Riverland room to grow
The Renmark Berri branch is the newest member of the Field & Game Australia family. The members are blessed with some remarkable wetlands in the South Australia’s Riverland region and freehold over a shooting ground that is big enough to turn into a model
Under the watchful eye of branch members Dave Austin and Paul Hansen a couple of young lads grapple with the unfamiliar form of a shotgun, gripping it to shoot right-handed while their feet set up for exactly the opposite.
Dave and Paul are patient and spend a few minutes making sure their novice target shooters feel comfortable.
Boom, boom … Kale Pearce and Aiden Richardson, both aged 13, have now added firing a shotgun to their list of life achievements.
Kale was so keen he wasn’t going to let a mending broken arm stop him participating in Renmark Berri FGA’S comeand-try day. The sling was discarded on the range and put back in place when the shooting was done. “It was a lot of fun and I’m glad I managed to hit one or two targets,” he said after his first round.
Kale’s mum Danielle Reed shot alongside him. “I’ve shot on our property before but I hadn’t held a gun for 18 years before today,” she said. “I saw the event on Facebook and thought we should come out and have a go; Kale already wants to have another go.”
Aiden’s grandmother Mary Richardson did pistol training back in the days when bank staff has access to firearms behind the counter and she took to clay target shooting like a natural.
She came to the event primarily to give her grandson a real-world experience of firearms. “They are really interested in computer games that involve shooting and I thought it would be good to bring him here in a safe environment and experience what it is like to fire a real gun,” she said.
Aiden enjoyed the experience and with a little practice and expert coaching he managed to hit a target.
“It is pretty good but I liked the shots with the smaller shotgun, the adult one scared me a bit,” he said.
The come-and try-day introduced 30 people to the sport of clay target shooting and generated publicity locally. The shoot ground is off the main highway between Renmark and Berri but from the road, it is invisible.
The come-and-try day wasn’t just about demystifying firearms and attracting potential new members, it was also an opportunity to be more visible in the community.
Murray Pioneer journalist Joe Schwab enhanced that cause by participating in the day and then writing about his experience.
“All I can say is next time the club, or any of the other clubs in the Riverland, put on a similar day, it is worth going along and giving it a shot,” he told readers.
Peter Teakle, 77, has been around Field & Game more years than he cares
to count and he’s spent the past 30 years in the Riverland contributing to better habitat and species outcomes, especially through work on the Murray-darling Basin Authority’s native fish strategy.
“I have a very close affinity with native fish, leaning against every gun cupboard is a fishing rod, the two are intrinsically linked,” Peter said.
The Riverland Ramsar site covers more than 30 000 hectares from Renmark to the Victorian and NSW borders. It includes the 6700 ha Pike Floodplain between Paringa and Lyrup.
Renmark Berri is also within easy reach of the Chowilla floodplain, which contains the largest remaining natural river red gum forest in the Lower Murray and Woolenook, a former internment camp with access to Murray River floodplains.
The Renmark Berri crew have a big back yard and a main property to match. The shoot ground covers nearly 300 ha and currently only a fraction of that space is utilised. “It was envisaged at the time of purchase as a multi-discipline shooting complex,” Peter said. “It could be a great outdoor education centre as well, with our access to wetlands.”
There’s enough dirt to accommodate grounds for a national event and space to develop skeet, down the line and a 300 m rifle range.
Dave Austin said driving membership would add impetus to fully develop the facility as multi-discipline precinct for training, competition and education. “We had our safety check only last week and we have support for a 300 m rifle range,” he said. “We have gone forward in a big way with joining Field & Game Australia and with help, we can keep growing and improving our facility,” he said,
Bailey Carson, 11, takes a shot at the come and try day
Dave Austin helps Kale Pearce, 13, get to grips with a shotgun Dave Austin and Paul Hansen navigate the Murray River
The view from the property boundary looking back towards the clubhouse in the distance