Does Aurora Sportsmen’s Club Look Like A Golf Course To You?

Take a look at that picture above. It is an aerial photo of the Aurora Sportsmen’s Club in Waterman, Illinois. It has rifle and pistol bays ranging from 50 feet to 600 yards. It has two Skeet fields, three Trap fields, a 5-stand course, a 12-stand Sporting Clays course, and an archery range. On top of all of that, it has three stocked fishing ponds.

Now tell me who in their right mind would confuse this with a golf course and want to regulate it in the same manner.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D-IL) issued Executive Order 2020-10 on March 20th. It explicitly lists firearm and ammo dealers and suppliers as essential businesses. It also said “outdoor activity” was a permitted reason to leave home so long as social distancing was observed. This included both golf course and shooting ranges.

A week later, Gov. Pritzker issued a subsequent order that ordered golf courses closed and shooting ranges such as those of the Aurora Sportsmen’s Club which didn’t have an attached gun store closed as well. They closed upon the advice of legal counsel when golf courses closed.

As a letter this week to Gov. Pritzker from Eric Callis, President of ASC, makes clear, the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity does not consider them an “essential business” and have said they have to remain closed.

Like many businesses, our not-for-profit club is being impacted by the stay at home order and shutdown of non-essential entities. We have followed the guidelines as proposed and with the revisions of March 27, closed the Club except to law enforcement agencies that needed to complete training to maintain certification and proficiency.

During this time we have watched as marijuana dispensaries remain open. We now see that dog groomers are going to be allowed to open. Even golf courses are being allowed to resume limited operations. Yet each time we reach out to DCEO through our elected officials, we continue to be told we can not reopen under any conditions.

So while golf courses, dog groomers, and pot shops (cannabis dispensaries) are allowed to reopen, a huge outdoor facility spread out of hundreds of acres is ordered to remain closed. Of particular relevance to this issue was the 7th Circuit’s ruling in Ezell v. Chicago which noted in reference to shooting ranges, “The right to possess firearms for protection implies a corresponding right to acquire and maintain proficiency in their use; the core right wouldn’t mean much without the training and practice that make it effective.”

In the letter cited above, Callis asks Gov. Pritzker for a written explanation with specifics as to why they aren’t allowed to reopen.

Ranges, training, and practice for proficiency protected under Heller, McDonald, and Ezell are not afforded the same opportunities as golf courses, dog groomers, and marijuana dispensaries?

Non-constitutionally protected activities are given more deference and protection than those enumerated via the Bill of Rights under the Second Amendment and court rulings?

Are hundreds of people allowed at indoor stores, yet we are not allowed to open up a 300-acre outdoor facility?

Can’t we re-open if we follow the same type of guidelines as golf courses?

The club has also appealed to US Attorney General William Barr who has told US Attorneys to be on the lookout for overly strict state and local orders which tread upon constitutional rights.

We, therefore, ask you to determine if those orders barring the use of indoor or outdoor ranges for the “training and practice” of firearms to maintain proficiency as enumerated in Ezell violate fundamental constitutional rights and are an overreach as you described in your memo.

We find it odd that dog grooming businesses in confined spaces are allowed to open, conduct business, and see people while our 300-acre outdoor range is not.  We find it troubling that there appears to be a political double standard for outdoor recreational activities that are not protected by the Constitution with enumerated rights but may be more politically correct.  We also find it inexplicable that drugs still considered to be illegal for sale and possession under Federal law are allowed to be sold, used, and shops that sell marijuana are open for business while actual legal conduct and constitutionally protected activities are being denied.

We appreciate your help in this matter and look forward to hearing from either your office or your representative.

According to the DeKalb County Health Department, they have had 101 confirmed cases of COVID-19. The overwhelming majority of the over 50,000 cases of COVID-19 in Illinois are in Chicago and Cook County. What might be appropriate for the dense urban areas of Chicago and its suburbs is not the same for rural DeKalb County where the club is located. Indeed, the Illinois Department of Public Health maps show zero cases in the club’s location of Waterman, Illinois.

Keeping the Aurora Sportmen’s Club closed is not good public policy nor, in my opinion, constitutional. I hope someone in Springfield wakes up sooner than later.

A Trip To Cold Mountain

The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission runs a number of shooting ranges that are open to the public. The one closest to me is the Wayne E. Smith/Cold Mountain Shooting Range. It is in the shadow of Cold Mountain in the Pisgah National Forest. The range first opened in 2008.

When I first went to the Cold Mountain Shooting Range, it was an unmanned 100-yard range with a gravel parking lot. The only improvements were the berm, the covered shooting line, and concrete walkways to the 25, 50, and 100 yard lines. There was no range safety officer, no toilets, and no pistol only range.

This is what it looked like looking towards the shooting line.

Fast forward to yesterday. There are now dedicated rifle and pistol ranges. The rifle range has a series of steel strike baffles going out to 50 yards. Each of the five rifle stations is universally accessible and have sound suppression baffles.

More importantly, there is a range safety officer hired by the NCWRC there at all times. All first time users must go through a safety briefing. Everyone gets a shooting range pass which can be used at any of the ranges run by the commission. The RSO assigns shooting lanes, maintains control of the range, calls cease fire, etc. In other words, the often unsafe practices of the unmanned range are gone.

There is a range office and a pair of PortaJons.

There are now 10 Wildlife Resources Commission managed ranges, another one is under construction, and two more are proposed.

I think the Wildlife Resources Commission should be applauded for how they have continually upgraded this range as well as the other ones. It takes money and it appears they have spent it wisely. Given most of these ranges are free, that money has come from licenses and Pittman-Robertson monies.

NC Wildlife Resources Commission Seeks Comments On 5 Game Lands

The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission is seeking comments on the development of management plans for five of their game lands. Closest to me is the Cold Mountain Game Lands in Haywood County. Yes, it is the same Cold Mountain as in the book and movie. The four other game lands mentioned are way the hell and gone from me down in the eastern North Carolina.

Of particular interest about the Cold Mountain Game Lands is the Wayne Smith Shooting Range which is a free and open to the public range. It is also the closest range of its sort to the Asheville area. If you follow the links below, the draft management plan for Cold Mountain discusses the range in detail including potential plans for a 25-yard pistol range and a trap range. Among the concerns are noise mitigation and degradation of the facility from overuse. There is discussion of adding a fee for its use or limiting the amount of time one can stay and shoot at the range.

Wildlife Commission Invites Public to Comment on Five Game Land Plans
RALEIGH, NC —  After conducting a series of public meetings to gather input on developing management plans for game lands across the state, the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission has posted draft plans for five game lands on its website for additional public comment. 
The Commission is accepting comments through March 15 for the following game lands:
·         Bertie County, comprising 3,884 acres in Bertie County
·         Cape Fear River Wetlands, comprising 7,191 acres in New Hanover and Pender counties
·         Cold Mountain, comprising 3,631 acres in Haywood County
·         Neuse River, comprising 4,900 acres in Craven County
·         Van Swamp, comprising 5,505 acres in Beaufort and Washington counties
Comments can be e-mailed, with the game land name in the subject line and the individual tract within in the body of the email, to For more information on game lands, go to
About the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission
Since 1947, the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission has been dedicated to the conservation and sustainability of the state’s fish and wildlife resources through research, scientific management, wise use and public input. The Commission is the state regulatory agency responsible for the enforcement of fishing, hunting, trapping and boating laws and provides programs and opportunities for wildlife-related educational, recreational and sporting activities.
Get N.C. Wildlife Update — news including season dates, bag limits, legislative updates and more — delivered free to your Inbox from the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission.

Friday Afternoon Dreaming

Every now and then you come across something that makes you say, “If I only had the money” or “When I win the lottery”. I came across something like that today. I was getting a pop-up ad in Facebook for various pieces of property on

After looking at a couple of things in Tennessee, I put “Randolph County, NC” into the search function. It is in the central Piedmont of North Carolina and would put me closer to my granddaughter Olivia Grace. It is also the county in which I was born all those many years ago.

What I found was stunning to say the least. The “Ponderosa” has a 3 BR, 2 BA house on 131 acres and is located in Denton bordering on the Davidson County line.

Well, OK, that’s nice. But what if I said it also had a pistol/shotgun range, a 100 yard rifle range, and a 600 yard rifle range?

Pistol Range

600 Yard Range

Indoor Bench for 100 Yard Range

The property which is a mix of loblolly pine and hardwoods is home to deer, turkey, dove, waterfowl, small game, and predators. There are four deer stands on the property. As you can see in second photo from the top, there are a number of fire and/or shooting lanes cut in the property. In addition to the workshop building, there is a walk-in cooler for aging your deer. There are also a number of springs plus the 6 acre pond.

The bottom line for all of this is $749,000. This is less than $6,000 per acre. It is almost like you are getting the house, workshop, and game cooler as an add-on bonus if you buy the land.

The listing is handled by Ben Wolfe of Wolfe Specialty Real Estate and Consulting. I don’t know anything about this company nor the owner. The link to his website gives more details on the property.

Having my your own place to shoot with multiple ranges along with a place to hunt and fish whenever would be considered priceless to many including myself. That said, $749,000 is out of my price range if I ever want to retire.

But hey, a guy can dream on a Friday afternoon, can’t he?

Action Alert From NSSF

The National Shooting Sports Foundation released an action alert at the end of last week. The Bipartisan Sportsman’s Act which is part of an energy bill that needs to be passed will come up for discussion this week. Even if you don’t hunt or fish the bill includes an item that should appeal to all shooters:  a provision for shooting range development.

From NSSF:

Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act
Your Immediate Action is Needed

The most important legislation in a generation for America’s hunters and target shooters is at a crucial stage. Senators and members of the US House of Representatives have just days to complete negotiations on the Energy Policy Modernization Act conference report that includes the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act.

Call Your U.S. Representative and both US Senators and politely insist that Congress act on the Energy Conference report that contains the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act. Please CALL TODAY before Congress takes up the Continuing Resolution next week to fund the federal government past Dec. 9.

We do NOT want Congress to punt the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act into the next congress that begins in January. We have come too far to go back to “square one” and begin again.

Please call today to help protect and preserve our cherished outdoor traditions.

House Switchboard: 202-224-3121

Look up your U.S. Representative:

SAF Files Amicus Brief In NC Gun Range Zoning Case

The NC Court of Appeals upheld Franklin County’s Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) in a split decision in 2014. Their ruling upheld a Superior Court ruling denying the plaintiffs the ability to build a shooting range.

Aaron Byrd and Eric Coombs had sought to build a shooting range on property they owned in the county. The county’s Planning Director has first told them they couldn’t do it because the UDO didn’t list it as an approved use. The Director later amended his decision to say that Byrd and Coombs could have a range if they applied for a special use permit under the Open Air Games classification. They applied to the Franklin County Board of Commissioners for this special use permit in December 2012 and were denied.

Shortly thereafter, Byrd and Coombs were issued notices that they were in violation of the zoning code and they must “cease and desist” all activities related to the shooting range. They appealed the Code Officer’s notices to the county’s Board of Adjustment. (As an aside, I served on the Town of Wayneville’s Board of Adjustment for 19 years.) The Board of Adjustment is a quasi-judicial board whose rulings can be appealed to the Superior Court. They were turned down here and made a timely appeal to Superior Court. As noted in the first paragraph, the Superior Court upheld the ruling of the Board of Adjustment.

Byrd and Coombs contend that since the UDO made no mention of regulating shooting ranges, then they don’t need approval from the county to build their range. Moreover, they said that classifying a shooting range as an Open Air Game was in error. Finally, they argued that an earlier Court of Appeals case, Land v. Village of Wesley Chapel, has set the precedent in their favor.

The opinion of the Court of Appeals stated they agreed that the classification of the shooting range as an Open Air Game was erroneous. They they went on to say this:

However, we disagree with
Petitioners that the UDO does not regulate shooting ranges at
all, but it does in fact prohibit shooting ranges anywhere in
the County
by providing that “[u]ses not specifically listed in
the Table [] are prohibited.” Accordingly, we hold that the
superior court did not err in affirming the County’s order that
Petitioners cease and desist from operating a shooting range on
the Property

Judge Robert Hunter dissented from this opinion in part saying that he thought the Land case precedent on shooting ranges ruled in this case. It should be noted that Judge Hunter wrote the opinion in the Land case. He said the Land case “cited long-standing precedent in
rejecting the notion that a zoning ordinance may prohibit uses
not explicitly allowed.”

Byrd and Coombs have now appealed this decision to the NC Supreme Court. On Friday, the Second Amendment Foundation filed an amicus brief on behalf on the plaintiffs. The SAF’s amicus brief was submitted by Raleigh attorney Camden Webb of Williams Mullin.

The Second Amendment Foundation amicus brief notes that this case does not only involve a judicial interpretation of the county’s UDO but “implicates an important Constitutional question.” The Court of Appeals by saying that the UDO prohibits shooting ranges in Franklin County is allowing “the impermissable infringement of the Second Amendment rights of the people of Franklin County, North Carolina.”

After discussing Heller, McDonald, and the appropriate level of scrutiny, the brief goes on to discuss the 7th Circuit’s ruling in the Ezell case. There the court said the the City of Chicago’s banning of all shooting ranges within the city limits was unconstitutional saying, in part, “the core right wouldn’t mean much without the training and practice to make it effective.” The brief argues that the 7th Circuit’s reasoning should apply in this case. The brief further argues that the county did not establish a close fit between the banning of a range and the public good or interest that it serves. Given the county is primarily rural, they say the “complete prohibition of a shooting ranges in such a county simply cannot pass constitutional muster.”

I’m glad the Second Amendment Foundation filed an amicus brief in this case. The precedent set by the Ezell case must be strongly defended and this brief does that. Alan Gottlieb noted that the SAF had to sue Chicago over this same issue.

For WNC Shooters

The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission announced a temporary closing of Wayne E. Smith Shooting Range in Haywood County. The temporary closing is for annual maintenance. The range is in the shadows of Cold Mountain (yes, THAT Cold Mountain). As it is the closest (free) public range, I’ve shot there a number of times.

From the WRC:

WAYNESVILLE, N.C. — The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission will close the Wayne E. Smith Shooting Range on Cold Mountain Game Land in Haywood County April 13-17 for routine maintenance and repairs.

Commission staff closes the range for one week each spring to clean the grounds, shore the backstop, grade the shooting lanes, and then seed, fertilize and lime the lanes. Staff also will repair and grade the parking area and entrance road, as well as repair or replace shooting benches as needed. The range is scheduled to reopen on April 18.

The Wildlife Commission does not staff the Wayne E. Smith Shooting Range, but it is open to the public free of charge during daylight hours Monday through Saturday. No shooting is allowed on Sundays. Shooters are allowed to use pistols, rifles, shotguns and muzzleloaders on the range, which features five shooting lanes.

The range does not have an address, but it is located near Waynesville in Haywood County, about two miles past Lake Logan off of Hwy 215, when traveling from Hwy 276. GPS coordinates are: -82 56.385, 35 22.841.

For more information about public and private shooting ranges across North Carolina, see the Wildlife Commission’s online interactive map. For more information about the Wayne E. Smith Shooting Range on Cold Mountain Game Land, contact Land Management Biologist David Stewart at 828-648-0008.

The only correction I might make to this is that the range, in my opinion, is closer to Canton than Waynesville.

NC Wildlife Resources Commission Is Doing Good Things About Ranges

Having a place to shoot is one of the critical items facing the gun culture. With increasing urban and suburban development, it is getting harder and harder to find a place to shoot. Many states’ fish and game commissions are working to fill the void and the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission is no exception.

On the heels of rehabbing a closed shooting range in the Uwharrie National Forest and partnering with the NRA and county officials in Cleveland County on another, comes the announcement that they are seeking to open a new range in Burke County. This range will be in the Pisgah National Forest.

From their press release:

MARION, NC – The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission will hold an informational meeting on June 19 to discuss constructing a shooting range on the Linville Tract of the Pisgah Game Land in Burke County.

The meeting, which is scheduled from 6:30-8:30 p.m., will be held in Rm. 104 at McDowell Technical Community College, located at 54 College Drive in Marion.

The proposed range will be located near the intersection of N.C. 126 and Wolf Pit Road, north of Lake James, in Burke County. It will include a 25-yard pistol range and a 100-yard rifle range.

The proposed range is part of an initiative by the Wildlife Commission to develop and enhance public shooting facilities across the state. The Commission recently partnered with the U.S. Forest Service to renovate and improve the Flintlock Valley Shooting Range in Uwharrie National Forest in Montgomery County.

If my numbers are correct, this would make the third fourth outdoor shooting range managed by the Wildlife Resources Commission.

Comment Of The Day

The comment of the day comes from Paul Erhardt, Editor, of the Outdoor Digital Wires Network. In a discussion about shooting ranges and the need for new and expanded ranges, Paul has this to say in his Between the Berms column:

Ranges are not simply places to shoot. They are the entertainment interface for firearms. Buying a gun is cool. But if all you do is sit around you house looking at it, drooling and bragging online about the shiny new super-blaster you bought, then you are just collecting guns…and dust.

Taking that gun to the range, shooting with others, even entering competitions, is where we fully exercise our Second Amendment rights. And not only do we exercise them to their fullest, we strengthen our rights.

Ranges are where we turn a new gun owner into a gun enthusiast of the highest order. The role of the range is therefore critical.

 I never thought of a shooting range as “the entertainment interface for firearms” but that is exactly what they are. I remember the first range I ever went to with my best friend in high school. It was little more than a clearing in a power easement with a 100 yard range. I don’t remember if it even had any benches. But it was place to shoot and you could plink away to your heart’s content. It is where I learned shooting could be fun.

NC Wildlife Resouces Commission Backs More Public Ranges

Gordon Myers, Executive Director of the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, testified last week before the U.S. House of Representatives’ Natural Resources Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans, and Insular Affairs. They were holding hearings on HR 3065 – the Target Practice and Marksmanship Training Support Act. Mr. Myers was testifying in favor of the bill on behalf of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.

From the release put out by the NCWRC:

H.R. 3065, named “Target Practice and Marksmanship Training Support Act,” promotes construction and maintenance of public shooting ranges. The bill was introduced in the House by Reps. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.) and Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) as a companion bill to a similar piece of legislation introduced in the Senate.

HR 3065 provides incentives for states to develop much-needed shooting ranges on federal and nonfederal lands by increasing the amount each state could spend of its Pittman-Robertson grant funds on shooting ranges. Because these funds are allocated to states on a formula basis, changing the reimbursement rate would not result in increased federal spending.

Further, this bill does not require a state to use the money on ranges. Instead, it provides incentives. All of these incentives would enhance the ability of states to build and maintain shooting ranges. Based on Fiscal Year 2011 apportionments, North Carolina would be eligible to allocate an additional $700K of its apportioned funds to build or upgrade shooting ranges in our state.

“It seems fitting that this legislation is being considered as wildlife agencies, industries, and conservation groups have come together this year to mark a hallmark partnership that has led to 75 years of quality hunting, shooting, and wildlife-related recreation,” Myers said. “The Pittman-Robertson Act is the cornerstone and the life blood of one of the most significant and successful partnership approaches to fish and wildlife conservation in our nation’s history.

“More and more governmental lands are being closed, and fewer and fewer outdoor ranges are being built. The effects of this pattern are amplified by increased urbanization. It is simply harder and harder to find a place to shoot.”

Myers explained the need to address emerging patterns that hinder successful implementation of this conservation model. The shortage of shooting ranges is detrimental to the future of recreational shooting. It is jeopardizing the ability to practice the safe handling of firearms, and it is diminishing opportunities to participate in our nation’s longstanding user-pay, public-benefit conservation model.

“In North Carolina, one of the principle impediments to shooting range development is the initial capital cost attributed to land acquisition, facility design and construction,” Myers said. “H.R. 3065 includes a combination of key incentives that significantly reduce these barriers.

“Shooting sports are a part of our heritage. Further, recreational shooting is growing in numbers. To accommodate this growth, as well as to ensure that hunters continue have places to shoot and practice firearms safety, and that ranges are available to train law enforcement and members of our military, we need to provide and maintain the infrastructure necessary to support these activities.”

Currently the Wildlife Resources Commission has only one range. This is located at the Cold Mountain Game Land in Haywood County. This is the same Cold Mountain featured in the book and movie of the same name. Given that the range is a 15-20 minute drive from my house I am one of the lucky ones. It is a nice range and it is free. The only downside is that you can’t shoot on Sundays.