Mid-Michigan community stays active in winter with shooting sports

Staying active during the colder months is important in Michigan, as snowy, gloomy days can be depressing. Most think of basketball, hockey, and skiing as ways to have fun. Add two East Lansing area shooting ranges to the list of ways to have fun.

The Demmer Shooting Sports and Education Center at the south end of Michigan State Campus and the Rose Lake Shooting Range in Bath Township have served the Lansing area for several decades, even during the winter months.

The Demmer Center, although open to the general public, is generally used by members of the Spartan community. The facility is used by MSU’s student shooting sports organizations, including small-bore, air rifle, and archery, as well as varsity programs in shooting sports, the application of law and related programs.

Demmer has indoor and outdoor ranges, but only the indoor range is open during the winter. The facility made some modifications, including repairs and the complete replacement of the fire suppression system, while it was closed due to COVID-19 in early 2020, over a period of four months.

Demmer Center instructor Glen Bennett said the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the center can still be felt today, although he is optimistic.

“A lot of our kids can’t compete in tournaments for fear of the virus spreading,” Bennett said. “But now COVID is a bit better, we seem to be a bit more relaxed, we’re in control of it better, everything seems to be fine.”

He said the pandemic had made patrons of the establishment more grateful and they were eager to return after the pandemic-induced closure.

“During the summer we were able to shoot outdoors, which was beautiful,” Bennett said.

The Center was founded by John Demmer, a Michigan State alumnus who participated in the 1940s, with contributions from him and his wife.

The center offers courses in archery and firearms. He has also received numerous honors and awards, including recognition from the Paralympic Sports Club Excellence Program. Bennett has also received recognition and awards from the United States Olympic and Paralympic Assembly.

Another popular shooting range in the area is Rose Lake Shooting Range located in Bath Township, north of East Lansing. It is managed by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

The facility offers rifle/pistol, hand trap and archery ranges.

Dennis Fox, the DNR section chief, oversees operations at the facility.

It is open five days a week and only indoor shooting ranges are available during the winter. The property continues to have COVID-19 safety protocols in place.

“MIOSHA [Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration] guidelines still require us to wear masks indoors and hand sanitizer is placed at all distances,” Fox said. “We encourage our customers to bring their own sanitizer and disinfectant, but we always provide just in case.”

Although the pandemic is not considered as big of a concern as it once was, these businesses are limited at this time in terms of available activities and hours of operation.

On top of that, just like many other businesses, these facilities are understaffed, adding to the challenges they faced at the onset of the pandemic. Because the sport is mostly seasonal, it’s even harder for these businesses to get back on track financially.

While it’s important for these businesses to stay afloat financially, it’s equally important that their customers feel secure. Although these companies have adjusted their opening hours due to the winter season, they have also had to adapt due to the lack of staff.

There are also fewer activities offered during the winter compared to the summer, and they hope that won’t be a problem to get them back on track with their financial goals.

The hope is that because customers have missed going to the facilities so much, they will frequent them more often than before, in turn helping these businesses in these still difficult times.