Montana’s newest sporting clays facility is up and running in less than a year. Jim Bailey, owner and general manager is in the construction business and had planned to use the land for an upscale home development, and had started to do that when the housing market went south. He then gave a lot of thought to how else to utilize the land for a profitable return since he already had done some work in developing roads, etc. After some discussion with some friends he decided to develop a sport shooting complex.
He then contacted Jim Foley of Billings, Montana who has extensive experience in designing shooting facilities. They came up with a plan and design in late 2008 and went to work. In December of 2008 the first load of dirt was bulldozed. The earth was being moved to develop the multiple long range rifle shooting bays and pistol shooting bays and berms, and they moved over 150,000 yards of dirt.
Each of the different rifle and pistol shooting disciplines has about a dozen shooting positions. They also have two different archery shooting courses and three dog training fields, each of them being different. They currently have two skeet fields overlain on two trap fields which will be expanded when the demand warrants it. The view from the trap and skeet fields is excellent for seeing the birds since it is mostly sky and a little of the low hills in the distance, way below the target trajectories. They really did a great job in the utilization of the land and the layout of the sporting clays course.
The complex is situated on 300 acres about 10 minutes southeast of Billings in some beautiful, rolling, grassy hills with several spring-fed ponds and an intermittent stream that runs through the bottom where the sporting clays course is laid out. The sporting clay course has 11 stations with two traps at each station with some stations having two or three shooting positions similar to FITASC. Each one of the stands having a different degree of difficulty. I’m glad to see someone do that as it really offers you a lot more fun and challenges on a course. You can make it as easy or difficult as you want. They have a lot of nice terrain for the course with trees, chokecherry and plum bushes for obstructions and to use for hiding the traps. I can attest that the wild plums are delicious. The course will be expanded over time to offer more shooting stations.
The membership for the club is $100.00 a year and allows you and your family complete usage of the entire facility. That membership fee will continue until December of 2010. They already have over 1,100 members as of the first of September 2009. That’s pretty impressive for a club that has only been open for a few months. Their shooting fees are economical when you consider that this is a for-profit business. A round of 100 sporting clays is only $25.00 and trap and skeet are $4.50 a round for members. You can also buy a punch card for trap and skeet and lower the price to about $3.75 a round, and they also have a sporting clays card where you can get your cost down to about 18 cents a target.
The Bowman trap machines the club uses were purchased from a sporting clays facility about an hour east of Billings that shut down last year and they have been working flawlessly since installed here. They are being used for the trap and skeet fields and the sporting clays course. The sporting clays course is fully automated by Clay Mate so you can go out and shoot by yourself with a programmed delay if you’d like to. The skeet and trap fields are also set up to allow a person to shoot by themselves.
Jim has already invested over $1.2 million in the facility and plans to continue expanding it as the need arises. Phase two will consist of two more trap/skeet fields, a five-stand operation and a clubhouse. If the clubhouse is done the same as the rest of the development, it’s going to be a knock-out. That should all be completed within 24 months. All the venues are handicapped accessible.
They have a rustic western ranch/farm theme to the shooting facility that they call the Montana Outdoor Experience. Everything looks like it belongs there. You won’t see a Port-A-Pottie there as they all have a skin that has the look of an old outhouse, but the inside is completely modern. All the buildings, sheds, shooting stands and shelters have the same rustic look, and it works quite well.
Aside from all the shooting venues, they have a resident population of Sage Hens, Sharpe Tail Grouse, Hungarian Partridge and Pheasant which makes for some fun hunting. They are a licensed Pheasant hunting preserve, and also have some dove and waterfowl hunting in season. My plan is to be back there when bird season opens up.
Both the Billings Rod and Gun Club and Blue Creek have been working together to develop new shooters in the area for the benefit of the shooting sports in general. Jim feels he wants the facility to be an asset to the community which will also benefit the club in the long term. He is also developing a non-profit foundation to be called, Deserving Area Youths. Young kids will be identified in the area that would not be able to normally take part in these types of activities that will enable them to come out and participate in the various shooting or archery sports for free.
Blue Creek offers the sporting clay shooter a unique experience in that you don’t have the feeling you’re on a sporting clays course. I’ve never been at a place like this before, and it’s really unique. It’s more like you’re out for a stroll in some beautiful countryside, having a picnic, or just enjoying it and you happen to have a shotgun and you’re doing some clay target shooting or a little bird hunting. And if you time it right, all the Wild Plums and Choke Cherries are on the house. And they are delicious, and so is the Plum jam his wife makes. If you’re ever up in the Billings, Montana area this is a place you’ll want to visit and enjoy. And like me, you’ll be drawn back.
There are many fine places to stay in Billings and there are many fine restaurants. One of my favorites is a micro-brewery and restaurant right in downtown Billings called the Montana Brewing Co. located at 113 N. Broadway. Great beer and great food is a hard combination to beat.
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