The little club that could…
Like a lot of bright ideas the Pinegrove Gun Club, host of the 2015 National Carnival, was hatched over a few beers.
It was 20 years ago when Steve Koch, John Hewlett and Brian Joyce decided to grab a couple of travelers and headed out to the Pinegrove Recreation Reserve.
“It was over a couple of cans at my workshop at Lockington Automotive and we said oh bugger it, let’s grab a few cans and we’ll go for a walk and that’s where it all started.”
“We decided to look at the possibility of building a gun club at the Pinegrove Recreation Reserve.”
When they got to the site they found a healthy crop of green clover, a dilapidated old toilet block and a tumble down tin shed that that was once the main pavilion but had seen better days.
“We resurrected it a bit and got it going then put up a tent for our first shoot and shot a few clay targets.”
The club has also been good for the reserve, restoring the natural habitat by planting 10 000 trees and shrubs that are indigenous to the local area.
Pinegrove GC Conservation Officer Drew Gailey said the plantings have provided more than just shade.
“We’ve really tried to restore the natural habitat,” he said. “They were watered when they first went in and a bit later on but because the plants are all indigenous they have adapted to the environment. It has also brought back a lot of small birds and other wildlife to the area.”
Steve Koch took on the role of event coordination for the 2015 national carnival but at club level he’s served in nearly every role over the past 20 years.
“I’ve been the trap mechanic forever, pretty much because I am a mechanic,” he joked.
It was a big challenge for a small country club to take on the 2015 national event but the Pinegrove club knew it had the support of the tight rural community — it’s the foundation on which the club was built according to John Hewlett.
“Our push at the very start and the whole reason for setting this up was family involvement because you will never disarm a population, so we wanted to provide a facility and training.”
“We run firearms safety courses out here and I’ve personally put 1200 people through courses and lot of kids.”
“You train them up in the safe use of firearms but then provide the facility for the enjoyment of the sport and there are all these kids coming up. They’re the future.”
Just as the founding members pitched in in 1995 to get the club established in a patched up tin shed and a tent the community rallied to ensure its biggest event was its most successful.
For the cost of fuel Pinegrove was able to draw on farming and engineering equipment to prepare the grounds and when they were swamped by a fierce hailstorm volunteers came forward with a plan to remake the internal roads overnight.
“You don’t say can’t do, you say hang on a minute, let’s work this out and get on with it, get in and have a go,” John Hewlett said.
Steve Koch was bursting with pride as he took a break prior to the final shoot of the carnival, realising that despite the obstacles and even the worst mother nature could conjure the little gun club that thought it could had succeeded in hosting the national event.
“We’ve had little nervy turns but we’ve got through it pretty well considering we had a terrible hailstorm,” he said.
“We cleaned it all up and got it all going again for the morning so in general I think we’ve run it very well.”
“We couldn’t do anything about that hailstorm so we just had to work around it and keep things happening. The kitchen has been great, all the volunteers and the committee
have been fantastic, all the Pinegrove community, which includes Lockington has been fantastic, there are people here who aren’t even members who have worked all day in the kitchen and on the barbecues.”
“That is our community, if there is something going on at Pinegrove there were people that will say well I’m coming out to help.”
The smooth running of the event and the hospitality didn’t go unnoticed.
Steve Koch accepted plenty of complements from shooters over the carnival but also fielded questions from members of other clubs who had starting thinking about hosting the event in the future.
“It is quite a big job but in a lot of ways the small clubs in the country where you have a community behind you means you probably achieve it easier than the big towns. Country areas have communities that will pitch in and do the job.”
“I think the very positive thing about Pinegrove running this shoot is the fact that I’ve had quite a few people come to me asking me questions.”
“It can be hard to get a club to run this event, a lot of people aren’t game to, but seeing what Pinegrove has achieved they are starting to believe they could do the same thing too.”
“We have other clubs thinking about doing it and that will be really good for the national event because we don’t want to have it run every second year at one big club, it should be shared around.”
John Hewlett can’t stop thinking about three mates strolling through a bare landscape with a cold tinny and dreaming of what might be.
“It’s fascinating from when the three of us walked out into the paddock here 20 years ago and Kochy said let’s build a gun club and we said what the hack let’s have a go to see this.”
“It is encouraging seeing this because it is a family oriented sport and you get out here sometimes and you see three generations competing together as a family, there’s the boys and the girls, the mums and dads.”
“The other encouraging thing we are seeing now that we’re all getting on a bit is the next generation coming through and they are ‘can do’ type people as well.”
The 62 year-old is the Senior Range Officer for pistol shooting at the club and the enthusiasm and capabilities of the younger members has him dreaming again about small bore rifle, big bore rifle and more events.
“The possibilities are endless; you are only limited by your imagination.”
Looking around at the hundreds of people enjoying the facilities there is also a sense of achievement for the founding member of Pinegrove Gun Club who only every wanted to build a place where people could enjoy themselves and participate in competition.
“To look around this weekend and then think back, I think we’ve done it.”
Steve Koch and John Hewlett were founders of Pinegrove Gun Club.
Shooters had high praise for the facilities and hospitality at Pinegrove.