Out on the range
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-