Newton Shooting Sports leads construction of skeet range at Jasper County Gun Club

May 10—If student-athletes of the Newton Shooting Sports team wanted to shoot skeet, they had to travel 27 miles to Pella or 46 miles to Waukee, but thanks to volunteers and a generous donation from a local foundation they no longer have to make a long trek to hone their skills; they can do it at the local gun club.

Jasper County Gun Club has now been furnished with its very own skeet range, allowing participants to break clay targets flung from two static locations. The orange projectiles move at high speeds and at different angles along the skeet range to provide a more difficult challenge than typical trap shooting.

Ann Leonard, board treasurer of Newton Shooting Sports, led the grant effort for the skeet range. The idea to construct the range was introduced a few years ago by Ed Machin, Teresa Arrowood and her husband Brad and Brent DeKoning. But the money was not flowing in as well as the funds did for the new clubhouse.

Grant money from the Fred Maytag Family Foundation kicked off the construction of the new clubhouse, which began to see real progress four years ago and has since been a valued improvement to the Jasper County Gun Club. Following that facility's success Leonard sought a second round of assistance for the range.

Altogether the foundation provided a $73,000 grant for the skeet range. Machin said the facility meets all the national standards for skeet shooting. In addition to the fundraising efforts, the project would not have been possible without volunteers who offered their construction expertise at no extra cost.

"Everything that was put together at the skeet range is all thanks to community members and a handful of families from Newton Shooting Sports," Leonard said.

Arrowood added, "No hired help. That's the reason we were able to do as much as we did. Otherwise it would have stopped with the skeet range and that was it. But that range down there is multi-purpose. It's skeet, trap and five stand. So we can do three different disciplines down there. Oh! And wobble trap."

Volunteers and parents of Newton Shooting Sports have spearheaded the construction of a new skeet range at the Jasper County Gun Club, which they say will help hone the skills of the student-athletes who utilize it and provide more challenging disciplines for club members.

Machin said the site grading was finished two years ago. Since then the concrete has been poured and the two buildings on both ends of the range have been outfitted with the clay pigeon throwers. Teams take turns rotating along different areas of the range to shoot their moving targets.

While the range is not fully completed and is in need of a few more cosmetic additions, it is very much functional. Arrowood, who is secretary treasurer of the Jasper County Gun Club, said the range was built to meet the needs of student-athletes competing in shooting sports, which are not sanctioned by the district.

"I've had three of my kids through the program and they had to travel out of town to practice skeet," she said. "Normally our practices were at actual meets. We didn't get to practice. So the kids were at a disadvantage ... But now they have it right here. There is only one (skeet range) in Jasper County currently."

Four shooting teams — Newton, Baxter and PCM school districts and Spartan Shooting Sports — regularly use the firing ranges at the Jasper County Gun Club to practice. The new range obviously provides a huge benefit to those teams, but Arrowood said it is also a welcomed addition for club members.

"I know there is a gentleman here in town that donated to the skeet range who used to drive to Waukee every weekend to skeet there," she said. "He was excited to hear we were building this. So he's not going to drive to Waukee anymore! He'll be coming out here."

Jasper County Gun Club has been active since the 1930s and has remained in its current location along the 600 block of West 28th Street South in Newton since the 1950s. Improvements to the facilities over these past few years is ensuring the club will retain its position in the community.

It is also bolstering the identity of Newton Shooting Sports whose volunteers are avid about providing opportunities to help kids improve their game.

Already the skeet range is proving how effective it can be. Arrowood said a few kids have taken advantage of the wobble trap shooting made available through the new range. One of the shooters, she said, had been struggling until she tried out the new discipline. Now, her scores have jumped up.

"And so has her confidence after shooting that once or twice," Arrowood said. "We have college kids from William Penn coming up and using the facilities, too. Sometimes Simpson College comes over once in a while. A couple of the kids were here last week and excited to shoot the wobble and skeet and trap."

Arrowood estimates 100 area youth use the gun club facilities every week. Jeff Maki, an assistant coach for Newton Shooting Sports, said a most recent meet featured 65 squads — totaling 350 kids — at the Jasper County Gun Club. Newton Shooting Sports has 29 student-athletes in grades 6-12 on the team.

Todd Trease, an assistant coach for Newton Shooting Sports, said the sport is one of the few where students can start in school at a young age and "continue doing it for a lifetime." Arrowood said it is also one of the most accessible sports, noting even individuals with handicaps or limitations can still participate.

"I've seen kids at state with a prosthetic arm or legs. They can't go out and play football or soccer and stuff," Arrowood said. "But they are on a varsity team shooting a varsity sport and they're doing well."

It is a sport anyone can play so long as they have a firearm and a box of shells. Jasper County Gun Club and Newton Shooting Sports are taking it a step further and providing youth with a safe and multi-faceted facility so that any student-athlete, no matter the discipline, gets a fair shot at success.

Volunteers and parents of Newton Shooting Sports have spearheaded the construction of a new skeet range at the Jasper County Gun Club, which they say will help hone the skills of the student-athletes who utilize it and provide more challenging disciplines for club members.