It’s that time of year when many Arkansas hunting enthusiasts begin thinking about the mourning dove season that will begin throughout the state on Sept. 1.
It’s also when we start wondering whether our shooting skills will be good enough to hit those fast-flying little game birds. To prevent embarrassment from poor marksmanship skills, we know we better find a place to practice shooting so we’ll be on target when the time comes.
Many of us are also eager just to enjoy some shooting again after several months with no hunting action. Late summer and early fall are good times to test-fire our rifles, hone our pistol-shooting skills and practice hitting the bull’s-eye with our bows and arrows.
Fortunately, here in The Natural State, we have several excellent Arkansas Game and Fish Commission shooting facilities available where we can do all those things, including these five ranges at locations around the state.
Dr. James E. Moore Jr. Camp Robinson Firing Range
Location: 574 Clinton Road, Conway
Phone/website: (501) 470-9904, www.facebook.com/argamefishshootingrange
Hours: 8:30 a.m.to 4:30 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, except state holidays
The AGFC built the Dr. James E. Moore Jr. Firing Range, the state’s first public range, in the early 1970s near Lake Conway in the Camp Robinson Wildlife Management Area. Improvements over the years have turned the range into one of the Mid-South’s top shooting facilities, featuring a 50-yard pistol range, a 200-yard rifle range and a 3-D archery range, plus skeet and trap ranges for shotgunners.
Drop in for vital sighting before hunting season or just a few hours of shooting fun with family and friends. The range is manned by AGFC personnel who can answer questions and help with sighting instructions. Phone ahead to be sure the firing range isn’t closed because of inclement weather or special events.
Fees are $3 per person for pistol and rifle ranges, and $4 per 25-shot round for skeet and trap. The 3-D archery range is free, but archers must register in the range house prior to shooting. No ammunition is sold at the facility, but spotting scopes are available for rent for $2, and eye and ear protection is provided.
Access is from exit 135 on Interstate 40, west of Little Rock. Follow Arkansas 89 for 4 miles east, and watch for the signs.
Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation Shooting Sports Complex
Location: 2800 Graham Road, Jacksonville
Phone/website: (501) 241-2441, www.jacksonvilleshootingcomplex.com
Hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. (fall/winter 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) Wednesday through Sunday, except state holidays and during scheduled events. Phone ahead for availability.
The Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation and the city of Jacksonville worked together to build this state-of-the-art public shotgun-shooting facility in Pulaski County, which opened in early 2014. The multiuse complex, the largest of its kind in Arkansas, includes 14 trap fields, three skeet overlays, three lit fields, a 3-D archery range, two pavilions, a fishing lake, and a 5,100-square-foot clubhouse and learning center. The on-site pro shop offers ammunition, ear/eye protection, shirts, hats and much more for sale. Guests can also rent one of 40 RV spots with water and electricity.
Fees (including clay targets) are $6 per person per 25-shot round of skeet or trap, $5 per person per round for Jacksonville residents and $3 per person per round for all Arkansas Youth Shooting Sports Program students and coaches who hold a certified AYSSP practice. An $80 20-punch pass is also available. Use of the 3-D archery range costs $5.
Paul H.’Rocky’ Willmuth Shooting Sports Complex
Location: 3600 N. St. Louis St., Batesville
Phone/website: (870) 698-0361, www.indcotrap.net
Hours: 1-6 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday, and 10 a.m.to 6 p.m. Saturday, from Feb. 1
to Nov. 30. The range is open on Sundays, weather permitting, in December and January and is closed on state holidays.
Partnerships and donations from the AGFC, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the city of Batesville, Independence County and private donors made this range possible. It was opened to the public in April 2011.
The shooting complex is made up of three skeet fields, five trap fields and a 12-station archery field. All areas meet Americans With Disabilities Act accessibility standards. There’s also a 1,200-square-foot club house/office, three pavilions and a 1,200-square-foot education center that houses a DryFire USA clay shooting simulator and digital projection system.
Skeet and trap fees are $6 per round of 25 targets for adults ($13 with shells included), $3 per round for children 18 or under ($10 with shells included), $4 per round for college students ($11 with shells included) and $6 per round for active military personnel. Remington 11-87 shotguns (12 and 20 gauge) are available for use at no cost, thanks to the National Wild Turkey Federation.
Archery is free. Targets are provided, but participants must bring the rest of their equipment.
Jack Cox Scatter Creek Firing Range
Location: Northwest of Paragould in Greene County
Phone/website: No phone, www.agfc.com/en/explore-outdoors/shootingranges
Hours: sunrise to sunset
This range is unmanned, but if you study the range rules on the website before visiting, you can enjoy a safe, fun shooting day with family or friends, or sight in your guns for upcoming hunting seasons. Visitors are allowed to use any legal firearm and ammunition for free. Fully automatic firearms, armor-piercing ammunition and tracer ammunition are prohibited. Be sure to bring a 2-by-2-foot piece of cardboard to clip to the target holder.
To reach the firing range, take Arkansas 135 North out of Paragould to the junction with Arkansas 34 (about 5 miles). Turn west on Arkansas 34 and go approximately 3.5 miles to the William E. Brewer Scatter Creek WMA sign. Turn right, and go 1 mile to the firing range.
Rick Evans Grandview Prairie Conservation Education Center Shotgun Range
Location: 1685 County Road 35 N.,Columbus
Phone/website: (870) 983-2740, www.agfc.com/en/explore-outdoors/shootingranges
Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, by appointment only. The range is closed on state holidays. Appointments for Saturday must be made by 4 p.m. Friday.
The almost 5,000 acres of blackland prairie comprising the Rick Evans Grandview Prairie in southwest Arkansas’ Hempstead County were purchased in 1997, the first major land acquisition using money provided by Amendment 75. Facilities on the grounds include two lodges and a classroom building for education programs, two fishing lakes and a shooting range for skeet and trap.
The range has been designated for team practices only, and the fee for use — $2 per person per round — must be paid by Arkansas Youth Shooting Sports coaches working with the students on those teams. The AGFC range officer will have AYSSP 20-gauge Beretta shotguns on-site for teams to check out.