By Paul Bucci
Some of the best experiences in life come from a deep connection to the natural world in all of its glory.
Whether it’s following a fresh deer track in the snow on a bright, crisp, cold day in the high-country or the visceral thrill of feeling a fish strike at your line, these times are times of intense joy, made more so by the raw, rugged beauty of the great outdoors.
Being in the outdoors, hunting for game, or angling for fish, is a full-body experience where you’re keenly aware of your surroundings. It not only sharpens your mind, but sharpens your senses.
Yet to truly enjoy the outdoors, it also pays to sharpen your skills. That’s where joining a local rod and gun club will pay off in spades.
There are many benefits to joining a club, explains Jesse Zeman, director of fish and wildlife restoration with the B.C. Wildlife Federation, whose organization represents well over 100 affiliated clubs in the province.
One of the strongest benefits of membership is tapping into the history and tradition of local clubs, whose members respect and treasure the great outdoors. Clubs are not just focused on hunting, fishing and shooting sports. They also focus on safety, skill enhancement, and, perhaps most importantly, they are leaders in wildlife conservation, stewardship and enhancement.
“Quite often the clubs will have a range of activities, including stewardship work like stream and habitat enhancement. Some of them have small scale hatcheries, for example,” Zeman says.
“And then you help support the public voice of the B.C. Wildlife Federation, which promotes the sustainability of fish, wildlife and their habitats, as well as hunters and anglers.”
Many clubs teach basic firearms handling and can guide you through the steps you must take to obtain a firearm or become a licensed hunter. Often, you’ll find firing ranges suitable for trap, skeet, rifle, handgun, archery and more, and a clubhouse for social and educational events, club meetings and hosted events. They’re often family-oriented, and offer programs for youth and new members to help them broaden their experience and abilities through courses and activities with qualified instructors.
“Many clubs will have a whole bunch of different communities that have mentorship,” Zeman explains. “We also have Forever Fishing days to teach people. There are range days, shotgun days, and so much more.”
Shooting at a rifle range also has many advantages. With set targets, precise distances, range equipment and safety rules, ranges allow shooters to maintain or learn new skills in a controlled, safe and environmentally friendly place.
Members of a rod and gun club also receive third-party liability insurance that covers a wide variety of outdoor activities, including the use of ATVs and other vehicles while hunting or sports fishing.
Some merchants offer discounts to club members, and members also get six issues of BC Outdoors Magazine.
“If you’re new to fishing or hunting, definitely go join a club,” Zeman says. “Go meet the members and there’ll be a committee or people at the club that can help you learn about anything.”
To find a club near you, visit bcwf.bc.ca/our-clubs