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• MIKE "DUKE" VENTURINO • PHOTOS: YVONNE VENTURINO

THE HAPPiEST PLACE ON EARTH

My Shooting House.

Rock solid bench, heat, ammo and a target (above). What more does a shooting hobbyist need? Note all the shelves in the background. Duke's shooting house (below) has an anenometer on the roof for reading wind speed and a chronograph mounting stand in front.

Of late a few readers have written asking about my shooting house seen in a few issues. Despite often being in a less than tidy state, it is one of my favorite places on this Earth to be, and along with my property here in Montana, is one of my many dreams come true.

Naturally the property came first, and was acquired back in the mid-1980s before Montana became an "in" place. I couldn't afford enough land in those days to put in a 300-yard rifle range, but when the real estate agent was showing us prospective places in 1986 this one looked perfect. There is a valley almost centered in the property with various hills and banks at the proper spots to serve as 100- and 300-yard berms. At 25 and 200 yards there wasn't, so I had them built at those distances.

Anyway, back to the shooting house. This area of Montana is seldom windless, especially in winter. Even what we consider calm days still have some air movement, so shooting out of doors in the winter even on sunny days is a strain due to wind chill. In 1988 I hired a friend to build a pole shed. It more or less kept the wind off but was such a shack I didn't even want to show photos of it in my articles.

In the natural state of affairs, parents will precede their children in death. My father went way too early in 1979 at age 61. My mother followed 20 years later. After all expenses and bills were paid my sister and I were left with a small sum of money to split. It was about as much as a good down payment on a new 4x4 or would have served to buy two or three high-quality guns.

I did neither. I built my shooting house and I wanted it nice — not a shack. Talking it over with one of my oldest friends, coincidentally a contractor, we came up with this idea. It wouldn't make much sense to put the building on a foundation because as surely as my mother followed my father in death, someday I will follow them both. Some buyer years from now might not care about a shooting house or rifle range.

Therefore, my contractor poured concrete pillars deep into the ground and then bolted the building to them. Someday, if it must be moved, the bolts can be sawed off and the building is then free from its anchor to be moved where desired.

As far as the shooting house itself, it ended up being a rather odd 14x14 feet square. That was because of the lay of the land and the road on out to my targets needed to pass it. Three walls have large windows for light, with the fourth only facing the hillside left solid. On the shooting side, I had two large raising windows installed. One is for rifle shooting from benchrest or for handguns when they are fired from a sandbag rest. The benchrest itself is lag-bolted into the wall so it is super-sturdy. The other window houses a permanently mounted Ransom Pistol Machine Rest. Likewise it is mounted solidly to the frame of the house. If I want to practice offhand shooting, I can open the door and shoot out of it.

On the outside, the siding is no-maintenance aluminum siding because I would much rather spend my time handloading and shooting than

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A rock solid bench used is in Duke's shooting house. The target way up the hill in the distance is at 200 yards.

painting. We did have to jury-rig some curved sections of plastic drainpipe on the corners because our array of aging horses found those edges a perfect place for rubbing their big butts. Those horses have the mistaken idea my rifle range is also their pasture.

Also on the outside, I had my contractor drive two large pieces of angle iron deep into the ground with the bucket of his backhoe. Another length of angle iron serves as a steel cross member so that chronograph screens can be affixed my means of a car window scope mount. That way the screens can be raised or lowered to match my 100-, 200-, and 300-yard rifle targets, or they can be moved over in front of the pistol machine rest when it is lined up on the 25-yard target. There is even an anenometer mounted atop the roof so I can keep track of the wind speeds.

The inside walls of my shooting house are just raw plywood. There didn't seem to be any need to finish it because I knew in a short time they would be covered with "stuff." They were. Bragging targets, accessories, and whatnot are hanging around. What I did want built in there, however, were shelves. Lots of shelves: shelves for ammo boxes, shelves for targets, shelves for just "stuff." And since Montana has a lot more cold weather than hot, I had propane heat installed. It is left on all the time once freezing cold sets in, but since the contractor did a superb job of insulating the house the propane bills are not objectionable.

As finished and in use now for a decade, everything I need to shoot is kept there. Chronographs, screens, extra batteries, staplers, staples, targets, cleaning rods, jags and brushes, solvents, spotting scope, and factory ammo is all there. All ready for me

A rock solid bench used is in Duke's shooting house. The target way up the hill in the distance is at 200 yards.

when I show up from the house, only a couple hundred yards away. I bring the guns and handloads, staple up targets at the distance needed, hang my coat on a peg and get to work. Sometimes when it is too windy to shoot or all the shooting is done, I will just sit in my shooting house, contemplating life and feeling satisfied and happy it is there. Fflira

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