Sportsmen's clubs spotlight everything that's great about the great outdoors

Sportsmen's clubs spotlight everything that's great about the great outdoors

SADORUS — With the Kaskaskia River in its backyard, the Sadorus Sportsman Club has its own lake, campground and shooting range.

The sportsman, and sportslady, is an outdoor breed, preferring fishing or firing guns or camping to watching TV or playing Angry Birds.

Because hunting and fishing facilities are limited here, clubs have grown up around fishing holes, small lakes and shooting ranges.

Sadorus is the largest such club in Champaign County, with more than 650 members; St. Joseph has one, as do Champaign and Urbana, which both chose sites in Mahomet.

Four Sadorus founding members are still very active: Bill Wood, whose tavern was the club's first home; John Hixson; Robert Whightsil; and Earl Welch.

There are several special events during the year, including a chicken barbecue dinner, Las Vegas-style nights and trap shooting meets.

On Sunday, Sadorus holds its turkey shoot. You don't actually shoot turkeys, but there are 72 of them as prizes for the best shot at tiny black dots.

"It's just pure luck to shoot that dot," Welch says.

Membership is $30 a year, with a $75 fee the first, Welch said.

The group grew out of a gathering at Bill Wood's tavern, called Woody's of all things.

The club held lots of stag parties in the early years, but the Vegas nights appeal to couples, Welch said.

Starting with only 35 members, said Wood, 91, the club bought a few acres at a time and quickly paid off the guy who dug out the lake, which gets some water from the Kaskaskia River.

Welch said shooting craps and other gambling was not part of the official club offerings, but was common in the early days before women started to come around.

Fishing, trap shooting and camping (with electricity and water lines) are the mainstays, but the clubhouse — first constructed with lumber from trees on the grounds — and commercial-style kitchen facilities, are all on about 17 acres of land.

At 150 County Road 400E, southwest of Sadorus, the Sadorus Sportsman Club offers many activities, including a children's playground, picnic area, pavilion and lake, which members built themselves.

The St. Joseph Sportsman Club is at 1650 N County Road 2385 E, cut off from St. Joseph by Interstate 74.

Founded in 1954, the 14-acre field includes a 7-acre lake that is stocked annually, clubhouse, camping areas, pistol range, skeet field and trap field.

"We stock the lake twice a year," said Nancy Moseley, a club spokeswoman. "We put in catfish, redear (a cousin of the bluegill), bass and crappie."

She said membership is "right at 390," with members from Mahomet, Sidney, Homer and Bloomington.

Bill Smoot is an Urbana police officer who teaches a couple classes on gun safety every month.

"It's a good facility," he says after a Sunday lesson on a rainy day.

The website is

Annual dues are $100 plus a one-time key charge of $12.50, but you can cut that to $50 if you donate 20 hours of work to club maintenance projects in a calendar year.

The Sportsmen's Club of Urbana is actually in Mahomet. It's the oldest, founded during the Depression to offer pheasant hunting in the area.

Spokeswoman Barb Back notes there is fishing, an archery range, gun range and plenty of camping.

"We rent out the club building for wedding receptions," she added.

Paul Nurmi, who teaches NRA, concealed carry and gun safety classes, is also a member. He said men and women alike enjoy the shooting as well as fishing. Boy Scouts use the club facilities a lot, he added.

"They have an awesome range," says Dean Hazen, a firearms instructor who is on the board of directors.

Dues are $120 a year; there's a $50 initiation fee the first year.

The club's website is

On the east side of Mahomet, just east of Lake of the Woods, there's another lake, and the usual amenities.

But what stands out is the full hookups for tent camping and a long row of RVs and campers — even as the weather starts to get cold.

This is the Champaign Sportsmen's Club, 302 N. Lake of the Woods Road. Caretaker and longtime member Charles Hammock says camping is doing very well now.

"The part I love about it is the outdoors," he says. "It's a family oriented place with all kinds of activities for everyone."

Dues are $50 a year, Hammock said.

The club's Facebook page is

Sections (1):Living