Brian Atherton has been the president of the Smithers Bulkley Valley Rod and Gun Club for the past 4 years. The club is approaching 94 years and in the past has been active in activities such as stocking lakes and introducing Pheasants into the wild. They have worked with several outfits, including the BC Wildlife Federation, to promote conservation and safe, ethical, and responsible fishing and hunting.
For the past three years, Brian has spearheaded several programs to get the youth in the community involved in the Rod and Gun Club and to learn about safe gun use. As president, Brian wanted to make the Rod and Gun Club a fun and safe place to be. He wanted to create a safe learning environment that parents could bring their children to and know that they would be led by responsible people.
Here are a few initiatives Brian has worked on with several other volunteers at the Bulkley Valley Rod and Gun Club in Smithers.
In Brian’s second year as president of the club, he started reaching out to several local high schools to have the students try out trap and .22 rifle shooting. Hunting and fishing are the cultural norm in Smithers so these programs were well received by the school board, principal, outside educators, parents and students. The club has also hosted .22 rifle shooting programs with the Wet’suwet’en First Nations high school. On one occasion the club brought Pan-American games gold medal trap winner and ladies trap shooting event from Alberta to do work with the high school students in preparation for a trap shooting event.
In the summer of 2017 the Girl Guides of BC had their SOAR (Spirit of Outdoor Adventure Rondevu). This event brought over 2,000 Girl Guides to Smithers. The Rod and Gun Club was able to take 150 of the girls and showed them how to shoot .22 rifle and trap, they saw how a trapper skinned and mounted a marten on a board, and the girls helped with some projects around the club property. In April, the Rod and Gun club will be hosting a regional Girl Guide event.
.22 Rifle and Trap Shoot:
During the winter months the Club runs an indoor .22 rifle shoot for youth once a week. The club is able to host as many as 10 kids at a time. They put an emphasis on teaching the kids safe, responsible, and ethical use of firearms in the indoor environment. Currently the club is starting a youth trap shooting program. This comes after a generous donation from a club member of 7 brand new shotguns. The club is working on subsidizing the cost of shells in order to make this program affordable for youth. Brian hopes through this new program they can teach youth how to shoot trap and get them involved in competitions, while building an enjoyment for the sport.
Family Fishing day is always a big event. Volunteers take youth out to the local lake to show them how to bait a hook and cast a line. The club also hosts an annual Easter egg hunt. This years egg hunt is not cancelled, but will be delayed due to snow.
What the Future Holds:
Brian says he’s recently been contacted by a local elementary school with a request to bring in grade 6 and 7 students to learn about .22 riflery. A program is in the works to educate the elementary students on proper gun safety. In addition, the club is looking into putting together a willow hinging project for moose habitat on crown land. This project will hopefully help the moose populations, which have drastically decreased. Brian hopes down the road the club can do more programs in the way of conservation and restoration in order to echo the club’s motto: Protect to Enjoy.
Brian says their goal with these programs is to offer youth an opportunity to not be intimidated and to have a chance to get into a sport that members at the Rod and Gun Club find enjoyable.
“As I sit back as club president and reflect on, are we doing a good job in terms of what we’re offering our members and what we’re offering the community, I feel quite comfortable that we are offering something very solid in terms of introducing and enforcing safe, responsible, ethical use of firearms, whether it is in sport shooting or hunting.”
Brian says all of these initiatives aren’t without the support of the community. Local sporting goods store, Outdoor Essentials donates all the ammunition for the .22 rifle shooting programs and they also donated two firearms to the club. McBike and Sport of Smithers also assist the club’s activities. Parents and club members invest a lot of money to support the youth programs. Not to mention, the dedicated volunteers who give hundreds of hours of their time to make these programs possible.
“All volunteer organizations are built on the backs of the members and the enthusiasm, energy and dedication of the members, so the more of those we can get the more that we can do.”
~By Cheyenne Bergenhenegouwen