For many years the Virden area had two major sports firearm groups, the Fort La Bosse Gun Club and the Virden Rifle and Pistol Club. They included membership from all over the Westman area as far east as Winnipeg and into Saskatchewan as far west as Regina.
Both groups had their own facilities and programs that catered to different firearms skill sets and needs. The two groups were, for many years under the leadership of John Hipwell and a board of directors, and the Virden Rifle and Pistol Club, led in recent years by Bill McQuaker and its board.
In 2017, the two groups decided to amalgamate, forming the Fort La Bosse Wildlife Association with over 200 members. This union gave to all members a government-approved indoor range, outdoor ranges and meeting facilities.
Recently the new organization held its second annual general meeting at the indoor range site in Virden. The meeting was opened by club president Matthew Hipwell, who welcomed and thanked a good turn-out on that very cold winter’s night.
Major topics discussed were the growing popularity of the club’s archery program, the need for repairs to the walls of the indoor range, for which the club already has a promise of $10,000 support from the Virden Area Foundation, and other improvements to both range facilities such as improved lighting, additional storage and maintenance agreements for both sites to keep them clean and safe.
The club’s financial report showed the club was in a sound financial condition, which would allow it to purchase new or replacement equipment and supplies when needed. Discussion was also held on the need to do a thorough cleaning of the indoor range floor and clean up of lead from the indoor range backstop wall.
Both of the two sites are often used by outside groups for training and meetings, which generates additional revenue for the club, above membership dues and shooting event fees. The support the club gets from the community and area businesses was brought up a few times, and included a good working relationship with the very active Virden Trap Shooting Club.
Discussion and nominations were held for executive positions with Matt Hipwell turning over the president position to Marlon Lestrat and the new vice president position being filled by Dale Chadney. Other positions will be filled at a later date, including a membership chairman.
Last year the club started a new idea called, “The Explorer Program”. This is open to boys and girls ages 10 - 15, with a registration fee of $75. This program features skills such as safe firearm and bow usage, first aid, ice fishing and a Hunter Safety course. One of the helpers in this program, Dale Chadney, said the program has been very popular with young people who are not involved in other team sport groups because of time demands or cost. However, because of its popularity, the leadership of the program now needs a full time manager. The membership present agreed and a suitable candidate will be found.
Said Hipwell, "The club has an average of 200 members per year, with the majority in southwest Man. and southeast Sask. We have several different shooting events each year for bow and firearm users. Our bow users have grown in numbers each year with all ages and this year our club is hosting the Manitoba 3D Provincial Bow Competition on July 21, 2019.
“Our goal is to provide recreational facilities for bow and firearm enthusiasts year round under safe and controlled conditions. For more information on the club and it’s looking for volunteers to assist our programs and to provide new ideas for activities, please check out our website: fortlabossewildlife.ca. As a club we are always open the sports up to everyone.”