From hum­ble be­gin­nings

Morn­ing­ton Field & Game ded­i­cated its July shoot to Bill R Rae, a driv­ing force who was a founder of the Western­port Gun Club and a stal­wart of the Morn­ing­ton branch. To mark the event, Pres­i­dent Robby Turner re­flects on hum­ble be­gin­nings and the forg­ing

Field and Game - - BILL R RAE MEMORIAL SHOOT -

Bill R Rae played a lead role in Western­port Gun Club’s growth from a ca­sual fam­ily and friends af­fair to a fully fledged Field & Game clay tar­get-shoot­ing branch. Bill, long-time trea­surer and chief en­gi­neer, kept all of the orig­i­nal ibis traps go­ing over the years and worked mar­vels cob­bling to­gether gears, bushes and shafts, giv­ing a new lease of life to traps that were oth­er­wise des­tined for the scrap heap.

Bill served as bur­sar and trea­surer from in­cep­tion of the club up un­til 2013.

Western­port Gun Club sprang from hum­ble be­gin­nings. The club was founded in 1955 by the pro­pri­etor of Bit­tern Garage, Norm Jack. Norm had been left a clay tar­get trap and a shot­gun, so he de­cided to set up a so­cial club down at Jacks Beach, Bit­tern, which was then a sleepy hol­low hemmed by man­grove, mozzies and tea tree. Jack set up the trap on an old con­crete pipe and laid sleep­ers for a shield.

The last Sat­ur­day of ev­ery month, 20 or so blokes would turn up with kids in tow and, un­der the shade of a cou­ple of big pines, hand launch clays out over the man­groves and burst them with shot, much to the de­light of the kids. One of those kids be­ing Bill Mor­ris, cur­rent branch sec­re­tary. The only crea­ture com­fort was on old tarp propped out from the back of George Mor­ris’ panel van un­der which shade were the smil­ing faces of men telling jokes or hunt­ing sto­ries that were told and re­told.

A com­mit­tee was elected: Norm Jack, pres­i­dent; George Balake, Crib Point butcher, sec­re­tary; and David Hands, lo­cal sales­man as trea­surer. “The club never missed a meet; rain, hail or shine, George Balake would sup­ply the sausages,” said the late Tony Wal­ters, one of the found­ing mem­bers and one of the first 200 mem­ber­ship holders of FGA. “The only com­pe­ti­tion prize we ever had was a car. David Henry won for best in 25 tar­gets and was proudly awarded the win­ning prize, one of the fel­las then hap­pily pointed to a rust­ing car body half sub­merged in the mud­flats.”

Due to de­vel­op­ment of Jacks Beach, Ralph Peter scouted around and gained per­mis­sion to re­lo­cate the club to per­ma­nent grounds. In 1968, the club upped sticks and moved to more salu­bri­ous digs, the Emu Plains Race­course and Recre­ation Re­serve at Bal­nar­ring. Ralph Peters was pres­i­dent and Bill R Rae was sec­re­tary.

The club con­tin­ued its tra­di­tion of of­fer­ing non-com­pet­i­tive clay tar­get shoot­ing and a warm wel­come to first­time shoot­ers with tu­ition on firearm safety and clay tar­get shoot­ing tech­niques.

A small ar­ti­cle in The Post, Wed­nes­day, Fe­bru­ary 26, 1969, duly noted that “as­sured it was sit­u­ated where no dan­ger could oc­cur to pass­ing traf­fic”. The Lands Dept., Fish­eries and Wildlife and Hast­ings Coun­cil had given their im­pri­matur for the re­cently formed Western Port Gun club to hold monthly tar­get shoots on the Emu Plains Race­course and Recre­ation re­serve.

A tin shack was erected, some gum trees planted and tra­di­tion en­dured over the next 62 years: non-com­pet­i­tive clay shoot­ing with sausages and re­fresh­ments pro­vided. Ralph Peter re­tired in 1989 and Guy Ha­worth, a lo­cal far­rier, be­came the new pres­i­dent in 1990. In the en­su­ing years, the club pur­chased new traps and made im­prove­ments to the ground, in­clud­ing drainage and a new road.

In 2000, with the grow­ing length of red tape and in­sur­ance pre­mi­ums threat­en­ing to over­come the club, the com­mit­tee made the de­ci­sion to af­fil­i­ate with Field & Game Aus­tralia and so Morn­ing­ton Field & Game branch was born.

Through­out Bill R Rae’s years at the club he was ac­com­pa­nied by his son Bill M Rae, who served as pres­i­dent from 2000 to 2015. See Field & Game mag­a­zine is­sue 3 Au­gust to Oc­to­ber 2016, ar­ti­cle ‘What­ever it Takes’ and read Bill M Rae mem­o­ries of his fa­ther’s last duck shoot.

The club cel­e­brated Bill’s ded­i­ca­tion by in­stat­ing the in­au­gu­ral Bill R Rae Memo­rial Shoot, com­pris­ing a line-up elim­i­na­tion event. This was a favourite of Bill’s dur­ing the Western­port Gun Club days. The shoot is to be held ev­ery July.

How it works: par­tic­i­pants line up on the shoot­ing line be­hind a down-the-line trap. With one shell only to be loaded at a time, the shooter at the head of the line calls “pull”. The tar­get flies away and the shooter fires. Each suc­ces­sive shooter mounts and shoots as the tar­gets re­lease at a steady rate, those who miss are out. The win­ner is the last shooter stand­ing. This year’s win­ner was Daniel Cleary and Bill’s wife Ruth duly pre­sented him a bot­tle of Bill R Rae’s whisky of choice and a set of tum­blers.

The com­mit­tee wishes to thank all who came and had a shot.

Over re­cent years, a new club­house and toi­lets have been in­stalled along with sev­eral con­tain­ers brim­ming with the lat­est traps. Bill M Rae over­saw this round of club im­prove­ments with his fa­ther at his side. Ad­di­tional ground im­prove­ments in­sti­gated by Bill Mor­ris, club sec­re­tary and en­vi­ron­men­tal of­fi­cer, has seen an am­bi­tious con­ser­va­tion pro­gram to re­in­state indige­nous species to the Emu Plains re­serve.

Through grants, work­ing bees and pro­fes­sional as­sis­tance, the re­moval of hun­dreds of ma­ture pines, thou­sands of sweet pit­tospo­rums and wild wat­so­nia have pro­tected and re-es­tab­lished na­tive wild flow­ers and grasses within the Re­serve.

Morn­ing­ton F&G works hard to en­sure its fu­ture vi­a­bil­ity, con­tribut­ing to the lo­cal com­mu­nity and gen­er­ate good­will within the Emu Plains Com­mit­tee of Man­age­ment through work and com­mit­ment on the ground.

Morn­ing­ton Field & Game is a unique club; it’s about in­volv­ing peo­ple in a bril­liant sport and spread­ing the word through re­spon­si­ble shoot­ing for con­struc­tive out­comes in the en­vi­ron­ment.

Bill Mor­ris and Guy Ha­worth

Above: Lynette Pearce, Cameron Pearce, Ruth Rae, Danel Cleary, Blake Rae, Temika Rae Bill Rae rab­bit shoot Tarawarra

Tony Wal­ters

Ruth Rae and Daniel Cleary

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