The lit­tle club that could…

Field and Game - - ACROSS THE DITCH -

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.

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