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Wealthwood Rod & Gun Club

History of Wealthwood Rod & Gun Club

 The Wealthwood Rod & Gun Club of Aitkin (WRGC), Minnesota was organized in April of 1964, as a 501c4 nonprofit corporation. The basic activity of the club was winter deer feeding. There were only 10 members. The club concerns were raising ducks and fish population in Mille Lacs Lake in Minnesota during the late 60's.

Wealthwood Rod and Gun Club (WRGC) has been a community based organization since 1964, providing educational activities to improve, obtain, foster and the preservation of all wildlife through legitimate acts, which may be advisable and necessary to encourage and promote betterment of hunting, fishing recreation and sporting conditions in the Wealthwood area.

The WRGC is passionate about Conservation, Stewardship and the Educating of our youth and adults in those areas that affect the Club’s Rural environment and communities. In our Rural Areas, between 8 and 15 million children nationwide are unsupervised at the close of each school day. In the United States, school districts with the highest child poverty rates have $1,139 fewer state and local dollars to spend per student than the wealthiest districts. The WRGC sponsors programs that help make our schools more effective with more programs accessible to students of all backgrounds. These programs in Conservation, Environmental Protection, Shooting and Wildlife are sponsored on behalf of the High Schools due to the dwindling budgets of our Middle and Secondary educational institutions. And the drop in programs like 4-H have promoted Club Membership to fill-in and create programs that our youth will carry with them though their lifetime. Our youth and their adult parents learn the importance of:

•Maintaining the environmental, ecological and historical integrity of our lands and facilities.
•Promoting the safe use of firearms and the protection and preservation of our 2nd Amendment rights.
•Preserving and improving wildlife and freshwater habitats.
•Maintaining good public/community relations.
•Protection, maintenance and restoration of our historic buildings.
•Providing educational programs to further the achievement of our goals

The shooting community has always been proactive about Conservation, in order to maintain a sustainably supply of game. But those involved in shooting also care about the countryside, and are well placed and willing to carry out conservation work that also has wider environmental benefits.

The Mission of this club is unique, in that it combines specific goals of Conservation with that of Shooting and Environmental Protection. This is one the few Cubs in this country that approaches Education in that manner. One has to look to Great Britain to find similar Clubs and organizations.

The WRGC Educational Programs Include:

Conservation: Following the guidelines in the “Conservation Pledge”, activities include Hunting and Environmental, Conservation activities, tree planting, and fish and wildlife management.

(Conservation Pledge: “I Give My Pledge as an American, to Save and Faithfully Defend from Waste, the Natural Resources of My County, its Soil and Minerals, its Forests, Waters Air and Wildlife.”)

Training: membership safety instruction certification with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, in order to offer firearms safety classes to youth and adults.

Youth Activities: annually hold range days/shooting sports education for Ducks Unlimited. the MN Deer Hunters Association, the Rice Lake Whitetail Chapter; Pheasants Forever; Local Boy Scouts; Conservation activities and Education; Family Fun Nights;

Adult Activities: Shooting Sports, Education Family Fund Days as recognition to the great number of families that come to shoot.

Community Contributions: annual “Grad Blast” events held by local high schools. Donation to youth special needs as in wheel chairs, motor vehicles with lifts and related supplies.

Annual events include, Spring, Summer and Fall Fun Shoots that combine family and educational activities.

The Club donates to annual Grad Blast events, to promote safety and celebration of high school graduation through monetary paths and by sponsoring programs like “Scholastic Sporting Clay Shooting” events. The Club supports annual “Radiothon To End Child Abuse” programs when promoted in the surrounding counties.

From time to time, such activities may broaden to other areas as may be advisable and necessary for the promotion and betterment of conservation; and to perform such further legal acts that may be advisable and necessary to encourage and promote development of all conservation activities in the Wealthwood area and to encourage greater participation of our youth in all worthy projects designated for the advancement of their knowledge and betterment and to do everything necessary and proper to carry out the foregoing purposes.

WRGC - A History

In 1972, DO NOT LITTER cards were placed on fish houses on Lake Mille Lacs. About 250 cards were placed. The club just about folded for lack of members.

In 1977, the club adopted the pheasant release program. The first year, 150 birds were raised and released. This was a 3-year program.

In 1979, the club started growing and the members were looking into a rifle and trap range. The club decided to put together a Wild Game Cook Book. Sales were very good.

In February of 1981, the club purchased 5 acres from the township (which was the former dump site) to make into a rifle range. Lots of fill dirt was needed.

Blue Bird and wood duck houses were made by club members and put up in several locations.

Trap leagues were set up and shooting was done 2 nights every week.

The club decided to hold turkey and fun shoots as fundraisers for the club. Shooting was picking up so fast, it was decided to look into lighting at the range. More nights were added to the shooting schedule. No NRA references.

The club discussed doing a newsletter and started sending out periodic newsletters to the membership.

In an attempt to get a higher number of younger people involved in the club activities, it was decided to let the 4-H Shooting Sports group and the Boy Scouts and any other organized group of youngsters shoot free at the range. Since the beginning, the club dues were $3.00. They were raised to $5.00. Lights were added and a larger parking lot.

In 1984, a club house was discussed and decided to start a building fund In March, a newsletter was started. In April, several members took firearms Instructors classes so they could teach firearm safety classes through the MN Department of Natural Resources. Classes were (and are) offered to youth and adults.

In 1985, it was apparent the 5-acre plot that holds the range was not large enough. In 1986, 120 acres that lies next to the Wealthwood State Forest was purchased. It was privately owned and a perfect location. Money was being raised in various ways to get a clubhouse.

The building committee reported that about 25- 30 thousand would be needed to rough in the newly proposed building. During the winter, a group of members took snowmobiles into the proposed site, as the road was impassable to cars and trucks. T

The club also started buying reloading supplies for members.

The incoming road to the property was worked on. The MN National Guard was looking for projects and would bring in some equipment to help us out and use it in their training program.

The club goal was to have 200 paid up members for 1986. The spring shooting season had 11 teams. In July 1986, range layout experts walked over the site with several members and offered suggestions. The road to the site was finished and now electricity could be brought it. In 1986, 18 shooters received patches for perfect scores of 25 straight. In 1987, the club got approval to build a 24 x 56 pole building for storage on the property. New traps were installed so the new range would be ready for summer activity. A big bore Rifle range was laid out and sitting in was possible.

The Archery Committee dozed a trail out through the wood and ordered 24 targets. Wildlife ponds were also put in. There were 17 teams shooting and 3 youth teams.

In 1989, we reached our goal of 200 members. Projects for the year included state and US, skeet range, another wildlife pond and one-acre aspen cut for improvement of deer and grouse habitat.

In 1990, the club extended the big bore range to 300 yards. The kitchen and restrooms for the clubhouse were taking shape. In 1991, discussion on setting sporting clays began. Dues were now $12.00. The planning committee showed plans for the addition to the storage area, which would include a classroom & wild game display; The size to be 48x50. WRGC also got the first manager for the club. 28 teams shot trap.

In 1991, there was a women’s firearms class.

In 1992, we had 33 trap teams and 21 Skeet teams. The club added another 20 acres from a land auction.

The Youth Association was formed: Youth Clay busters. In 1993 - the club purchased a computer for keeping track of scores.

And a member purchased the sporting clays trailer which the club is leasing from him.

In 1994 - the Club was open every Sunday. Lifetime memberships were discussed and Automatic Trap machines were purchased. At this point Membership reached 300 and it where it has maintained.

We joined NSCA (National Sporting Clays Association) & MSC Minnesota Sporting Clays in 2003

In 2003, the club joined the National Sporting Clays Association (NSCA) and the Minnesota Sporting Clays (MSC) organization.

In 2004, the first annual “Take a Kid Fishing Event” was held.

In 2004, the first annual “Women in the Outdoors” event was held, which promotes women in shooting sports.

Women in the Outdoors Course Descriptions:

A.) Firearm Safety: Taught by a certified firearms safety instructor, this class is required for beginners with no gun safety prior to participating in a shooting class.

B.) Archery: Archery is an age old sport, growing in popularity with many as their choice of hunting and recreational activity. After a discussion of the safe use and selection of equipment, you will test your skills in target practice on the range.

C.) Trailer backing: Feel comfortable and confident in hauling and maneuvering your boat, snowmobile, and utility trailer after practicing techniques in this class.

D.) Shotgun: Participants wil11earn basic shotgun handling techniques and shooting fundamentals including stance, mounting, pointing and shooting. Proper gun fit and shotgun selection will also be covered. Includes hands-on trap and skeet shooting.

E.) Gardening for backyard wildlife: Discover how you can help wildlife by providing food, shelter and other necessities of life through management and landscaping of the natural areas around your home.

F.) Outdoor Survival: How long could you survive if you were lost in the woods? Participants will learn how to use a map and compass and tips for surviving the great outdoors.

G.) Sporting Clays: Participants who have shotgun experience can work on fine tuning their skills on the sporting clays course. This course will provide unanticipated clay target flights from all directions. Instructors will be on hand to provide insight and help in correcting shooting habits.

H.) Handgun and Rifle: Participants will learn basic rifle/handgun handling techniques and shooting fundamentals including shooting positions, sight alignment, site picture and trigger control. An opportunity will be given to shoot small caliber and center fire rifles, as well as a variety of handguns.

I.) Natural Remedies: Participants will explore the facility grounds in search of various plants to learn interesting facts and uses of Nature's green leafy wonders. Learn the edible and medicinal properties of a variety of plants from an expert instructor.

General:

The club has offered employment opportunities over the last 15 years.

No Alcoholic beverages are to be served in the clubhouse or on club property.

AREA SERVED: North Central Minnesota, including Aitkin County and surrounding five Counties, servicing a population exceeding 208,000, with a Per capita household income average of $22,864.00.

The organization has always been a community based/community support club, dating back to the mid-sixties by offering financial support to Youth events associated with the 4-H, Elementary and High Schools, and to Ducks Unlimited, High School “Grad Blast” events, FFA groups, Retired Senior Volunteers Programs, Aitkin County Health Department, Operation Christmas for Food, Women for Hunting, Fishing and Wildlife, Children’s Christmas Tree Fund, Kanebec County Conservation Club Youth Group, Shriners Club, National Child Safety Council, Youth Trap Leagues, the annual Prevent Child Abuse fundraising programs, and the Salvation Army.

Specialty Requests are honored like the Merilina Holmbeck Liver Transplant Fund in 1987 and in 1992 donated funds for a Wheelchair Lift for the areas “Friendship Bus” and donated funds to purchase a Van and Lift attachment for a child with Cerebral Palsy.

Community events are supported both financially and with member participation including “Riverboat Days” in Aitkin, MN and the Aitkin County Fair, the Aitkin County Rendezvous events, Boy Scout Troup Campouts and Shooting events.

Since the Club has always been open to the public, all of its events are sponsored on behalf of the communities located in the service area. These events include, County activities like annual fairs and specialized city events. Specialty activities include and “Women in the Outdoors”, Firearms Safety Programs for Youth and Adults, Snowmobile and ATV Safety classes, Hunter education, programs against the transportation of Watermillfoil,

Under new management since 2009, through today, the club has experienced an increase in membership, a higher retention of annual members, higher shooting participation and has enhanced its Educational activities in Deer Hunting and Herd Management, Conservation and Environmental Protection for Youth and Adults. The Club increased its programs on behalf of Pheasants Forever, local conservation clubs, Range Days for Youth and Firearms Safety educational classes.

Day-to-day activities include Operation of a safe Shooting Sports and Educational Facility to adults and youth, (100%), daily. Membership is encouraged but it’s not necessary to shoot or participate in events. The club and its facilities and events are open to the public.

Throughout the year, which includes, scheduled classes for firearms safety, fundraising events for local charities, providing a community meeting area, conservation classes through the MN Department of Natural Resources for education, by local Police and Sheriff Departments for firearms safety and practice, the boy scouts for over-night camp setting, with educational in firearms shooting and shooting sports and firearms safety, facilities bused by local conservation centers for firearm safety camps to experience to show youth there are safe and enjoyable use of firearms, including Pheasants Forever, Ducks Unlimited, MN Deer Hunters Association, Wild Turkey Federation.

2013:  The club applied for and was granted a 501(c)3 IRS classification to help in expanding the club's educational programs for youth, adults, and families.  Donations to the club are now are IRS tax deductible for the donors.

Women: Introduction of safe shooting techniques

Public Outreach: all community activities; promotional; to get involved with local high schools to get involved with shooting sports education and competition, promote teamwork. Also, the area served is Rural and due to the high schools inability to offer such activities because of budget concerns.

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