Kids enjoying breakfast after clean up. Please join in this year September 27 at 10am. PHOTO COURTESY OF JEREMY HARDER

Respect the range

Annual volunteer event keeps local shooting range open

About 10 miles south of Big Sky on Hwy. 191 is a shooting range on the west side of the road. The property is courtesy of the Forest Service, but the sweat equity to make it nice and keep it open belongs entirely to a handful of dedicated locals.

Every year for the last six years, the Sons organize a “Toast and Targets” event, which was Sons of American Legion Post 99 squadron leader Jeremy Harder’s idea for a good fall community shindig. Shooting contests are set-up for children and adults – $2 bucks and two shots per target, winner takes all for each category. Sons volunteers like Tony Coppola and Home Kenny cookup an all you can eat breakfast for a suggested $10 per person donation.

It has historically been festive and fun, but the misuse is becoming increasingly troublesome to volunteers.

“The first year we didn’t even worry about cleaning up the range, now it is our top priority,” he said.

While breakfast cooks, they begin repairs and collect shell casings.

“Over the course of the last six years we have probably picked up 400-500 pounds of shell casings, with an average of 50-75 pounds each year.” he said. This is despite signs they put up urging people to respect the range and clean up after themselves.

The place, over the years, has become more and more abused, Harder said.

“We usually get there and everything has been shot to #!@*,” he said. Posts, boards and targets have to be replaced. They have even used railroad ties in the past, but those were shot-up, too. Getting a machine to come out and dig new holes for all the work is an undertaking.

According to Harder, River House co-owner Greg Lisk has heavily invested in the infrastructure of the shooting range and helps get the heavy equipment out to the range for the necessary repairs.

What many marksmen who frequent the range do not know is that this effort is the reason the shooting range still exists.

“We’ve had a couple of warnings like the Forest Service is going to shut it down,” Harder said.

They host the event every fall to try to time it right before rifle season so people will have solid infrastructure in which to get their guns sighted in for hunting season.

They also use the event to try to help out another local nonprofit.

“The last couple of years we’ve brought in Big Sky Bravery, a group that is run locally by David Cohen and they bring active duty special forces people and they fly them out here for river trips, hiking, backpacking, horseback riding,” he said.

Donations would be appreciated and can be sent to Sons of the American Legion Post 99, c/o Jeremy Harder, P.O. Box 160584, Big Sky, MT. 59716

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