Our Location

Club House Loop
off Lynn Mountain Rd
Vale, NC 28168

Mailing Address:

P.O. Box 544
Hickory, NC 28603

Overview and History

Early Beginnings

The Catawba Valley Wildlife Club was founded by local sportsmen on March 8th 1939 (under the name of Catawba County Rod and Gun Club) because of a recognized need for wildlife management, land and water conservation and a forum for local sportsmen. We are supportive of sportsmen and women of all races, creeds and nationalities. We support and promote organizations such as Scouts, schools, 4-H, churches, and like organizations, that contribute to wildlife conservation, environmental efforts, and expose young people to positive sporting ethics and models of behavior.

It all started in the middle of the Depression, at a cookout in the backyard of Nolan Yount’s dad. Talk turned to providing a venue for sportsmen to gather and to help preserve wildlife resources. A cabin and land was secured in the City of Hickory at what is now Bud Geitner Park (the cabin is still there). Meetings were held in the cabin/house and membership grew to more than 600, with the minutes being reported in the Hickory Daily Record.

Joe Sheets was the caretaker and lived with his family in the basement of the clubhouse for many years. Ponds were build near the clubhouse and were stocked with fish. This hatchery provided stocked fish for Lake Hickory for many years to come. With its substantial membership, the Rod and Gun Club was a political force to be reckoned with and was asked to weigh-in on many of the issues of the day.

Several forward-thinking leaders of the Club – Art Miller, Ken Heffner, Mike Ekard’s dad, among others – recognized the need for physical growth and purchased acreage near Vail, NC. There was much criticism over a facility so far away from Hickory, but the (now) Geitner Park location was conveyed to the City of Hickory and the Club moved. The only structure at the new site was an old barn near where the Sporting Clays range is located today. That was soon to change.

The New Facilities

CVWC Entrance Road

The new property is bordered on the north and east by the Jacob’s Fork river, in an unusually rugged area of southwestern Catawba County. The highest land, overlooking the South Mountains to the west, was cleared for the clubhouse, which now includes 5,000 square feet. All of the materials and labor were donated by Club members. From the very beginning, the Club has been a hands-on, get-it-done kind of place which continues to his day with up to four or five dozen members turning out for each monthly “workday” for trail-clearing and general maintenance.

Wildlife Acres Plaque

More acreage was added behind the rifle range to provide better access to the river, for a total today of more than 180 acres and many miles of well-maintained hiking trails. Then a new entrance and 3800 foot long entry road was cut through mature hardwoods by the members, and opens into a large meadow. The effort that the road took, along with recent planting of hemlocks and cypress trees, remain a source of pride to those who toiled over it. The balsam hemlocks are mountain trees whose seeds are washed down the Jacob’s Fork River in storms, the saplings from which were transplanted.

A similar labor of love had built the skeet range and the beginning of the pistol range, and then the Sporting Clays course and the Ekard building (for equipment storage). White pines salvaged from the damage of a tornado and Hurricane Hugo were used to build the Ekard building, under the guidance of Art Miller, a forester.

More recently, the wobble trap was built, the pistol range completed, and the rifle range improved – easy to summarize in one sentence, but a whole world of hard work!

The sign along the main road had long been a U-shaped pipe joint until Murray Davis designed and built the new sign constructed from stones he gathered from the Club property. As usual, a group effort by many members created a source of pride to the Club.

 

Regular Events

The Club’s calendar of events reflects both its involvement with the community and its rich history:

Each February, there is a Wild Game Dinner featuring a wide variety of hunters’ harvest (deer, bear, rabbit, quail, etc.) which provides an opportunity for members to invite their friends and neighbors to experience the “best-kept secret of Catawba Valley” – the Wildlife Club.

March brings the High School District 8 Shooting Tournament (8 or 9 counties wide) sponsored by the NC Wildlife Resources Commission. That Commission was started in the 1950s through the efforts of Harry Wilfong, Nolan Yount, and other Club members and became the cornerstone of much that is admirable about wildlife resources in our State. Each year, the Club’s scholarships sponsor winners of the tournament to go to Camp Millstone in Rockingham County for the State Tournament in April.

In May there is the Traditional Archery Tournament for 3 days of competition and vendor displays. About 20 years ago, the Club hosted the first-ever National Field Archery 3-D Tournament with big-name national sponsors and more than a hundred life-sized 3-D targets. There was a huge turnout for several years, but the event was held in August and the heat was oppressive. The venue for the tournament was eventually moved up north, leaving the 3-D targets at the Club. Those and newer targets now provide for one of the best Traditional Archery tournaments in the country.

Silent Auction at the Sportaman's Festival

The summer months provide time for hunter safety classes, hunter safety instructor classes, law enforcement training, scouting merit badge opportunities and camping and canoeing. In the course of a year, the Club conducts about 3 percent of all the Hunter Safety Courses in all of the State of North Carolina.

September brings National Hunting and Fishing Day. Art Miller was instrumental in the first National Hunting and Fishing Day (now a national event) which drew nearly 500 people in the 1970s and became famous for its barbeque cookouts. Old-timers still remember having to trek to the spring (located behind what is now the Wobble Trap) to wash the dishes. Today, this is a multi-ring circus of events for the whole family which draws huge and enthusiastic crowds and introduces the younger generation to the shooting sports.

Starting in October of 2009, the Club hosts the Shotgun Bonanza event with the Home Builders Association of Hickory-Catawba Valley to benefit the Boy Scouts of America; which features sporting clays, skeet, and wobble trap and a variety of other family-oriented activities including guided nature hikes, informational wildlife displays, and instruction.

Also in the Fall, the Club has held the St. Jude’s Horseback Ride fundraiser for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.

One cannot visit the Club’s facilities without seeing some of the work which has resulted from Eagle Scout projects, including the sporting clays tower, the wobble trap house, and the maps in the clubhouse.

The Future

And so the Wildlife Club takes justifiable pride in its rich history and community activities. But it also looks forward to taking an even greater leadership role in land and water conservation, wildlife management, promotion of the shooting sports and sporting ethics, and passing along the stewardship of our great heritage to the coming generations of Americans.