Ro Delahanty is a championship shooter and could possibly have been a world-class shooter if her path had taken her in that direction. And it all started with Mike and Witness Tree Rod and Gun Club.
She started accompanying her father out to the club’s skeet shooting range on Saturday mornings when she was ten. They would have breakfast in the club’s lodge, then she’d watch as Big Mike and his friends would plunk away at clay pigeons, competing with one another as to who was the best shot.
It didn’t take Ro long — just a few months — to ask her father if she could learn to shoot like him. So, he dug out his old Stevens .410, which was the gun his father had given him to learn to shoot on and passed it on to a third generation. Within a year she was winning ribbons and trophies in junior division skeet competitions.
When she was fifteen she was among the first to sign up for the target shooting classes when the club built a fixed target pistol range next to the skeet area, figuring it was surely a skill she needed if she really wanted to be a cop.
As a seventeen-year-old she attended a workshop at the club by a professional shooter named Johnna Mack about a new sport shooting competition that involved having to differentiate threatening and non-threatening pop-up targets and then drawing and accurately firing from a concealed-carry position on only the threatening ones. Not quite four-years later she won the Iowa championship.
Originally called the Witness Tree Shooting Club, its history dated back to the 1920s, when well-to-do gentleman – no women allowed then – purchased several hundred acres along Perty Creek to use for skeet shooting and hunting.
The name derived from a great poplar that supposedly delineated – “witnessed” – the corner of a section line that marked the edge of their original property. The tree was heavily damaged by high winds in the 1950s and had to be cut down, but a foot-thick by nearly eight-foot across slab from the trunk adorns the wall of the clubhouse entrance foyer. A ring count determined the tree was just over a hundred-and-fifty-years old when it came down.
The club’s main entrance is located off County Road Q in the eastern part of Fort Armstrong County, although there is a “back gate” entrance from Witness Tree Road at the west end of the property. Over the years tracts were added so that it now encompasses fifteen-hundred acres.
When Perty Creek was dammed-up in the mid-60s to create a two-hundred-and-fifty-acre stocked lake for fishing, the name was changed to the Witness Tree Rod and Gun Club.
The central lodge near the main entrance has a coffee shop/restaurant and shop where you can rent boats, buy bait and fishing gear, and some limited shooting supplies and ammo, including a consignment shop for used guns.
A two-hundred-yard rifle range was added in the late 90s.
Next: Rickett’s Ridge, one of Ro’s favorite places in the county
© 2018 Dave Lager