New range under design for Smith County

Published on Saturday, 9 August 2014 21:00 - Written by Steve Knight

If you build it, you hope they will come.

When Tom Krieg gets the Dogwood Hills Gun Club up and running in western Smith County chances are they will.

Krieg and his partners have purchased about 160 acres of land off County Road 1227 for a facility they hope becomes a destination site for rifle, pistol and shotgun sports as well as archery. Conceptual plans also call for classrooms for concealed handgun classes, hunter education and other safety classes, waterfowl dog training area along with facilities for large gatherings.

“We want to promote shooting sports. There are a lot of people who have bought guns and have no place to shoot them,” said Krieg, who moved to Tyler from Arizona.

The idea was conceived with one of his concealed handgun class studies while teach the class from his home. There recognized there was no facility with both classroom and a target range.

At this point the club is still on the drawing board, but bulldozers could be running in the next few weeks with the initial range up and running within 90 days. Krieg plans a grand opening next March.

“We want this to be a destination. We want people to come to Tyler and spend a day at the Rose Garden and a day here shooting,” said Krieg.

With a background in firearms education, Krieg said developing a safe environment is the cornerstone of the project. On his desk are four massive folders from the National Rifle Association about what is required to develop and NRA certified range.

That means above-head baffling on rifle and pistol ranges to prevent accidental errant shots, backdrops of trees and berms to stop bullets and range officers on each field during shooting hours.

“We may only use 10 percent of the property, and where we have to cut trees we are going to have a replanting program where the trees are thin,” Krieg said. He added the various fields are being developed so that all the bullets and spent shot will fall onto the property.

The facility will be developed in stages, possibly taking as long as 10 years. Among the first field to be constructed will be a rifle and pistol range with distances to 100 yards. A skeet field is also in the works along with an Olympic-sized archery range.

Another phase will include an archery field course and a sporting clays range.

Eventually a thousand-yard rifle could be developed. It would be one of the few that long in the state.

“We are going to limit it to .30 caliber ammunition,” Krieg said of the long range and all others on the range. The lone exception would be if the facility is used for military or law enforcement training.

Krieg said the emphasis on safety won’t be restricted to the various ranges.

“Everyone on the course will go through a safety course first before being allowed to shoot,” he said.

The safety emphasis will also be carried over into classrooms that will be used for hunter education programs and youth programs like NRA’s Eddie Eagle Safety program.

Krieg said the facility will also be available for the growing number of youth shooting and archery clubs that are popping up in the area.

There will also be basic handgun and self defense courses offered for women and concealed handgun classes for the public.

Krieg notes that 47 percent of new shooters in America are women. Some get involved to hunt, others to compete, but there are also a lot who have become gun owners as a form of self protection.

Knowing that shooting sports or the educational programs can be too expensive for many, Krieg said the Dogwood Hills is creating a 501c3 non-profit arm to help develop facilities and provide scholarship for those who couldn’t otherwise participate.

“We want to be a youth, female and family oriented business,” Krieg said.

Krieg, who said his partners in the project are local, but don’t want to be identified at this time, said the goal of the facility is to enhance local businesses, and not put them out of business. For that reason he said the club does not plan to sell guns, but does want to work with local gun shops to provide the location buyers can go to shoot.

“There is not a professional facility here where if someone buys a pistol, rifle or shotgun they can go to get training,” he said.

He also said construction and operation plans are to work with local contractor and vendors when at all possible.

Krieg said along with the non-profit effort to develop facilities, the club will also offer memberships. Although exact figures haven’t been set yet, he plans to keep it inexpensive enough that it should not be more than the cost of eating out once or twice a month.