Remember that photo of your dad with his hunting or fishing buddies? As soon as you walked into my grandfather’s house, there was a photo of the old boy with his fishing buddy and about a hundred sea trout laid out on the ground in front of his boat. I asked him once who his friend was, and it was nobody I’d ever heard of or seen around. That’s how it was, back in the day. Everybody fished, everybody hunted and you could pretty much meet a guy at the barber shop and say, “Let’s go fishing” and off you went.
But in today’s world, we’re cautious of the casual acquaintance. If you hunt with a guy, he’s either been a close friend for years or is related to you in some way. The number of places available to hunt and fish is shrinking too. In a trespass-happy world with urban sprawl, a sportsman is finding less public land and longer drives to get to a remote place of nature. The combination of these factors is driving more and more outdoorsmen to join together in sporting clubs for camaraderie and for access to a place to practice their sports.
Most clubs try to keep expenses down by requiring members to do “work parties”. These may be maintenance functions like cutting the grass or making small repairs at the clubhouse, working the door at fund raisers, preparing the newsletter, or even large conservation projects to maintain and restore wildlife habitat. If you think you can just pay your dues and use the facilities, you’re not a member, you’re a customer and clubs don’t need your money as much as they need your participation.
Some sporting clubs have a very specific scope of interest; the Firelands Fly Fishers is an example of such a club. They meet every Wednesday at Gander Mountain in Sheffield Village to tie flies and build rods, relying on each other’s expertise and counsel. Monthly they meet at French Creek Metroparks Nature Center for their regular meeting which includes a guest speaker program.
If you’re looking for a good trap, skeet and sporting clays club right here in Lorain County, Sportmen’s Gun & Reel Club on Middle Ridge Road is an excellent choice. I’ve shot there several times and this has to be the friendliest club around, if nothing else. Their dues and fees are very reasonable, there’s a variety of shotgun ranges, they have a great youth program and it’s a short enough drive that you can make several evening shoots a week.
The Lorain County Ely Chapter of the Isaac Walton League is a family and youth oriented club with a limited number of members. With a long standing tradition centered on conservation, fishing and hunting activities, they are perhaps best known for their Turkey Shoots held every Sunday from September through April and Bluegrass Nights, the first and third Fridays of each month. “When I took over as president, we had kind of drifted into being a blue grass club. It took some time to get the focus of the club back on the outdoors, but Bluegrass is still a good fund raiser for us” says Rob Woods. You may recall the Outdoors Page featured a youth pheasant hunt at the Lorain County Isaac Walton League grounds on Foster Road several weeks ago, which was a real pleasure for us.
I know several guys whose interests are so varied that one club just won’t do, and so they belong to a couple of clubs, and that’s fine too. However, I find that I get the most “bang for my buck” (and time) from a certain club that seems to have something for all interests, The South Cuyahoga Sportsmen’s Association. With over 700 active members and two club grounds in North Royalton and Chatham Townships, SCSA is a leader in youth program sponsorship and conservation programs. Two stocked fishing ponds, both indoor and outdoor archery and pistol ranges, trap, skeet, sporting clays, a 200 yard rifle range, a 3-D archery range, and several leased or owned hunting properties stocked with 1100 pheasants a year make this club a sportsman’s paradise close to home. One of the largest activities of the club is field dog trials, which has been a part of the organization since it started in the 1930’s. The indoor pistol range is a favorite of all seasons, with open shoots allowing non-members on Wednesday mornings and Friday Evenings.
If you’re looking for a club, do some window shopping and find the one that fits you best. Just remember, it’s a two way street and every club is bigger than the sum of its individual members. Join a club and get outdoors!