, one for traditional black powder and the other for traditional archery, with targets set at different ranges. All the stationary ranges and the trails are wheelchair accessible.
Jim George, the clubs black powder officer, invited me to a Sunday morning black powder shoot and although I haven’t shot a traditional smoke pole in many years I thought it would give me a good opportunity to learn a bit more about the club and the activates provided to the members. On my arrival at the range Bill was busy unloading a small arsenal of black powder rifles from his car. In short order he lined up several traditional cap lock and flintlock rifles explaining each and every single one to me with little background history. Most of the muzzleloaders shown to me are handmade or refurbished by Bill. Bill is much more than a black powder aficionado, for him muzzleloaders are part of his life and after a bit of friendly prodding I agreed to shoot a .50 caliber flintlock.
I had so much fun shooting this rifle that I finished the complete course. The very first shot - the lucky shot - hit the target smack in the middle and from their on it went downhill. Despite my lack of hitting targets, after that initial first shot, I had great fun. It also set a little spark in me on fire for black powder shooting. Many years ago when I came to America I started hunting with black powder rifles and bows. My first smoke pole was a Thomson Center Renegade .50 caliber, using round lead balls and conical bullets in front of 120 grains Goex FFg black powder. Shortly after I purchased a Knight Wolverine .50 caliber in-line-muzzleloader shooting modern saboted bullets pushed by 150 grains of Pyrotex RS pellets.
Sadly when I moved to Canada I had to sell all my firearms, including the black powder rifles. It was just too much hassle and red tape to get through to import them all over the border into Canada. While I can’t see myself taking part in black powder tournaments, or any tournament for that matter, I sure would like to own - and will in the near future – one or two muzzleloaders. As a hunter I have always enjoyed to use a variety of different weapons from the bow to the high powered center fire rifle, and everything in between, in the pursuit of wild game. I enjoy the different challenges each weapon provides, and off course in America with all the different segments of hunting season it also meat that I could take part in all of them.
Back to the shooting range at the Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club.
Besides having fun shooting muzzleloaders the visit gave me a chance to meet and talk to some of the executives and learn more about the activities the club offers for the members. There are so many of them throughout the year that it is hard to list them all here. Besides the monthly meeting there are fishing, archery, muzzleloader and sporting clay tournaments to name a few. Other activities include the annual club award night, kids ice fishing derby, hunter education courses and the list goes on. The club also takes part in community activities such as “Adopt a Street”, lake and river cleanups and other environmental and humanitarian programs.
This brings me back to the title of this article “Join a Club”.
One of the complaints I heard is that the club has problems mobilizing volunteers for the various club and community events. This is not a single case, it’s a common concern I hear many times all across North America. No matter where you live the chances are there is a fish and game or hunting club in your community. These local organizations are important to our hunting heritage and in our effort to portray hunters and hunting in a positive light to the community. Join your local club and become an active participant, give a little of your time and become a volunteer. A club is a good way to get your family and friends involved in hunting and at the same time you actively do something to preserve our hunting heritage and promote a positive hunter image in your community.
(Photo: standing in front of the target ready to fire his percussion cap lock gun is the 1st. Vice president Jack Madryga and leaning against the tree watching with an expert eye is Jim George, the clubs black powder officer.)
Tags: Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club, Muzzleloader, Black Powder, Hunting Clubs, Hunting Heritage