Since opening in 1930, Kent County Conservation League has sheltered shooting fields and courses dispersed among more than 170 acres of wooded and open land. Sharpshooters of all experience levels can mill about a sporting clay course's 13 shooting stations as they shatter targets flung from abundant angles or nestle into a five-stand course's covered range before eliminating 25 clays. The League's rifle range distributes targets at intervals between 50 and 300 yards and their pistol range remains lit for nighttime sessions. As they draw back a tightly strung bow on the archery course, patrons can finally live out their childhood Robin Hood fantasies without donning green tights in an effort to frighten neighborhood kings.
Certified instructor Tim Wiley gives pupils the benefit of more than 15 years' skeet shooting experience during group or private lessons on five fields huddled behind Kent County Conservation League's clubhouse. Visitors can find additional instruction at defensive shooting sessions or a shooting program for youngsters that covers trap, sporting clays, and skeet. Delectable bites await famished gunslingers at Shooter's Grill, and a pro shop equips patrons with gun-toting apparel and silver bullets for clays that transform into werewolves. Kent County Conservation League hosts private and public events annually, and their grounds have welcomed major shooting outings such as the 2010 Michigan Sporting Clays Championship.
With its sprawling lanes of modern indoor range equipment, Barracks 616 beams as one of western Michigan's premier shooting facilities. Guests can shoot seven days a week under the supervision of range safety officer while enjoying the comforts of noise cancelling insulation and an air filtration system. The training at Barracks 616 is also grounded in experience—two lifetimes' worth, to be exact. Instructors Dan Boelens and Garret Clark have both been shooting for decades. Mr. Boelens served in the US Army and National Guard and worked 25 years in law enforcement. Mr. Clark, on the other hand, is an avid hunter who has trained extensively in firearms use and home defense, and he holds NRA certification both as an instructor and range officer. Together, the duo and their crew draw on their respective backgrounds during private instruction and group classes, including a basic-handgun session.
The Hex Shop's outdoor specialists equip customers with necessities and knowledge for reeling in river-dwelling trophies. During each four-hour fly-fishing class, instructors guide students along aquatic avenues while revealing techniques for reading water and analyzing environmental surroundings. Students also discover methods for rigging rods, tying leaders, and selecting flies to accommodate the finicky feeding habits of prized line tuggers. During fly-tying classes, students learn how to craft lures capable of outsmarting hungry hunters. A large collection of U.S. and European fly-fishing equipment includes Montana fly boxes ($25), Abel aluminum nippers ($50), and Patagonia Rio Gallegos Waders ($449), which double as dress pants for formal pool parties. With today's final option, professionals will stock fly-fishing fanatics' tackle boxes with all the rods, reels, supplies, and flies necessary for alluring fish or benevolently helping a fly learn to water-ski.
It's 7 p.m. on Thursday, and the lights have just turned off at Centershot Gun Range. A group of competitors can't see their targets, but they know that for a matter of seconds, each one will light up—first at 10 feet, then 20 feet, and so on, all the way up to 60 feet. This special Dark Shoot happens every week at Centershot, and it's one of the many ways the business establishes itself as more than a gun range. In addition, its staff hosts shooting leagues, and firearms instructors teach both private and group classes.
Brothers and co-owners Joel and Jared Fulton recognize that firearms and defense tactics can overwhelm people, so they guide clients step-by-step to help them feel comfortable with using and owning a firearm. Joel and Jared––both NRA-certified Chief Range Safety Officers––and their team of instructors supervise open shooting and NRA-sanctioned training courses. Back at the pro shop, they advise clients on personal firearms use by encouraging them to ask questions such as, "How well do you handle recoil?" and "How will you need to store it?" This patient approach reflects the brothers' belief that an armed society should also be an informed and polite society, and has earned them a steadfast following––every ladies' night, for example, draws between 50 and 90 participants.
In addition to sharing a first name, brothers-in-law Rick Crandall and Rick Lange share a passion for bow hunting. Together, the pair opened Country Woods Archery and designed its 23-acre range, where bow hunters and target archers mosey along trails and aim at 30 Rinehart targets, sending arrows into multidimensional simulacra of animals such as buffalo, turkeys, and pigs. Bow wielders can ascend to three elevated platforms, lurk in blinds, and hone their aim with unique challenges such as shooting across water or through a corn roll. The Ricks have paid attention to every detail along the course, spraying to ward off mosquitoes and graveling the trails so hunters can wear stilettos instead of boots.
Inside, the Country Woods Archery pro shop outfits hunters and archers with all the equipment they need to nab a deer or bear. The shop’s knowledgeable staff happily recommends targets, repairs and adjusts bows, or gives lessons in hitting the 10 ring or taking down flying saucers.