Shoots finding home on range in Oakdale

OAKDALE -- Pull!

Greg Hall and Will Iffland blew four dozen traps out of the sky with 12-gauge birdshot and walked off the range all smiles. The two friends from Modesto weren't members of the Oakdale Sportsmen's Club for more than two hours.

"There's nothing like this in Southern California," said Hall, a SoCal native, tugging on his camouflage Remington cap. "It's an incredible place. You could call these guys salt of the earth."

Trap shooting, a pistol range, rifle range, archery range -- the Oakdale Sportsmen's Club is something like a hunter's playground on the Stanislaus River and one of several such clubs in the area.

The first Tuesday of every month the beers are extra cold and the steak piping hot. The club hosts a steak dinner and raffle for members and their guests.

As the steaks were cooking out back, a loud bang went off and a cloud of smoke went up at the pistol range. "Loud" isn't a word used lightly at a gun club.

Perry Yost fired his Civil War-issued 1862 Springfield Armory black powder rifle. The 58-caliber powerhouse sent a lead ball the size of a marble into the range's back wall, leaving a hole the size of a walnut.

"It takes you back," Yost said. "How often do you get to shoot a gun from that era?"

Yost's friend, Henry Howard, measured out 100 grams of black powder, placed a linen patch over the barrel, then rammed it down the barrel, topped off with another lead ball.

Civil War soldiers "could get off three shots a minute," Howard said.

After a few more volleys of 19th-century lead, a line formed in the main building and 88 guys ate New York strips, beans, salad and garlic bread. The new members -- Hall and Iffland -- were recognized, and a raffle for shells, tackle boxes, pliers, clamps and other assorted man stuff started to cheers and shouts.

The Sportsmen's Club started in 1941 on Rossini Ranch, between Oakdale and Riverbank at 6000 Wilkins Ave., past President Bud Huntley said. It's been in the current spot, enveloped by Kerr Park, since the late 1960s. Giant industrial belting pulled from an Antioch paper plant hangs from heavy-duty wire and telephone poles, protecting the Stanislaus River from the trap shooter's lead.

Huntley looked out over the shooters at the club last Tuesday evening.

"I like the shooting sports," he said. "We sponsor shooting teams. It's a good place, if that's what you like."

Bee staff writer Michael R. Shea can be reached at or 578-2391.