Fun and Gun


Column by Mark Davis.

Exclusive to STR 

I’ve had enough of the emotional handwringing about the evil of guns and the chastising rhetoric about gun owners. Of course, inanimate objects like guns can’t be evil or good; they are just tools that can be used for good or evil. Further, gun owners are no more inherently wicked than people who own knives, hammers, shovels or baseball bats, which are all tools that can be used to hurt other people. Indeed, marksmanship is an age-old sport that teaches a number of virtues while providing an invaluable practical skill. Yet we are constantly inundated by negative news, events and people involving guns these days, so I thought it would be nice to hear about some people using the free market to offer other people who like to shoot or want to learn to shoot a safe, fun place to go. This wonderful place is called the Rocky Creek Ranch.
The ranch is billed as a Wilderness Lodge Education and Training Center because it is dedicated to helping people learn and enjoy marksmanship. Both skilled marksmen that have been shooting all their lives and the beginner who would like to learn the basics and get started will enjoy visiting. Of course, nobody has to shoot a gun to enjoy a stay, and many prefer carrying a camera. The setting is a naturally beautiful 1,500 acre ranch near Myakka City, Florida. The ranch can accommodate campers wanting to rough it in the woods, lodgers who prefer a bed and breakfast or those who want to compromise can stay in the bunkhouse. The facility offers special events sponsored by organizations dedicated to educating the public about marksmanship and can host private gatherings as well as individuals. The Rocky Creek Ranch provides eco-tourism at its finest. It is heaven for nature lovers.
The ranch is located at the headwaters of the Myakka River in eastern Manatee County about 25 miles east of Downtown Bradenton near Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.  The area is noted for its native flora and fauna. Wildlife on the ranch is abundant including amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. Wild hogs, turkey, deer, bobcats, coyotes and otters are a common sight. Ospreys, eagles, egrets, spoonbills, hawks, herons and many other birds nest in the area, including too many songbirds to list. There are two spring-fed lakes stocked with largemouth bass, catfish and bluegill. A dock provides a good spot to fish from. Horseback riding, hiking, fishing, biking, photography, bird-watching, stargazing and picking berries are among the popular activities. You could also just sit under the shade of the many Bald Cypress, Oak and Southern Pine trees or gather around a large stone fire-pit to relax.
The training and shooting are currently done at two ranges of 100 and 500 yards. Other facilities are under construction, including covered and uncovered ranges of 25 yards, two 1,000 yard outdoor ranges and a 360 degree range of fire training facility. Range safety is a priority and the manager, Chris Baden, is an NRA certified RSO (range safety officer). Lessons in the proper use of firearms are available onsite.
When you go to the website and see the pictures you will think that it costs a fortune, but it doesn’t. The lodge has five bedrooms, three with twin beds and two with double beds, each with its own bath and thermostat control. The base rate is currently about $85 per night per person without food or $115 per night per person including three meals a day depending on the number of people and the desired menu. Special group rates and additional bedding is available on request. There is a large dining room that can also be used for meetings and classroom space. About 12 to 14 total people can occupy the lodge comfortably.
The bunkhouse/barn has six bunk-beds, a full bath and a covered cooking area. The bunkhouse beds go for $50 per person per night. There are about 15 cleared campsites near the water, showers, restrooms and campfire, but also 1,500 acres to choose your own primitive site at $90 for the weekend per site. There are also three campsites with 30 amp electric hook-ups for campers with RVs and trailers at the same price.   Contact Chris for group rates if you want to have a family reunion or other large get-together. Trainers and instructors are also welcome to utilize the facility for their own classes.
Some of the organizations that have used the ranch to hold events include Project Appleseed and Babes with Bullets for the ladies. The Project Appleseed is sponsored and conducted by the Revolutionary War Veterans Association (RWVA) that not only will instruct you in marksmanship, but also teach you the heritage and history behind the American Revolution that you didn’t get in school. Building community is their primary mission, as they say on their website:
“Why teach marksmanship?  Because good shooting requires learning positive traits such as patience, determination, focus, attention to detail, and persistence.   Since these skills are likewise key elements of mature participation in civic activities, we urge our students to take what they have learned about themselves as marksmen and apply it to their participation in their communities and in the wider American society in accordance with their own choices about how Americans should govern themselves.”
There are several upcoming weekend events over the next couple of months including a week long “bootcamp” in October at the Rocky Creek Ranch in conjunction with the Appleseed Project. The Appleseed Project has events all over the country likely to include at least one close to you in the near future. Check it out and go work on your marksmanship while enjoying fellowship with true patriot communities.
This country once proudly held itself up as the “land of the free and the home of the brave,” but unfortunately, after a couple generations of government schooling and media manipulation, we have lost much of that strength of character. Alas, too many took it for granted. Personal responsibility and community building has been replaced by reliance on the state and frivolous entertainment. Luckily there are still people and organizations that understand this situation and are doing something about it. They give me reason to be optimistic about our future. I hope they can inspire you, too. 
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Mark Davis's picture
Columns on STR: 65

Mark Davis is a husband, father and real estate analyst/investor enjoying the freedoms we still have in Longwood, Florida.