The History of Camp Fickes|
and Buffalo Creek Gun Club
The History of The Buffalo Creek Gun Club
written by Fred Crowle
The Buffalo Creek Gun Club (BCGC) was 35 years old some time in the summer of 1996. Exactly when is not known, because the first written records of the club of October 5, 1961 indicate that the founders had already put into action the idea of forming a gun club.
In spirit, BCGC is many years older than a third
of a century. An essential part of it, the rifle range that became its
organizing focus, dates back to World War I. In fact, this club is one of the
very few in the
The range, which has become renowned among
highpower rifle shooters around the country for its excellence and natural
beauty, apparently began life with the U.S. Army in 1918. But how and why and
for what is a mystery. Nearly 20 years later, in 1937, the Army decided it needed
a rifle range and sent its Reserve Second Engineers from
The army range got a name from a freak accident
that happened while it was being re-built in 1938. A Lieutenant Fickes and two
other soldiers were in the Engineer's mess tent (where the Roger Nolan pavilion
is today) when a wild lightning storm came up. A bolt stuck the tent and killed
the three men. Another bolt is said to have improved the 6-hole latrine,
located down the hill a bit from the mess tent, by blowing a hole in the ground
in line with the existing 6 holes, and thus expanding the latrine to 7-hole
Throughout World War II and then for a decade
and a half more, the range lay in disuse and disrepair. It was rediscovered
some time in 1960 by a man looking for a place to go hunting in
The club's bylaws had been written and approved
by the end of November of 1961. The 18 members who approved the bylaws at the
November meeting also voted to incorporate. Work already was being done on the
range itself. Martin Ames, with help from Ray Barrett, surveyed and laid out
the road that leads into the range. For this service,
The club became officially affiliated with the National Rifle Association (NRA) in February of 1962.
It became a habit of the club to elect its new officers in January and to install them in February, and so in that month of 1962 the first full slate of officers listed in the minutes was installed:
Hugh Kline, President
Simon Zerin, Vice President
Jenny Strbiak, Secretary
Ed Keller, Treasurer
C. A. Lowitz, Executive Officer
Jim Kirk, Range Officer,
E. D. McMichael
The road, bunkers, and back stops had to be fixed and a bridge put across the small stream near the present entrance to the land on which the range is situated. To meet the cost of these improvements, the club decided to issue $5.00 non-interest bonds, payable on demand three years after their date of issue. The $710 raised in this manner was just enough to pay the $700 remainder of a contract for $1,500 to put in a culvert and improve the road. Most of the bonds never were redeemed.
The club's tradition of mixing business with pleasure started early. An "open house" at the range was planned for June 15, 1962. There would be hot dogs and coffee, but participants would be expected to work on the range. A second toilet was to be installed. Meeting minutes record that the first toilet was installed on the range in May of 1962. The open house was well attended, and the guests worked hard. They were able to complete installation of six target frames and carriers.
With frames and carriers in place, and berms already there from old army work, the range began to be used. It hosted its first highpower rifle match on June 28, 1962, a Department of Civilian Marksmanship (DCM) qualification match given the name "Columbine," because it was put on by the Columbine Gun Club. Buffalo Creek Gun Club received $10 for this use of their range. The remaining of the original 12 target carriers were completed in July of 1962. Apparently, some time during this same summer, the original small target shed also was built, because in the club's October minutes there is a notation that the target shed roof needed to be sealed.
The club entered and held its first State
Highpower Match in September of 1962, but not at its own range. For several
years, it was timid about holding this match on the range because of tradition
that the match should be held at Buckley or
The club got NRA approval to run its first Rocky
Mountain Regional Highpower Match in 1963. It planned to hold this match at its
Buffalo Creek range. Accordingly, various improvements were made. The most
notable was outfitting the target frames with their infamous head-basher,
hand-smasher cement core counterweights to make them run more smoothly. A
program was printed, underwritten by the Redfield Gunsight Company.
Nevertheless, when the club did hold the match, on April 21, 1963, it was at
the Buckley range near
Even though the club did not use its own range for the Highpower Regional, in 1963, it did expand its members' own regular use of it. There was another DCM National Match Course fired at the range on May 11, 1963. Fourteen members entered. The top score was a 211-10V (they were using the old style 5V targets) shot by Wilbur Boese. The club also regularly rented its range to other clubs. The Table Mountain Juniors, for instance, rented it on June 8, 1963 for a "picnic and qualification." The Board of Directors at their June meeting decided, in fact, to establish a pricing policy -- the rent would be $10, and club members would be allowed to shoot free in any match put on by another club renting the range.
Vandals have always been a problem at the range. Phone lines were strung between the shooting lines and the target pits sometime in 1962. In the spring of 1963, the lines had been torn down. A decision was made in the summer of 1963 to re-string them underground. The backstops were still too low, so they were built up. And the first steps in building a "clubhouse," excavating and pouring a concrete foundation for it, were taken. This building, slightly northeast of the 600 yard berm, was to be used by members and guests for meetings, picnics, and shelter from storms. It would be the place where shooters could gather to view their posted scores, and to get their awards. But the far-sighted Ed Harvey had also gotten this building written into the agreement signed with the Forest Service for lease of the land as a material inducement for club members to build the cabin. According to the lease, it had to be completed in 1963, or lease and range would be lost. The members assessed themselves $20 each to collect enough money to build this structure. Most of the roof had been put up by the end of September, and the building was completed in October. The first of several signs and fences in and around the range also had been installed.
At about this same time one of the club's most cherished traditions was established. In August of 1963, Jim Shipper proposed that a regular, yearly intra-club match be held, the winner to receive for one year's possession a large traveling cup award. Money for this handsome trophy was given by Jim's father, Mr. Jack Schipper. Later, this regular yearly match would come to be known popularly as the "Ed Harvey Match." The trophy was first shown to members at the September meeting, in 1963.
By the end of 1963, the club was slating regular
activities resembling its current schedule of shooting events. For instance,
its plans for 1964 called for three National Match Course tournaments in April,
June, and September, the Regional Highpower Match in June (still planned
elsewhere, Ft. Carson in particular); and in August the "Ed Harvey
Cup" match. The December 26, 1963 members meeting at which this schedule
of activities was proposed by Ray Barrett is historically significant because
that is when Ed Harvey's name was first attached to the yearly intra-club
match. Another part of the
The club found out in 1964 that it was not wise to schedule the first match of a year as early as April because of the good possibility of severe, cold weather at the 8,100-foot altitude of its range. They decided from sad experience in that April of 1964 to schedule each year's first match in May.
Buffalo Creek is highly respected for its training program for junior shooters. These shooters seldom have their own rifles, and so a first step in this training program was taken in June of 1964. That was when the club received its first two DCM rifles. They were used in the June 28 DCM match at the Buffalo Creek range.
Facilities at the range are inspected from time to time by the Forest Service. In its early years, the club had to make several improvements to retain its lease. In the middle of 1964, the cost of these improvements was beyond what was in the treasury. So, an "anonymous nonmember" (later identified as Mr. E. H. Hilliard, Jr., of the Redfield Gunsight Company) offered to pay for the various needs: fencing materials, components of the cabin's fireplace, another outdoor toilet, some road repairs, raising the backstop, and widening the 600 yard bunker. The widening of the 600 yard line was done with 400 cubic yards of rocky earth taken from an area just north of the 300 yard line. The resulting excavated area at 300 yards became a very convenient parking lot.
Buffalo Creek Gun Club sold its first brassards
beginning in September of 1964. They went for $1.00 each. Still shy about
running a Regional Highpower Match at their range, the club ran the 1964
In 1965, they held their first coaching clinics for inexperienced shooters.
In June of 1965, the members noted a need for a new, much larger target shed, in addition to re-roofing of the small older one. The new shed was primarily to be used for storing targets for scheduled matches. The club had been making up new targets for each match immediately before the match. They also began debating how to blast away "a large rock" which was causing ricochets at the backstop berm. Their Ed Harvey Trophy match in August of 1965 was considered to be a great success. German steins were used as prizes. The membership was so pleased with the match and the fun they had that they decided that it should be a regular yearly event "even if it has to be subsidized a bit."
May 14 and 15 of 1966 were historic: BCGC finally held the Rocky Mountain Highpower Regional at its own range on these two days. The match was limited to 60 competitors, civilians being given first preference through the first 51 signed up. Steve Graham was the Chief Range Officer, and Maurice Ashley the Chief Pits Officer. That pesky large rock in the backstop was blasted out of the way before the Regional. The match went well and netted the club $150. From this time on, except in 1968, the Regional was held yearly at the Buffalo Creek range.
The last year that the old 5V targets were used in a Regional was 1966. In 1967, the new decimal targets were required. Nineteen sixty-six was the first year in which the club used trophies "bearing a buffalo." Shooters liked this powerful and unique symbol.
Today's shooters enjoy camping overnight, before a tournament or during two-day tournaments, around the east end of the range. They have the conveniences of picnic tables and cooking grills. These were not provided by the Forest Service; they were built and installed by BCGC. The picnic tables were made by Mr. Bray for $15 each in the spring of 1967. The barbecue grills were put in much later, in the spring of 1980, when the club authorized spending of $600 for the four grills and some playground equipment. Nineteen sixty-seven also saw the beginning of regular monthly publication of a club bulletin with Steve Graham as editor. This same man deserves credit for making the first recorded move toward starting organized juniors shooting activities in the club: at the members meeting of June 29, 1967 he proposed establishing a Junior Division of the club with reduced dues and match fees for juniors in order to "encourage youthful shooters."
Secondary communication between the firing lines and the pits is still today by way of World War II vintage field telephones. Ray Barrett was authorized to spend $20 for the first of these at the March 1968 members meeting. Roger Noland worked out plans for the new target shed, to be placed on a leveled plot south of the target pits, the dimensions to be 24 x 28 x 13 feet. Construction of this building began in April of 1968. The March meeting recognized Ed Harvey's importance to BCGC by presenting him with a certificate in appreciation of work and financial support "...in organizing this club, obtaining its range, and helping to maintain it as a growing concern."
Nineteen sixty-eight marked the beginning of a
dark period in shooting history in the
Today's shooters at highpower matches are used to the disc system for scoring targets, instead of the paddles that had been used for so many years. This disc system was first used at the Buffalo Creek range in the 1970 State Association match. According to reports, this resulted in "...some confusion in the pits" during the match. The main problem seemed to be that targets could not be raised high enough for shooters and scorers to see the scoring disc when it was used in the lower part of the target to indicate an X, 10, or 9. The targets were too low behind the parapet.
The house which the club built at the range originally was known as the "clubhouse." Apparently, the charter members hoped that its use would fit its name. The club tried to get members to meet there regularly in May and June of 1971. The members were supposed to gather there late on a Saturday morning, conduct some business, do some repairs and maintenance, and then maybe do a little shooting. But the idea was unpopular. Clubhouse meetings never mustered a quorum. So, this idea was quickly abandoned, and today, of course, the house is pragmatically known as the "stat house" instead of the clubhouse.
Late in 1972, more dirt was moved from north of the 200 and 300 yard lines to widen the 600 yard line, and early in 1973 the range officers' bench was built onto the 600 yard line.
Through mid-1973, the club had mailed out a "bulletin" on a somewhat irregular basis, mostly to transmit match date and meeting information. In August, the bulletin conceptually assumed its current, regular monthly form as Pete Blanc volunteered to edit it on a one-year trial basis. October was when the first regular bulletin was mailed out. Its primary purposes still were to list all match schedules for the club and notify members of all meetings.
The original bonds of 1962 which provided loan money to the club to get it started were called in January of 1974. Any that were not redeemed by December of that year would be considered to be donations. Interestingly, none were redeemed in response to the calling.
One of the outstanding activities today of BCGC
is its juniors program. Attempts to help juniors get started in highpower
shooting had been made sporadically by the club since nearly the time it began
operation. Formation of a Junior Highpower Rifle Team was proposed by Ron Adams
at the January 1976 Board of Directors meeting. At the March members meeting,
The club supported the juniors program enthusiastically. Blanc was authorized at the May 1976 meeting to spend whatever was needed to conduct it. The junior shooters received incentive advantages, such as entry to club-sponsored matches for half-price fees. The first match the juniors participated in officially as a team was on June 20, 1976. This match had 47 entries, of which six were juniors. It is interesting that the cost of the juniors program during its first year of existence was reported by Blanc, at the August 24 members meeting in 1976, to be $53.67. There had been nine junior shooters in the program. The plan for 1977 was to allow a maximum of six shooters, and to run this program from April through August.
In the summer of 1977 the club sent its first
By long-standing tradition, targets at highpower ranges were put up on cloth. Today's shooters will hardly remember that, being used to the currently used cardboard backing. This cardboard backing was first used at the Buffalo Creek range in 1977 matches. Nineteen seventy-seven was when the club issued a new brassard. The supply of original brassards was exhausted by mid-1976. This new brassard became available in April of 1977. One was given to member Keith Kelly's daughter, as thanks to her for having designed it.
Further strengthening of the juniors program appeared in the March meeting of 1978 when a motion was made and passed to create a new Board of Directors officer, to be known as the Juniors Executive Officer. This brought the number of Directors from seven to eight. Pete Blanc, previously known as Junior Chairman, thus became the club's first Juniors Executive Officer.
In June of 1978, the 600 yard line was widened by eight feet to its present size of 15 firing points. The 300 yard line was raised to its present level. The conspicuous concrete cylinders which shore up the sides of the 600 yard line were installed in the spring of 1979.
The first record of authorization of club stationery and envelopes appears in the minutes of the March 25, 1980 members meeting. Another famous symbol of the club, its "Special Buffalo Awards" (the bronze, silver, and gold buffalo pins) were first given out to competitors in the summer of 1982. These, formally known also for a very short time as Buffalo Creek Achievement Awards, were eagerly received and highly prized by shooters who earned them.
In July of 1980, BCGC built its 200 yard outhouse. The last building to be put up on the Buffalo Creek range is a large pavilion. It was planned and its construction supervised by Roger Nolan during the summer of 1996 -- the 35th anniversary of the club. Sadly, Roger died of cancer just a few months after this pavilion, now named after him, was completed. The last modification in shooting sports at the club range was the introduction of smallbore silhouette shooting in the spring of 1984 by John Perizzolo. Recent attempts to introduce Any-Any highpower shooting (1994) and Rattle Battle matches (1995) have not been very successful. These kinds of shooting did not require making any changes to the range.
The Buffalo Creek Gun Club is a robust highpower
rifle shooting organization. Partly, this is due to continued support from
highpower rifle enthusiasts. But it is perhaps as much also be
due to the outstanding beauty and utility of its mountain forest range near the
* * * *
This history of the Buffalo Creek Gun Club was compiled mostly from information from club secretary Record Books 1, 2, and 3 of minutes for membership and board of directors meetings (first entry, October 5, 1961; last entry in a bound book, December 7, 1983). Quotations in the text of this history are taken directly from minutes of various meetings.
I wish also to acknowledge help from Ray Barrett, Roger Noland, Ed Keller, and Jim Schipper, who dug deep into their fond memories of the club to provide information not found in the minutes. Simon Zevin was reported in the membership meeting of January 28, 1981, to have submitted a summary history of the club, especially of Ed Harvey and the Harvey Memorial Match. The history was proposed to be published in the next issue of the club bulletin. But I have not been able to find a copy of that history. Together with Ray Barrett and Roger Noland, I published a brief history of the Buffalo Creek range in the Colorado State Rifle and Pistol Association's Colorado Bulletin, 32, 1-4, 1988.