World War II was raging half a world away, requiring many young men across America to join the military in service to our nation.

That was true in rural communities across America, including Alta Mesa, Wilton, Herald and Galt in Sacramento County. Men too young or too old to serve, as well as the women in these small communities, stayed behind to keep local farms, ranches and businesses running. They were also responsible for ensuring the safety of their communities against any threats from the enemy. The men were formally organized under State Militia Law to protect their communities in the event of such an attack.

The formation of the militia was also the genesis for the establishment of the Alta Mesa Gun Club in 1944. As they still do today, 75 years later, they would shoot their guns on sprawling sloped land at the end of Reigl Road, north of Blake Road.

For the first few years, the club held its monthly meetings at the Alta Mesa Farm Bureau building at the corner of Blake and Alta Mesa roads. In meticulously kept records, the first journal entry made for the club was a rent payment to the Sacramento County Farm Bureau for $24 per year on Oct. 26, 1944. There were 25 original club members who paid annual dues of $5 per member for an annual operating budget of $135.

The clubhouse that serves as the centerpiece of the Alta Mesa Gun Club was built between 1947 and 1957, financed with loans from club members. The original five acres of club land has been expanded to 20 acres through gifts of land and loans financed by club members.

The primary focus of the gun club is to promote safe sport shooting for adults and families with an emphasis on encouraging young people to become involved in the sport of trap shooting. “Because safety is our first concern, Range Masters are always on hand to provide hands-on safety and technical support for all shooters, especially those who are new to the sport. Alta Mesa Gun Club is the home club for the Wilton Christian School and the Galt school district’s trap shooting clubs. The club is open to any youth shooting team,” Board Vice President Aliecia Campbell said.

The school’s teams practice and prepare at the Alta Mesa Gun Club for participation in trap shoot tournaments sponsored by the California Youth Shooting Sports Association (CYSSA), which take place statewide. Competition shooting offers three divisions: Rookie – Grades 5 and under; Intermediate – Grades 6-8 and Senior – Grades 9-12.

“Over the years, many young people from Wilton, Galt and surrounding areas have produced some excellent shooters,” said John Maggy, a longtime member of the club.

One young shooter who practiced at the gun club represented the United States by participating on the U.S. Olympic team.

“The club is very proud of the young shooters who have honed their skills at the Alta Mesa Gun Club,” Maggy said.

Funding the operation of the gun club comes primarily from four sources. Membership dues are $45 per member per year. Shooting fees for non-club members are $10 for 50 rounds and $8 for 50 rounds for members. The club holds two major fundraisers a year, including the fall tri-tip dinner and the St. Patrick’s Day corned beef and cabbage feed.

The final source of funding over the years has been grants from the Friends of the NRA.

Their first grant in 1998 was used to replace the manually operated trap machine with new safer automatic trap. Grant funds were also used to build a new trap house, new concrete shooting lanes, new gravel for parking lot and new tables for hunter education classes.

The second grant was received in 2003 and provided funds for a new roof to replace original tile roof built in 1948. It also provided funds for a new stove and new tables and chairs for hunter education classes and gun club activities. In recent years, three smaller grants have been received to allow the club to continue to make improvements.

“A point of great pride to our members is the tremendous amount of volunteer time and talent committed by our members,” said Steve Cecil, longtime member and a former president of the club. “Our members have raised a significant amount of money through gun raffles over the years. Alan Wagner, his brother Norm Wagner and member Rod Luman put on two gun raffles in 2006 and 2008. The gun raffles were called the 52 Gun Raffle. One gun each week was raffled for both years. The raffles raised enough money to remodel the original bathrooms and bring the building into compliance with the Americans with Disability Act (ADA). Alan Wagner passed in January 2019.”  

The club has two traps, which release clay “pigeons” which can accommodate five to seven shooters at one time. The club estimates that it goes through approximately 215,000 clay targets annually.

The club’s monthly membership meetings are held on the first Thursday of each month at 7 p.m. at the club.

For anyone interested in joining the club or learning more about membership, please visit their website at www.AltaMesaGunClub.com. Membership applications are available on the website. Club shooting facilities are open to the general public on Monday, Thursday and Friday, and the second Saturday of the month.

The 75th Anniversary Celebration will be held at the club (10100 Reigl Road, Wilton) on Saturday, June 8. Shooting games begin at 10 a.m., followed by a barbecue luncheon at 11:30, provided by JR’s Texas BBQ. There will also be a gun raffle for a Berretta A-300 12 gauge Sporting Clay. The cost for lunch is $20 presale per person. Raffle tickets are $20 each.

For more information on the celebration, contact Iris Ott at (530) 545-0386 or email altamesagunclub@outlook.com.