By Starrla Cray
WATERTOWN, MN Aiming for a fun way to sharpen shooting (and social) skills?
Head to the Watertown Rod and Gun Club (WR&G Club), located southwest of Watertown.
The club has been offering a family-style atmosphere in a relaxing outdoor setting since the early 1960s.
“We have a lot of fun,” club manager Gary Kubasch said.
Much of the excitement takes place Wednesday evenings, with league shooting from 6 to 10 p.m.
“It’s a very social affair,” life member Tom Radde said.
This year, 23 teams (with five to eight people on a team) competed in the trap shooting league. Not everyone who attends is a shooter, however. Some come simply to cheer for their friends, and to enjoy grilled burgers, hot dogs, and polish sausages.
“For a lot of people, that’s their weekly social gathering,” Radde said.
A doubles league (shooting two targets at a time), a 20-gauge league, and a 16-and-under youth league take place certain Thursday nights, as well.
The club typically opens in April or May, and closes the beginning of October. The season kick off is a “meat shoot,” in which shooters compete for the best groups, in order to win packages of meat.
In early summer, the club has a second event, called a “hog shoot.” Winners from four different categories are chosen to take home half of a hog.
Another popular event is a banquet the first weekend in March at the Watertown Community Center.
“I actually have a waiting list of people wanting to get tickets,” Kubasch said, explaining that space is limited to 300 people.
The banquet is a family-oriented event, with many prizes for young people.
“We’ve got a lot of people who are very generous and donate guns for the youth,” Kubasch said. Last year, 15 guns were donated, along with bicycles and other prizes.
“We try to promote youth as much as we can,” Kubasch said.
Another form of youth involvement is firearms safety training classes, which the club has sponsored since the DNR started the program.
“Now, we’ve gone to twice a year,” said Radde, who has been an official instructor since 1984.
There are currently about eight volunteer instructors at the club.
“We probably have more than 150 years of combined shooting experience,” Radde said.
Anyone age 11 and older can sign up for the training, which provides basic information on how to use a gun properly.
“It concentrates mostly on safety and ethics,” Radde said. Some people, after taking the class, choose to learn more about improving accuracy and skill.
“There are literally hundreds of types of shooting sports,” he said.
Some people are opposed to teaching young people how to shoot, but Radde said it is not dangerous if done properly.
“We are teaching them how to shoot guns correctly and safely,” Radde said. “It’s not the gun; it’s the person.”
The number of firearms accidents is at an all-time low, despite increases in gun ownership, according to the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA).
Part of the reason for the dramatic decrease (down 94 percent since 1904) is due to safety training. The NRA-ILA reported that firearms are involved in 0.5 percent of accidental deaths nationally, compared to motor vehicles (37 percent), poisoning (22 percent), falls (17 percent), suffocation (5 percent), drowning (2.9 percent), fires (2.5 percent), medical mistakes (1.7 percent), environmental factors (1.3 percent), and pedal cycles (0.7 percent).
“All those accidents are above firearm accidents,” Radde said.
The WR&G Club offers 4-H shooting at reduced rates, and makes a conscious effort to teach young people how to use a gun safely.
Club membership is $20 per year. People don’t have to be a member in order to shoot, but members pay a dollar less for practice rounds ($7.25 for non-members and $6.25 for members). Ages 16 and under pay $3 for practice rounds.
Anyone who has paid membership dues for 15 years in a row becomes a life member, which means they no longer have to pay dues in order to get member benefits.
Radde is a life member whose father, Fred, was one of the club’s charter members. A few of the other early members included Fred Rumpza, Kenny Hunnerberg, Michael Brian, Mike Draysen, Sid Stephenson, and Carlton Walgren.
Carlton Walgren and his son, Charles, were both “fundamental shooters,” according to Radde.
“We still have a Walgren memorial shoot every year,” he said.
Before the WR&G Club purchased its 10-acre plot, trap shooters practiced on the north side of Watertown, just off Highway 25.
“They were just out in a farm field,” Radde said.
In 1963, the clubhouse was a World War II surplus Quonset hut. In 1990, the club built new clubhouse, with the help of many local community members.
“It’s a very, very nice clubhouse,” Radde said, adding that it is equipped with heating and air conditioning.
For more information about the WR&G Club, go to www.watertownrodandgunclub.com.
To learn more about firearms classes, contact Radde at (952) 446-1471. For general club information, contact Kubasch at (952) 807-2372.
The following are the Watertown Rod and Gun Club officers:
• President, Gail Schuette
• Vice chairman, Josh Mueller
• Secretary/scorekeeper, Brian Lake
• Treasurer, Travis Kubasch
• Cook, Jodi Crawford
• Trap maintenance volunteer, Gene Lake
The club also has a group of youth who also help with shooting activities: Justin Hecksel, Hunter Hood, Kurt Potter, and Magen Norman.