Hidden on the east bank of the San Joaquin river not a mile from my home is one of Fresno’s true gems showcasing the outdoors for nearly 100 years and most people do not even know it exists.
Formed in 1916 the Fresno County Sportman’s Club is one of the oldest member clubs in town as well as one of the first to openly seek to conserve the San Joaquin river and not let its wild beauty be taken over by progress. Decades past by, the city has grown, the river seems to be less wild than ever and yet given all the challenges of our modern world the Sportmans club is flourishing.
Now let me pause for a moment…..
I generally know a lot about whats going on in the Fresno outdoors community and tend to not be shocked by much. Yet, when I was cruising Facebook this week I saw a post by long time Fresno archer and businessman Tim Burnett owner of Impact Archery talking about the 10 target outdoor range at the Sportsman’s Club, it was a stop the presses moment in the Sasser home.
How could I, an archer since the age of 10 when I went to YMCA camp at Sequoia Lake and having hunted the backcountry of the Sierra Nevada for over 25 years not know there was an outdoor range within walking distance of my house?
This my friends was unacceptable! Had I taken the blue pill and not the red? I had to get the bottom of this rabbit hole…….The Matrix must be reloaded.
Promptly I contacted Tim and set out to unravel this personal mystery and a time was soon set to go get to the nitty-gritty of the subject once and for all.
As I drove onto the club property to meet Tim I found the parking lot full, Ironworkers having a BBQ, kids were down fishing in the 2 acre pond and several members could be seen just hanging out enjoying the cool Saturday morning together. It was a throwback to another time, another era when people gathered in the outdoors just for the reason to take it all in and enjoy each others company. I felt an ease in the air, it was as if I was living in another time. While I couldn’t find Opie and Andy it was great.
I met Tim and was given a quick tour of the clubhouse and grounds before he filled me in on how he had set out to bring an outdoor range into Fresno, first attempting to work with the city to place it in Woodward park. Bureaucracy and red tape halted that effort but in the Sportman’s Club Tim found the perfect mix of available land and a club looking to move into its 100 year anniversary with a new vision and to this outdoorsman they have hit the target right in the bullseye.
During my guided tour of the range it was easy to see the hard work and expertise used to build this maze of targets in the dense trees and brush completely hidden from the world around it. The brush so dense the deer still bed there mid day year round never to be seen unless you happen by at just the right time. Ground damp from being so close to the banks of the river it urges you to slow down and enjoy the walk. Ranging from 4 to 80 yards targets are linked together in the course and set to challenge even the best archers yet still fun for anyone from the 10-year-old beginner to the 79-year-old bow hunting sage I spoke with as I finished my morning coffee in the shade.
So how did I the Outdoors guy miss this as it was being built? I’ve decided that it doesn’t matter, I know now and I’m excited.
They have opened the range every Tuesday night and hold open to the public shoots which for non-members costs a super low $10 fee……..Thats right call it 10 bucks, clams or green backs…….its still just $10.
Some Tuesday soon you will find me shooting my BlackWidow recurve and enjoying the sweet sounds of the river as I attempt to hit the center ring while wondering in any of the Yocut Scouts had hunted this same section of river all those years ago.
In this writers opinion Tim and the Sportman’s Club have created an outdoorsmans Eden within 5 minutes of my home and it feels so secluded it could be the high country of the Sierra not Fresno.
The highest complement I can give is that in doing the research and time spent getting to see their efforts that I could see myself one day filling out the application for membership.
Cant think of much of a better way to say well done and I like where you are going than that, can you?
How perfect is this image?
It say its right on target to make the 100 year anniversary a year to remember.
If you are an archer and don’t want drive 30 minutes to one of the foothill ranges, you don’t have to any longer, we now have a local range right here in FresYes!