A few weeks ago I received my monthly magazine from the National Skeet Shooting Association. There was a terrific article in it, written by a California shooter by the name of Chris Baker, about the Kern County Gun Club. Boy, did that bring back memories.
I remember the first time I shot a round of skeet back in 1962 when the club was located alongside the Kern River just below Bakersfield College. I spent countless hours there shooting practice and registered events up until the 1980s when I semi-retired from the sport. The club was founded in 1953, and remained at that spot until the early 2000s.
An oil company owned the property, and they decided they wanted it back, so the club folded up at that time leaving the area without a range.
According to Baker:
"As part of the closing, the club was left with funds, but no new home.
The Buoni family had a piece of land that made sense, but that was still far from making things operational. Many people came together to make things happen, but a few names come up frequently, including Jack McGee, Brett McLaughlin, the Desatoff family, John and Barbara Perry family and brothers, and Cal Skeet.
Donations, hard work, more donations, more hard work, and a ton of ingenuity resulted in pads being poured, houses built, machines being acquired, trees planted, and infrastructure in place."
The location was on over 200 acres of ground on the north side of the Buena Vista Lake recreation area. The first registered skeet shoot was held in September of 2005. The Kenny Barnes Open picked up again in 2006, continuing since its start in the early 1980's.
The California State Championships were held that year also, and have been on every third year since then. The club has also hosted the NSSA Zone 7 Championships at various times. And, they play host to many small, family style shoots on a regular basis.
When you first visit the property, you can't help but notice the open and clear background that is highly favored by target shooters everywhere. Nothing but sky when shooting over nine trap fields, 11 skeet fields, and 20 sporting clays stations. It has become one of the premier shooting ranges across the country.
The club today is run by a seven-person board of directors as an association, just as it has been since 1953. The members are owners, so they are tireless in their efforts including time, money, equipment, or materials to keep things running smoothly.
The skeet committee today consists of Tracy Edwards, Dick Wurster, Joe Adams, Kathy and Brad Allen, and Hal Stewart, all doing good work since past chairman Cliff Bolt retired.
The gun club is open to the public year round. It is closed Monday and Tuesday, but is open Wednesday and Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Ammunition is available in the club house. Hearing and eye protection is required for all shooters.
The National Rifle Association is active with the club for many of its programs, including the Youth event held monthly throughout the year.
After talking to club members, it seems there is a new wave of activity for women shooters happening. Teenage girls and older women with families are taking a real interest in shooting sports these days. If this is something that interests you, please check into it.
Today could not have been a better time for this column because it is the first day of the annual Ken Barnes Open at the club. Gunners from across the nation will be here to try their best at 100 doubles targets this afternoon, 28 gauge and 12 gauge tomorrow, and the .410 bore and 20 gauge on Sunday. Each event is 100 targets with sudden death shoot-offs for gun and class championships.
I will be be available for my usual "meet and greet," so if you are free, please come out and inspect the grounds and watch some of the best shooters in the country.
Just go west from town to Enos Lane. Then south to Buena Vista Lake, where you will see the entrance to the club. See you there!!