LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Plans to add a shooting club to Lakewood Ranch are being greeted enthusiastically by enthusiasts of the sport.
"I am very excited. There are a lot of shooters in Manatee County who have to travel to get to a clay club, so it's really going to be nice that we get one in our back yard," said Byron Teates, fire chief for the East Manatee Fire Rescue District, who shoots competitively.
Plans for Ancient Oak Gun Club, to be built on 70 acres of a largely undeveloped area of Lakewood Ranch, east of Lorraine Road near the proposed Uihlein Road south of State Road 64, are being reviewed by Manatee County officials.
"It's not skeet and not trap. Every station is different," Teates said.
Shooters use a shotgun to hit clay targets. The club plans 25 stations, each of which would present a different shooting challenge.
The gun club would tentatively open in the spring of 2013, said Rex Jensen, CEO and president of Schroeder-Manatee Ranch.
"It is 3 1/2 miles from anything," Jensen said. "It's a good, safe distance from anything
else on our property."
Shotguns are relatively short-range weapons. An isolated location was chosen to ensure safety. Competition will be limited to daylight hours to minimize noise.
Education on the safe use of firearms will be stressed at the gun club.
"There are just a lot of people around here who are shooting enthusiasts," Jensen said.
Among those is Lakewood Ranch resident Ted Cook, a former .410-gauge champion in Texas who went to the world championships twice.
Cook learned to shoot from his mother and recalls as a boy sitting on a porch swing with her at their country home near Beaumont.
The squirrels Cook shot out of pine trees in the yard would become family supper, either fried or in gumbo.
"I think it's fantastic," Cook, a hunter safety instructor and retired business man, said of plans to open the gun club.
SMR plans to open the range simply, with a trailer serving as an office and pro shop, but eventually an indoor shooting range might be added as well.
"It won't be palatial or elaborate," Jensen said.
Teates said there are about eight others he shoots with most every weekend.
He originally got into clay sports to keep his skills sharp between hunting seasons.
"Now I do a lot more sporting clays than hunting," Teates said.
What might shooters be using at a gun club?
"You can see anything from a $150 pump shotgun to a $250,000 over/under," Teates said.
"I think Rex and ranch manager Roger Hill will do a jam-up job on the gun club," he said.
James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee editor, can be contacted at 941-745-7021 or tweet @jajones1