keeping the american heritage alive
Raahauge's have been throwing targets for a long time...
The bustle of city life and Southern California freeways are soon left behind when one drives through the entrance adorned with longhorns. Around a couple of corners and the world of the Prado Basin opens up. The skies offer an endless view from the Cleveland National Forest south to the San Bernardino mountian range north to the Norco Hills east and the Chino Hills west.
In the fall and winter -- like clockwork -- ducks, geese, commorants and other migrating waterfowl find their way home to the 1,200 acres of what is known as "the range" -- which includes Sporting Clays, making it the longest, continuous running range in the country!
Since their years in the Corona-Norco area, Mike and Elaine Raahauge have created an ultimate refuge for the outdoor sportsman.
Where did it all begin?
Mike's dad, Linc Raahauge, operated a pheasant hunting facility in Dixon, CA in the 1950s. They also offered target shooting in a crazy quail fashion. While on a family trip to Disneyland, Linc got lost and ended up on Highway 71. Thinking the area would make an ideal pheasant farm, the family decided to follow the migratory birds south where they all landed in the Prado Basin.
Although Mike was not on that family trip, he helped his father move the facility south in 1971 after they signed a lease with the Orange County Water District.
Linc always wanted to move south because Southern California offered a larger population base. The hunting facility was first opened on Bluff St., in Norco. The pheasant and duck hunting operation began. Target traps were set on the balcony of the clubhouse and alongside a dirt road which overlooked the basin below with views of the free-flowing Santa Ana River.
Target shooting was set up in a fashion for hunters to warm up or enjoy after a morning of hunting. The family then built a trap range. Throughout the years, the Raahauge's offered chukar, quail and other upland game hunting.
Linc died in 1989 and Mike recently passed in May, 2013. The ranch continues to operate as a family business with Elaine at the head. Their daughter, Cindy Shenberger, lives in North Carolina with her family.
When Cindy was growing up she had dreams of competitively shooting international skeet so the family built a skeet field. She continued to win many titles and was a participant in the 2000 Olympics, shooting very well.
In the 1980's, Dan Carlisle discovered the shooting range and came out to practice after his participation at the 1984 Olympics. He introduced Sporting Clays to the Raahauge's and the games popularity took off rapidly.
While Dan was involved in preparations for the 1988 Olympics, Mike increased the Sporting Clays course to 10 stations and began offering Fun Shoots, of which still run today on the second Sunday of each month.
At the same time, Mike got together with a few of the guns' manufacturer reps to create the Hands On Shooting Sports Fair in 1983. Their successful show was so popular at its present location at the range they went on the road and offered yearly shows in Washington, Texas, Colorado and Arizona. The Sports Fair continues each year in Corona on the first weekend in June allowing over 15,000 attendees to test fire their favorite firearms.
The ranch is also the center of gravity for many local wildlife and conservation organizations.
The Cowboys turn the ranch into the Old West twice each year to compete with the old cowboy guns.
"The shooting fraternity, whether they're hunting or shooting targets, are really generous," Mike said. "We have a lot of successful fundraisers here for a lot of groups."
The current shooting range -- on River Rd., Corona -- is the area where the family raised pheasants. They usually raised about 125,000 birds and the most birds shot in one year was around 50,000. The pheasant club, which includes chukar hunting, still operates on Bluff St.
The shooting range is home to many shooting groups such as Shooting Sports Alliance, The Cowboys, Gen X and Running Gun, The Appleseed Project, SoCal Top Guns Youth Shooting, NRA Shooting Programs and Firearms Training Associates.
Also popular are the 15 hunter safety education courses offered each year, allowing first time hunters to earn their hunting license.
"Of everything I do here, that's the most important," Mike said. "It's the dearest thing to my heart. It makes it a safer world. There are guns in our society. People need to know how to handle them safely. We're giving them a safe way to deal with guns."