Fin & Feather Club to celebrate 75th year

July 18, 2012

Story & Photos by Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief

SHERMAN TWP. — On Saturday mornings, in the woods of western Sherman Township you will hear the sound of guns. It is a ritual that has gone on for quite some time. Members of the Fin and Feather Club gather and shoot skeet and trap, along with shooting a lot of the bull, if I may add. This is something that goes on throughout the year. In warmer weather, like right now, weekly shoots are held on Tuesdays and Thursdays as well.

On the particular Saturday I visited the club, a smaller than usual group of gun enthusiasts had come out for some friendly competition. They were sitting around relaxing when I pulled up (the shooting the bull portion of the gathering), talking about the last round of shooting “scrap,” a competition that combines a little bit of skeet and a little bit of trap.

Trap and skeet are competitive sports that involve shooting at flying clay pigeons with shotguns.

This particular version of the sport includes 25 rounds of ammunition. The goal is to hit the clay pigeon each time. Jerry Yakes of Rockford, who happens to be shooting on this particular day, is one of only two in the club to have accomplished the feat.

The Fin and Feather Club has been in existence for 75 years. Its purpose is to be a home for outdoor sports enthusiasts and their conservation efforts.

On Saturday, July 21 the club will hold a day long celebration at its grounds at 3276 N. Darr Road.

The club owns 160 acres and rents an adjacent 80 acres.

“We actually use very little of the grounds,” says President Tom Sheppardson of Scottville. “The land is open to hunting for club members.”

Sheppardson has been a member of the club for about 30 years, a rookie compared to some members. Corky Jensen of Ludington, for instance, has been a member since 1958.

“I like to shoot,” Jensen says. “I used to shoot trap and skeet but now I mainly shoot pistol. I have been a hunter safety instructor. I am the last person in the club who was in the first group of hunter safety instructors. I also help with a lot of the things around the clubhouse and grounds.”

Jensen has served on the board for 20 years. “I have served in every board position but president or treasurer, they don’t trust me with the money.”

The reasons for being members vary. Some enjoy shooting guns for competition, others shoot for game. The club also includes archers and fishing enthusiasts. It also has a long standing tradition with local law enforcement. The shooting ranges are used for training by Mason County Sheriff’s Office and West Shore Community College’s law enforcement academy.

The concept of a club that focused on conservation, fish and game propagation and reforestation began in 1935.

“In what we can gather, there were at least seven citizens of Mason County, and probably more, who came up with the idea to form a local conservation club,” Nita Finch wrote in the club’s newsletter, The Tattered Feather. Those founders included Chocky Jensen, Charlie Barton, Al Chinnery, B.M. Betka, George Halter, Burt Featherstone and Bruce Wadel.

That membership has now grown to over 750. This number varies from year to year, according to board member Pat Donovan. Whenever a person takes a concealed weapons permit class they are required to become members.

The club isn’t just about shooting guns and bows.

“We aren’t just a bunch of good ole boys who like to shoot,” Donovan says. “This club has a voice in Lansing about hunting issues, wildlife conservation and gun owners rights.”

In addition, the Fin and Feather Club has given thousands of dollars to local causes along with scholarships. An important aspect of the club is to teach and encourage youth to get involved with hunting and fishing.

Annually the Fin and Feather Club teaches 150 to 200 children and adults about hunter safety. Along with everyone else at the club, the hunter safety instructors donate their time.

Derek Rose of Summit Township is a good example of the club’s youth education. Now in his 20s, he started coming to the club with his father when he was 5.

“I actually started shooting bow when I was 3 but started coming here when I was 5. It’s been an awesome place to learn about the outdoors. Everything I have learned about shooting and safety has been here at the club.”

Rose is modest about his accomplishments but his fellow club members are proud to brag about the many awards and competitions he has won.

That seems to be a common theme around the club, the members tend to be modest about themselves but couldn’t be prouder of what their fellow club member has accomplished.

“My next door neighbor got me started,” says Jim Glover of Ludington. “This is the greatest organization that I’ve ever belonged to. There are a bunch of people here who are really involved. They like the club and they take care of it.”

The 75th anniversary celebration will be an Outdoor Fair from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, July 21. The event will include history displays, videos, fly fishing demonstrations, trap and skeet shooting, reloading demonstration, cowboy action shooting, laser shoot games, archery and crossbow shooting and many more events. Free hot dogs will be served.

For more information, see www.finandfeatherclub.org.

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