Out on the range

Maryland Independent - - B Sports - Jamie Drake jamiedrake­out­doors@out­look.com

The tree and dec­o­ra­tions have all been taken down, all that’s left of the Christ­mas cook­ies is slowly but surely dis­ap­pear­ing from my waist­line, and the kids went back to school yes­ter­day. The hol­i­days have wrapped up for another sea­son.

This Christ­mas and New Year’s were good to me. I thor­oughly en­joy the trap­pings of the sea­son it­self, but this year I’ve been es­pe­cially for­tu­nate to catch up with many friends and fam­ily mem­bers over the last few weeks. In per­son, on the phone, and via e-mail, I’ve had the chance to re­con­nect with many of the im­por­tant and in­flu­en­tial peo­ple in my life.

Among the many top­ics we dis­cussed was a lot of chat­ter about the el­ders and icons of the ex­tended fam­ily (I should prob­a­bly write a few col­umns about those old-timers, real char­ac­ters they were!) and what they val­ued and held dear. In par­tic­u­lar, we spent some time talk­ing about the var­i­ous firearms they car­ried, hunted with, and went out of their way to care for in such a scrupu­lous fash­ion, and even­tu­ally passed down to their chil­dren and grand­chil­dren.

This line of con­ver­sa­tion sparked a deep in­ter­est for me, and I plan to make a col­umn out if it in the fu­ture, and I imag­ine it might strike a chord with some of you. Al­though the old-timers weren’t re­ally from such a dis­tant time, our world has changed so much in re­cent decades that it can be very in­ter­est­ing to un­der­stand how they lived and en­joyed the out­doors. I imag­ine many of you have a firearm or two that was passed from an ear­lier gen­er­a­tion that says a lot about you and your peo­ple.

One topic that came up in con­ver­sa­tion with fam­ily was how much busier we are to­day and how our over-sched­uled life­styles limit us. Back in the day, it was no prob­lem to walk out to the back forty and in­dulge in some tar­get shoot­ing, es­pe­cially once win­ter had set in. Nowa­days, we don’t work the farm or own the acres, much less have the time to keep our shoot­ing skills where we would like them.

As kids, my sis­ter and I spent many an af­ter­noon shoot­ing .22s out back and af­ter­wards clean­ing our ri­fles to meet my dad’s in­spec­tion. This year I am go­ing to en­deavor to get out shoot­ing a lit­tle more, which will also give me more op­por­tu­nity to teach my kids about gun safety and main­te­nance. Chil­dren to­day will never ap­pre­ci­ate the rev­er­ence our fore­fa­thers brought to firearms own­er­ship and passed to each of us if we can’t make the time to demon­strate its im­por­tance to them while they are young.

For this rea­son, I made a stop at the Mary­land De­part­ment of Nat­u­ral Re­sources (DNR) fir­ing range at Myr­tle Grove, in Charles County last week. It’s a bit north and west of La Plata, and al­though it’s about an hour’s drive for me, it’s one of the best pub­lic op­tions many of us have in these parts other than plink­ing on a friend’s prop­erty.

The range is con­tained within the 4,460 acres of the Myr­tle Grove Wildlife Man­age­ment Area (WMA), and in­cludes shoot­ing, skeet, and archer y ranges. We got there early on a week­day and eas­ily got a ta­ble with no wait. From chat­ting with folks I un­der­stand that it gets very busy on the week­ends, but dur­ing the week it is often fairly open. To use the range, each shooter has to pur­chase a daily per­mit for $5, or you can spend $20 and get a sea­sonal per­mit. Ad­di­tion­ally, shoot­ers un­der 18 must have a hunter safety cer­tifi­cate and be ac­com­pa­nied by an adult.

The fir­ing range is clean and min­i­mal­ist. Other than pro­vid­ing wooden frames for you to put your tar­gets on, the range pro­vides nothing ad­di­tional. It of­fers 8 wooden bench ta­bles for shoot­ers to use as well as about 100 yards of range. Not like a “gun­try club,” but it’s quite ad­e­quate for pistols and most ri­fles. While I am for­tu­nate to have some fam­ily op­tions within driv­ing range for tar­get prac­tice, I’ll cer­tainly be back to Myr­tle Grove on week­days this year.

Vis­it­ing state parks

If you are an out­doors en­thu­si­ast who fre­quently vis­its Mary­land’s state parks, DNR has a good deal on an an­nual park pass. And if one of your goals for 2017 is to spend more time out­doors, at just $75 for in-state res­i­dents, hav­ing a pass that gives you un­lim­ited ac­cess to the seren­ity and peace­ful­ness of Mary­land’s states parks is one less bar­rier to get­ting you and your fam­ily out­side and en­joy­ing na­ture.

St. Mary’s River State Park is just a short drive from my kids’ school, and hav­ing that pass makes it easy to take a pit stop at the park on our way home. The kids can let off some steam and I can ask any fish­er­men around what’s bit­ing that day.

In ad­di­tion to un­lim­ited en­tries to state parks for up to 10 peo­ple in a ve­hi­cle, an an­nual pass will af­ford you un­lim­ited boat launch­ing at all state park fa­cil­i­ties and a 10 per­cent dis-

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