The Exeter Sportsman’s Club, Inc. was founded on March 23, 1878. The club had 27 original members who organized with the purpose to promote the conservation of fish & game, to stimulate interest in the shooting sports, and to foster the highest standards of sportsmanship among members and among fellow sportsmen. We are one the oldest shooting club’s operating in the country today.
The Exeter Sportsman’s Club, echoing a rising national sentiment, decided to outlaw live pigeon shooting and adopted the Bogardus rules and system of glass ball target shooting. The club shot glass ball targets until the arrival of the clay target in 1880 which eventually lead to a change to the new clay targets and away from glass balls. Our original glass ball target launcher was donated to the Exeter Historical Society where it can still be seen today.
The club originally used grounds located near Rowland Spring (behind Forest Street) to hold shoots every two weeks. In 1919 the club relocated to Jady Hill, sharing land with the Exeter Country Club until the mid-1950’s. The club had to move once again when the Country Club decided they wanted to manage all of the land for golf and the town needed part of the land for a water pumping station.
In 1955 the Town of Exeter offered the club a lease on land surrounding the Waterworks Pond. In 1957 our club built a brand new clubhouse on the lease. It is the same clubhouse in use today. In February of 1963 however, the club once again had to pack up and move to a new location.
In an effort to accommodate our new neighbor, Sylvania Electric Products, and their plans for a plant that abutted the Sportsman’s Club lease, the clubhouse was moved 1,200 feet to the East. The clubhouse was slid across the frozen pond on slings and rubber tired wheels. The 20” thick ice was seen heaving and buckling by those who watched under the weight of the clubhouse. The clubhouse arrived safe and sound at its new location however where it currently sits and is in use today.
Although trap shooting has always been an important part of the Sportsman’s Club’s history, in 1992, concerns about lead contamination resulted in a vote banning all lead shot on our trap range. It was not a popular decision with all of the members. Trap shooting continued using non-toxic loads, until 2011, when trap shooting was suspended until the range can be upgraded to address the contamination concerns.
To this day the Exeter Sportsman’s Club continues to honor the founding club members and their ideals. Our club offers many types of firearms training and education programs to members and the public, we allow local Law Enforcement agencies and Civil Air Patrol Cadet Programs to use our range for training purposes, we host a very popular youth fishing derby every year that sees upwards of 500 people attend, we assist Boy Scouts with obtaining various Merit Badges and with an annual flag retirement ceremony, and we strive to be active and involved members in our local community.
In 1977 the club became an NRA Senior Club. Our affiliation with the NRA continues to this day. The NRA works tirelessly to increase enjoyment of the shooting sports by offering educational shooting programs, providing club and member benefits, while also defending our Second Amendment rights.
Affiliate clubs play a major role in NRA Programs while sending a strong message to those who threaten our gun rights. NRA Affiliate club’s also help continue the shooting sports tradition.
In May of 1884, five members of our club traveled to Chicago, IL to compete in the 1st International Clay Pigeon Tournament. Not only did the team do well, they won, making them the 1st World Champion trap shooters!
In 1890 our club was presented with a copy of the poster "Popular and Expert Trap Shooters of America" by the United States Cartridge Company of Lowell, Massachusetts. The poster contains pictures of 75 of the best trap shooters in the country at the time.
One of the shooters featured on the poster is Dr. C.H. Gerrish. Dr. Gerrish was a founding member of the Exeter Sportsman's Club and a member of the 1884 World Champion trap shooting team. The post is still displayed in our clubhouse to this day.
The “March of Time” was a radio news series from 1931-1945. It was also played in movie theaters from 1935-1951. Created by Fred Smith and Roy E Larsen of Time Magazine, the “March of Time” combined real news footage with reenactments. In the 40’s the series featured the town of Exeter and the Sportsman’s Club. The club footage is shown at the 8:52 - 9:06 mark in the 11 minute accompanying video.
In 1981 the club had several items accepted by the Trap Shooting Hall Of Fame for display in the Museum. Items included a club member shoulder patch, a copy of the original club’s bylaws from 1878, and a copy of the 1970 newspaper article: Exeter Trap Shooting Group Oldest in Country, and a 2-page club history.
The Trap Shooting Hall of Fame, founded in 1968, is located in Vandalia, OH. The Hall Of Fame Museum preserves the history and artifacts of trapshooting and honors outstanding persons in the sport.
More than 160 men and women have been inducted into the Hall Of Fame since the 1st class in 1969.