One exception is The Beretta Shooting Grounds at Dover Furnace.
Situated in the wooded hills of Dover Plains, New York, the Beretta Shooting Grounds at Dover Furnace takes you through a wooded, state-of-the-art sporting-clays course populated by historic structures — the crowning achievement the towering ruins of the long-standing Sharparoon Blast Furnace that serves as the destination’s namesake.
Unlike Leigh Valley Sporting Clays in Coplay, Pennsylvania, where trap machines are integrated into the ruins of a defunct limestone quarry operation, the Beretta Shooting Grounds at Dover Furnace circumvent the buildings that track the history of the property from the colossal blast furnace circa late 1880s to the New York City Mission Society’s Sharparoon Camp from the early 1950s. Driving a golf cart through the property, especially passing the summer-camp buildings, rouses the warmhearted nostalgia of watching black-and-white movies from post World War II America.
Still, it’s the towering chimney of the Sharparoon Blast Furnace that’s the magnetic epicenter of the Beretta Shooting Grounds at Dover Furnace — making it impossible to ignore as you zoom from one sporting-clays station to the next.
The high, stone walls of the chimney harken back to an age of charcoal-fired behemoths hacked into timber country. Colliers, woodsmen and teamsters fed the dragon to smelt iron ore. One-hundred men worked around the clock at peak production of the Sharparoon Blast Furnace. The ancient blast furnaces reached temperatures of 2,500 degrees to make pig iron that was loaded on to rail cars and shipped to a forge. But by the early 1900s, the Bessemer Process for mass producing steel from pig iron, combined with higher grade ores discovered in the Midwest and an ever-expanding network of railroads, conspired to make the Sharparoon Blast Furnace and others like it in the area obsolete.
Nearly a half-century later, New York City Mission Society made use of the hilly, leafy property by establishing a summer camp for kids from the gritty neighborhoods of a metropolis thriving as a manufacturing and shipping hub of the East Coast.
By 2007, the New York City Mission Society gave up the ghost on the camp and in 2008 sold the land to entrepreneur Jim Muncey and his wife, Jeanne who created The Dover Furnace Shooting Grounds. The Munceys had also owned the nearby Ten Mile River Preserve — a 3,000-acre private club that offers upland, turkey and waterfowl hunting, dog training and kennels, sporting clays, a rifle and pistol range, deer hunts and fishing.
Eighty-six outbuildings from the original camp still stand at The Beretta Shooting Grounds at Dover Furnace. Plans are in place to convert a handful to additional lodging, explained General Manager, Jeff Maiorino. The project would be a natural for Mr. Muncey, since one of his businesses is a construction company.
It takes a deliberate effort to recognize the high level of meticulous craftsmanship that abounds on both properties. On the 22-station sporting clays course at the Beretta Shooting Grounds at Dover Furnace, each stand shows a painstaking attention to detail — even to the workmanship on the brackets that retain the solar panels for the self-operated, trap-machine system. Maybe I was being obsessive, but to me the finishing touches speak to higher aspirations as also evident by the cleanliness of the grounds where spent hulls are quickly removed — enhancing your appreciation of the woods, magnificent stone walls and bridges that span meandering creeks.
After the Muncey’s initial purchase in 2008, it would take four years until the Dover Furnace Shooting Grounds took another historic turn. April 2012 saw the 2,000-acre facility become the first sporting clays venue to join the Beretta Trident Program, endorsed with two Beretta Tridents for Clays. The Beretta Shooting Grounds at Dover Furnace was established.
The affiliation is more than a simple name change. The doors are now open to bring in Team Beretta instructors such as Anthony Matarese Jr., Dan Carlise, Will Fennel, Haley Dunn and others. Expect the new Beretta Discovery Shooting School to be unveiled there as well. The shotgun curriculum, designed by Dan Carlisle, intends to help competitive shooters hone their game under the tutelage of Team Beretta winner-circle regulars.
Since The Beretta Shooting Grounds at Dover Furnace is only 90 minutes north of Manhattan, the place becomes a convenient venue for clients of the Beretta Gallery on Madison Avenue to evaluate shotguns and fine-tune stock fittings on the sporting clays, trap, skeet, wobble and FITASC fields as well as approximately 200 walk-up bird hunts conducted during the season.
A Beretta Pro Shop capitalizes on the new relationship by providing another opportunity to test drive a Beretta shotgun through the rental program. On-site lodging and a restaurant let you make a long weekend of shooting in the Hudson Valley with side trips to local wineries, West Point, Hyde Park, Culinary Institute of America and antiquing in nearby villages like Rhinebeck, Millbrook and Hopewell Junction.
Our first visit to The Beretta Shooting Grounds at Dover Furnace occurred in the summer of 2012, when Beretta staged the American introduction of the DT11 clays shotgun. Afterwards, we revisited 15 sporting clays stations with a pair of 12-gauge DT11 Sporting shotguns available from the launch event. My shooting companion was Jonathan Sherrill, Principal of the Sporting Heritage Group, which developed and manages the Beretta Trident Program.
“At least one of the targets at each station can be hit by a novice,” noted Mr. Maiorino. Otherwise, the sporting clays course is configured to satisfy both the avid recreational shooter and those who regularly compete in registered tournaments, some of which are held at The Beretta Shooting Grounds at Dover Furnace.
The targets are routinely changed. With that in mind, here’s a rundown of presentations thrown during our visit for a quick taste of what to expect when you shoot The Beretta Shooting Grounds at Dover Furnace.
Station 1: 8 simo pair that we considered difficult. The gauntlet is thrown down.
Station 2: 6 report pair that consisted of two, easy quartering outgoers.
Station 3: 8 simo pair of a fast, quartering incomer and crosser. This presentation pressure-tested your timing.
Station 4: 6 report pair of a fast crosser and quartering incomer. Don’t lift your head on this one.
Station 5: 6 report pair that challenged your patience with long incomers. Wait, wait, wait, shoot. Easy to hit, easy to miss.
Station 6: 8 simo pair thrown from a hill. We shot it both ways as the teal first followed by the long, slow incomer and vice-versa. The jury was still out when we finished.
Station 7: 8 simo pair of a standard trap shot and long incoming chandelle. A mid-course confidence builder.
Station 8: 6 report pair of a chandelle and a low, fast incomer that flew straight at you. Good luck with that incomer.
Station 9: A single report pair of a long crosser and a close crosser. Moderate difficulty.
Station 10: Another single report pair of a crossing chandelle and low, diving crosser. Good mix of targets that demanded two entirely different approaches.
Station 11: A single report of a fast-dropping trap shot that was easy to shoot over and a medium-range crosser.
Station 12: 6 report pair of a “gimme” incomer and outgoer.
Station 13: A single simo pair of a fast, high climber and a high, slow incomer. Nice targets.
Station 14: 6 report pair of a high outgoer and a low, fast crosser. Don’t get cocky on the outgoer.
Station 15: 2 far crossers over a ravine. Missed the targets? Enjoy the view.
The scenic course provided several dramatic vistas of mountains and valleys. We would recommend packing a few cigars and relaxing on a bench at one of the stations to savor the panoramas and observe fellow shooters.
There’s a Metro-North train station in Dover Plains. Next time you’re in New York City on business, try to allocate a few extra hours for a quick round of clays. Cabs are generally available in Dover Plains for the short drive to The Beretta Shooting Grounds at Dover Furnace. Rent a Beretta shotgun, grab a pair of foam ear plugs and protective eyewear in the Pro Shop and hop in a golf cart. Even if your shooting is in the pits that day, The Beretta Shooting Grounds at Dover Furnace is a feel-good place.