WELLSBURG - For 65 years, the Brooke County Sportsmen Club has been bringing together area residents who come from various walks of life but share a common love of hunting, fishing and being outdoors.
Located off McAdoo Ridge, the club offers opportunities for hunting, archery, target shooting and fishing and fellowship in a scenic environment.
Among the club's many events is an annual fishing rodeo aimed at introducing children of all ages to the fun and peace offered by the pastime.
More than 80 children turned out on April 9 to cast their lines into the club's fully stocked trout pond. As the boy and girl who caught the largest fish, Kyle Dawson and Kennedy Harbin were presented trophies and $25 cash prizes.
All of the children and their families were treated to a free lunch of hot dogs, burgers and other picnic-style fare at the clubhouse.
"This is one of our biggest days for new members," said Bruce Hunter, who chaired the event. He said the pond was stocked with about 365 trout, ranging from 14 inches to 20 inches long.
"Every child will walk out of here with a door prize," Hunter said, adding that's because of the generosity of many local businesses, groups and individuals who contribute prizes or money.
"This event gets the young kids out, and that's the future of the club," said George Sheperd, a Wellsburg member.
Tom Shriner of Wellsburg, a longtime member of the club, said the fishing rodeo "is a family affair. My daughter and her husband come up from Charleston just for this."
Many of the older participants said the event brought back good memories of times spent with fathers and grandfathers.
Joe Morris, the club's vice president, said his father brought him to the club when he was 9 or 10 "and I've been a member ever since."
Morris said his nephew often accompanies him to the club, adding it's important for parents and other family members to spend time one-to-one with children.
Hunter said at a time when youth spend more time indoors with computers and video games, the club offers families healthy recreational activities.
Linda Viderman, the club's membership chairman, said members live in Brooke, Hancock and Jefferson counties and Washington, Pa. She added a growing number of women have joined and participate in archery, trap shooting and other events.
The club includes an archery range where three-dimensional archery shoots are held on the last Sunday of each month have attracted from a dozen to more than 40 participants.
In three-dimensional archery, or 3D archery, archers aim for life-size models of animals from unmarked distances. The sport tests archers' ability to determine their targets' distance from them.
Dan John Sr. of Follansbee, who maintains the club's rifle range, said trap shoots, a form of clay pigeon shooting, also are very popular at the club and are held each Wednesday and Sunday.
The club has hosted the state meet of the West Virginia Trapshooting Association for many years. This year's event will be held July 7-10.
"It has attracted some excellent shooters from all over the country," said Jim Ferguson of Wellsburg, a longtime member of the club.
"Trap shooting really started to grow after World War II when the GIs came home," he said.
Ferguson said he was about 10 when the club was formed in 1946 but recalled many of its founding members were veterans who met at East Hills near Wellsburg before building the block clubhouse at the club's current 196-acre site.
"They worked hard - probably 85 percent of it was volunteer - to lay the block for the clubhouse," he said, adding the former soldiers "taught you a lot. They taught you how to work together."
John and Bob Platt, Newt Jones, John Winski and Carmine Staffileno were among the club's original members, who initially numbered about 25, Ferguson recalled.
The club presently includes 259 adults and 83 junior members.
Yearly memberships are $35 for adults and teens 15 and older and $10 for children 14 and under, with family memberships available for $75 each.
Both the trap and archery shoots are open to the public, and dates and admissions are announced frequently through the media and the club's Facebook page and website at www.brookesportsmen.org.
Lee Snoderly, a past president of the club, said the club has provided him camaraderie and personal growth.
"I was here and I ended up being president. It's made me a different person," he said.
(Scott can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)