BARRHEAD - The Barrhead gun range's 3D Archery Trail has been an overwhelming success.
The Barrhead Fish and Game Association added the attraction to its gun range facility in the spring of 2021.
It features nearly 20 full-sized animals, such as deer, moose, bears, and cougars made from a durable rubber composite alongside a series of roughly half-kilometre walking trails.
"This was its first full year in operation, and it was very successful. We received many positive comments about it," said association president Joe Prociuk. "We have had hunters and target shooters come from all over to shoot at these animals."
He noted that they recently took down the feature for the season, adding it took three members to move the moose target into storage.
The gun range serves more than 600 members, many coming from outside the region, such as Athabasca, Westlock, Whitecourt, Fort Saskatchewan, Morinville and St. Albert, partly because of its proximity to Thunder Lake Provincial Park.
In addition to the 3D archery trail, the gun range also features a more conventional 100-yard archery target area, a big-bore rifle area with targets at 50, 100 and 200 yards.
"The 200-yard targets are steel reactive," Prociuk explained. "So when someone hits the target, the ball bounces around, which helps shooters sighting their rifles see what they are doing."
At the end of the rifle range is a large natural hill with artificial berms along the sides to stop stray bullets.
He also noted that the range has an area specifically for handguns, adding members of the RCMP, Alberta Sheriffs, community peace officers, and fish and wildlife officers often take advantage of the facility for training.
Prociuk noted that they also have a separate area devoted to small-calibre rifles featuring a safety bench.
"It is a place where people can go with their rifle, such as a .22, and shoot 50 yards," he said, adding that the bench is a perfect place for parents and grandparents to teach youngsters how to shoot.
Prociuk said they added the bench after they saw a member use the back of his pickup's tailgate to teach his son to shoot.
About two weeks later, Prociuk was at the range to replace the targets after someone had used them.
"There were four targets," he said. "All of them had names. The last one was 'daddy'. And it is beautiful to me to have an area where parents shoot with their kids and teach them about gun safety."
The final area of the gun range is the shotgun range, where people can either shoot at stationary targets or take advantage of the facility's clay pigeon or trap launchers.
Prociuk said there is a misconception among some people in the public that the gun range is used only for hunters.
"About 40 per cent of our members do not hunt," he said. "More and more women are starting to use the range. We have a lot of women who are interested in competing. We have two ladies who come out every week to trap shoot. They don't want to miss it."
Prociuk added that target shooting is also becoming a more famous family activity, including with handguns.
The Barrhead Fish and Game Association is an offshoot of the Alberta Fish and Game Association and is the oldest conservation club in the province, dating back to 1908.
Memberships from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31 are $75 for adults and $90 for families, which includes two adult guardians and their children. The membership gives them access to the gun range and covers their insurance.
Prociuk noted that annually, they donate about 40 per cent of the membership fees collected to their provincial organization to go towards conservation programs, with about 55 per cent put into improving the facility.
The remaining funds go to the Narrow Lake Youth Camp near Athabasca to teach youth the fundamentals of ethical hunting and fishing, proper use, storage and handling of firearms, and outdoor survival skills.