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North Beltrami Sportsmen’s Club alive and shooting 80 years later

Andy Martin, treasurer of the North Beltrami Sportsmen’s Club fires a round during Monday’s shoot. Photo by Jillian Gandsey.

Nearly a mile down a thin, sometimes winding dirt road off Highway 36 stands a log building: The North Beltrami Sportsmen’s Club.

Every Monday during the spring and summer, trap shooting teams and the summer league gather there to practice shooting, have a meal, play cards and visit with friends.

The league has seven teams of six shooters this year, which include men, women and children. It has had anywhere from six to 17 teams, with some traveling from as far as Grand Rapids, Minn., competing at once but Club President Morris Frenzel said the average is usually between six to eight.

With the dramatic increase of high school trap shooting teams in Minnesota, the sportsmen’s club has seen a change in numbers as well.

“I’ve noticed since I’ve been shooting out here we’re losing a lot of our middle-aged guys because all their kids are going to play baseball and softball and other sports and now that we got the youth shooting, some of the guys are coming back and bringing some interest from their kids,” Frenzel said.

The longest active shooter of the club, Jim Smischney, who has been involved since 1974, said that the club has reached what its first members had always hoped for.

“Their dream was to have what we got,” Smischney said. “Someday they hoped the young would be able to build.”

The club met for the first time on Aug. 7, 1934, in the “council rooms” in Kelliher. A permanent structure wasn’t built on the 120-acre lot until the early 1980s.

“When I was first was here there was a little cement thing with a long rod and somebody pulled the lever and then the pigeons would go out there was nothing else here,” Smischney said.

When the club was down to three members and close to dissolving in the late 1970s, Smischney said that Kurt Benson, owner of Benson Timber, became involved and made a push for more members and teams. When the club was on its feet again, the building began.

“That’s when they cut logs and I sawed all the logs for this building,” Smischney said.

The club held a successful fishing derby in 2000 to raise funds in order to add a kitchen onto the building that summer. Now each team takes a turn making meals for the others for a freewill donation, which funds the club along with annual memberships dues at $35.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources conducts field days for gun safety courses, hunter safety, trap hunting training and ATV training at the site.

Toni Long is the youngest active shooter in the club, who started shooting this past spring. She joined the trap shooting team at Blackduck High School and will enter the eighth grade this fall.

“It’s really fun to come out after school and do a sport that none of my friends are doing,” Long said. She also said that she wanted to join the team because, her uncle, President Frenzel, shoots.

Jillian Gandsey

Jillian Gandsey is the Multimedia Editor at the Bemidji Pioneer. She is an Iron Range native and a 2013 graduate of Bemidji State University. Follow Jillian on Twitter and Instagram @jilliangandsey. Contact her at 218-333-9786, 218-996-1216 or at 

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