Spokane Gun Club History

Bob Miller wrote the following description about how the club has evolved over the years and it appeared in the June edition of the Trap; Field magazine in 1992. This was in celebration of the clubs 100 years celebration.

It was 1892 when the Spokane Rod and Gun Club came into existence and the first charter was drawn up. That, however, was not when trapshooting began in Spokane. Among old records is an 1889 program advertising the 15th annual shooting tournament of the Northwest Sportsmen Association. This means that competitive shooting was going on in the area in 1885.

Trapshooting was born in England using live birds, and the first recorded event in the U.S appears to have been held in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1831. Trapshooting with clay targets, as we know it today, got started around 1870.

Spokane was one of the earliest settlements in the west to have held organized shoots. Many people 122 years ago worked every day except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New
Year so those three days were the dates of the big shooting competitions. Christmas, being more special, was the day when live birds were shot (costing the club $2.50 per dozen). For other meets, Peona Blackbirds and White Flyer clays targets were the fare (at a cost of $13.50 per 1,000). Inventory was taken every week, and before the big 1892 meet, exactly 5,322 targets were on hand.

If you belonged to the Spokane club in 1892, you wanted to make certain that your dues were kept up. Members paid 25 cent per month, and if one was in arrears by over $1.00, they were barred from the weekly shoots. (A member in charge of refreshments was made to answer to the board when no food appeared at the Thanksgiving shoot. He apparently had a good excuse, for they let him off with only a reprimand.)

As trapshooting became more popular, it became time to limit the membership. According to the early minutes, the board had a long discussion concerning whether to limit numbers to 60 or 70. Since there were so many, it was decided that there would be two classes. Those who shot better than 66% were the hot dogs who would be Class A.  Those under that average were Class B. Once you moved to Class A, that is where you remained.

Melville Moore, the first president, was also captain of the club. He did such a fine job of managing the chicken and turkey shoots that the board rewarded him with a note of thanks and a box of cigars. By the end of December, he had served so well that the board passed a resolution stating that Melville could shoot at all the birds he  wants to at any time free of cost to him as long as he acts as captain.  He was awarded a new shell case, which the board purchased with $5.00 from the treasury.

The club established its rules, but several changes had to be made in the first few years of operation. By 1893 unknown angles were being thrown. A shooter must hold his gun below the armpit until after he has called pull.

For doubles, he could hold the gun in any position he desired. Class C was established for members wishing to shoot known angles, and a rule was made that one could shoot 10 ga. guns from the 12 ga. mark. The price of targets was raised to 3 cents for weekday shoots, and shooters had to pay for their own helpers (pullers, Scorers, etc.)

The secretary of the club had to be at all of the shoots and would receive a salary of $1.00 for each day. At most shoots in the late 11800s medals were awarded as prizes. Weekly events consisted of 10 birds at known angles, 10 birds at unknown angles, and 10 pairs of doubles. Merchandise was used in some shoots as awards, where one might win a pound of butter, some canned raspberries, 25 loaves of bread valued at $2.00 or a hair brush.

On Thanksgiving Day in 1893, $25.00 was divided as prizes at the big 50 bird event. (It had cost the club $3.00 to send out 150 postcards.) Class A was lowered for this shoot to include all
shooters with 60% or better average. The shooter who won would pocket a cool six bucks.

The Rod and Gun club was very active in game management and apparently had quite a bit of influence in helping make the State’s game laws. According to old club minutes, the Spokane club paid dues to several sportsmen’s organizations. The Northwest Sports Organization and the State Sportsman’s Association both held trap shoots at the club.

The Spokane board of directors set aside $25.00 as a reward to be offered for the arrest and conviction of any persons violating game laws, and that amount would be $50.00 if it should be a member of the Spokane Rod and Gun Club. One of the main goals of the club in 1894 was to bring to justice those shooting grouse, ducks and prairie chickens out of season. In 1895 some improvements were needed on the grounds. The board authorized $4.50 ffor the purchase of manure to be spread on the ground to keep the birds from breaking when they landed.

In 1901 when membership was at its maximum to date, the rifle and shotgun shooters separated. Rifle shooters could, however, belong to both clubs if they wished. Articles of incorporation of 1911 changed the club name to the Spokane Gun Club. By 1916, the club was well known throughout the country as the place to shoot. The Manito Gun Club members asked to join with Spokane, and the club bid $600.00 to hold the Pacific Coast Handicap. The DuPont Powder Company put on its 2nd Annual Beginner’s Shoot in Spokane and the first Inland Empire Handicap was held as a three–day meet. The club added $300.00 to the Rose System for the Inland Empire tournament. When established,the shooting grounds were on the Moran Prairie, and later the club shot at Grover Stadium.  From time to time, events were held at various locations, including some big meets at the Spokane County Fairgrounds. Under a license secured from the War Department in 1921, the Spokane Trapshooting Association received ground at the Ft.Wright Military Base. Members built a clubhouse and had a formal opening on April 10 with a merchandise shoot. Those were the grounds for 28 years. In 1942 the clubhouse was rented out to the non–commissioned officers as Ft. Wright was the home of many army personnel, leaving Spokane members with no home grounds. During that time.Frank Stoop (manager of the Inland Empire Gun Club and later the first president of the Amateur Trapshooting Association (ATA) extended an invitation for Spokane members to shoot at his club.

After the war, Spokane members moved back to their own grounds, but in 1948 nearby home owners complained that it sounded like a battlefield.Board members began looking for new grounds, and in 1949 they purchased 100 acres of wheat farmland in the eastern part of the Spokane Valley. This has been the home of the Spokane Gun Clun since.It was hard for members to close down the Ft. Wright site. The last Inland Empire tournament on those grounds had the highest attendance of any shoot in the nation outside of the Grand American.  At that time, the club was called Best in the West and bragged that eight of its 12 traps operated by electric pullers.

A search through old board of director’s minutes reveals that in 1925,the Spokane club caused a stir with the ATA when it made an objection to the Ford Pot system. The argument was that lower class shooters had to contribute to a pay that only high class shooters have a chance to win. The Ford system is now used only in handicap.

A box of 25 shells in 1927 cost 90 cents, but in 1933 after the Depression, the price was down to 75 cents. After the depression attendance at shoots grew.  The club had a letterhead that boasted the most completely equipped grounds in the West; with five regular Renegade traps and skeet field.Attendance was also up at the banquets served at the annual meetings. On Dec. 28, 1933, Oliver Humes sang two solos and gave his imitations.  Guy Egberg told the boys of his thrilling experiences as a cornet player in the Ritzville Band, and Thelma Lloyd’s Dancing Girls gave some splendid numbers. After dinner, the mats were spread for a wrestling and boxing exhibition. Apparently the dancing girls had been a little too much, because at the next year’s annual meeting, the entertainment was somewhat different.  A couple of the top shooters Frank Stoop and Win Coultas, gave some classical numbers on their harmonicas, which was followed by a movie on quail hooting.  The clubhouse is the same one built when the club moved to its present location.  New carpeting was recently added (1992).

Over the years Spokane has undergone some changes in its membership.  Although women could participate in shoots, none were allowed to join until the late 1940’s.   Now the club has had its first woman president–Sheree Crilly.  A plaque on the clubhouse wall lists winners of the Inland Empire Handicap.

During the 1980 shoot, the feature handicap was halted in the middle of the day because it was too dark to see.   Mount St. Helens had erupted earlier, and the ash fallout forced officials to cancel the event.  Some shooters were stranded at the club for nearly a week until the ash could be swept off the highways and they could buy extra air filters to keep the engines on their cars and motors homes running. (Filters would become clogged after about 100 miles, following the initial eruption.)  The plaque in the clubhouse wall lists the winner of the 1980 Inland Empire Handicap as Mount St. Helens.  Spokane has survived several changes in locations, and as the city of Spokane Valley is expanding toward the club grounds, the acreage becomes more valuable every day. It would be interesting to know what direction the club will take in the future.

Recopied and posted by Jerry Jackson Club board member–2007