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The Northwoods River News | Rhinelander, Wisconsin

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March 24, 2018

Contributed photographTom O’Rourke and Mike Boyd display some of the guns raffled off at the Hodag Sports Club banquet earlier this month.
Contributed photograph

Tom O’Rourke and Mike Boyd display some of the guns raffled off at the Hodag Sports Club banquet earlier this month.
2/24/2018 7:29:00 AM
Hodag Sports Club holds 41st annual banquet

Beckie Gaskill
Outdoors Writer

Like many clubs, the Hodag Sports Club grew from humble beginnings. It started simply, with several men who were looking for a place to shoot trap. Now, with over 700 members in 39 states, it is a thriving, growing club with not only a trap and skeet range but a rifle range as well. They also host the Rhinelander High School Trap Club.

"We hope to have over 50 kids shooting trap out there this year," Speck DeByle said. Last year, 29 students participated after the school board voted unanimously to make trap shooting a certified sport. Seventeen students lettered in trap shooting and 16 went to the high school trap shooting event in the town of Rome last year. There is no cost to the school for the trap team as the Hodag Sports Club supports the team every year.

Another tradition is the annual Hodag Sports Club banquet.

It began as a Wild Game Feed and, as it grew and expanded, changed venues and menus to evolve into what it is today. Many locals consider it the social event of the year in Rhinelander, with over 350 people in attendance on a regular basis.

With donations from around the community, this year's club banquet, held earlier this month, featured 44 guns which were raffled off to those in attendance. Dinner was served with a choice of prime rib, stuffed pork with mushroom gravy or broiled salmon with dill sauce. Attendees also enjoyed a variety of hors d'oeuvres, some of which highlighted the banquet's wild game feed beginnings. There were door prizes, a silent auction and, of course, raffles. Tom O'Rourke and Dave Havel were Masters of Ceremonies with Pastor Norm Peterson giving the invocation to start the evening.

As is always the case, the evening was enjoyed by all, whether they went home with one of the many raffle prizes or not. The camaraderie of getting together in the dead of winter was enough for many. All proceeds from the event, according to the club bylaws, will be used for improvements to the shotgun and rifle ranges.


Four new pistol ranges have been completed at the rifle range, which the club feels should meet the needs of all pistol shooters for several years. The main road to the range has been graveled and paved. Concrete has also been added and a new stand-up pistol shooting area was added at the north end.

Eighty acres directly west of the backstop of the rifle range were purchased from the Oldenburg Group to ensure the long-term viability of the facility. The range backstops were only approximately 100 yards from the original property line, so the club felt this purchase was necessary. The club also owns the Heal Lake Property to the south and west of this new purchase, making a good-sized block of land for members to use.

At the shotgun range, the clubhouse was painted and siding replaced as needed. Kitchen work was also done in order to secure a restaurant license. Food was served for the 2017 season and that will continue in 2018. The parking lot was black-topped to provide better drainage and help with maintenance. Worn out traps for the 5-stand sporting clays and trap shooting were also replaced this year to provide shooters with more reliable service.

Improvements and renovations have also been made to rental properties owned by the club. The income from the rental properties, as well as timber sales from land owned by the club, keep the organization running in the black without having to raise shooting prices. This income, coupled with the revenue from the banquet, also allows the club to make many improvements to both ranges every year.


Summer and fall trap and skeet leagues at the shotgun range on Highway C east of Rhinelander will shoot on Wednesday and Thursday evenings in 2018. Phil Kriesel will be setting up the Five Stand League.

The Single Action Shooting Society Matches (SASS) Cowboy Action Matches will be held on the second Saturday of the month from May to October.

Virgil Davis will be in charge of those and can be contacted for more information.

The United States Practical Shooting Association (USPSA) Northwoods Practical Shooter club has been operating at the rifle range on South River Road west of Rhinelander for five years. Bruce Gary and a dedicated team of local shooters have been holding matches on the fourth Sunday from April to October. Practice is held every Tuesday from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Competitors must have a handgun, either semi-auto or revolver, with a minimum caliber of 9mm/.38 and a holster, magazine and eye and ear protection. Shooters are split into various classes with competitors competing only against those in their class.

All are welcome to attend as a participant or observer.

Beckie Gaskill may be reached via email at

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