Lakewood Ranch gun club opens doors to the public

jdeleon@bradenton.comJune 23, 2013 

LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Shooting enthusiasts of all levels came out to the newest addition to lifestyle in the Ranch, a clay shooting club.

The Ancient Oak Gun Club held its public grand opening Saturday at its range at 16800 State Road 64 E.

The outdoor range features 24 shooting stations with wireless launchers where shooters can hit clay targets with shotguns.

"Where can you go shoot something, watch it explode and have people cheer for you," member George Mazzarantani said.

Mazzarantani, a Miami native, grew up shooting, hunting and fishing. Five years ago he took up clay shooting as a sport, and recently began taking it more seriously. He is now rated as a AA shooter, the second highest rating.

The Sarasota resident says he has competed in 59 tournaments in the last year and has even competed in the U.S. Open Sporting Clays Championships, taking 10th place in his class.

"It's more fun than golf," Mazzarantani said. "It's golf with a shotgun."

As serious as he may be about the sport, the best thing Mazzarantani says, is that the whole family can join in on the fun. Daughter Marina and wife, Sandra, also came out Saturday.

Rex Jensen, president and CEO of Schroeder-Manatee Ranch, which owns the gun club, says the club was an idea he had about three years ago and didn't take much timebto turn into reality.

"It seemed to me it would fit with the Lakewood Ranch lifestyle," Jensen said. "We wanted to introduce nonshooters to the sport."

Of course, safety was also considered when picking the location Jensen said.

"Rifles and pistols carry far," Jensen said. "A shotgun, you really don't have a problem beyond 300 yards."

Space is not a problem he says. The two courses sit on 70 acres of land. Each course offers shooters a different experience.

The north course has 10 stands to shoot from and is designed more for the novice shooter. The south course has 14 stands and is a bit more challenging.

For those who are new to the sport, the pro shop offers plenty of sports clothing, shooting vests, bags, pouches, hats and shotgun accessories. Shotguns, 12- or 20-gauge, and carts are also available to rent. Memberships are available for reduced rates.

The club also has instructors on site, including two master shooters, and will be offering free clinics for women and children.

The club was welcomed by many, including member Gene Henshaw.

Henshaw was accompanied by a group of friends.

"I've been out here since before the beginning," Henshaw said. "This one is just going to get better when it grows."

Henshaw was very pleased with the way the traps were set on the courses. "It will humble you," Henshaw said.

Jessica De Leon, law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.

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