Trapshooting appears to have started in England using live birds, and the first recorded event known in the U.S occurred at the Sportsmen’s Club of Cincinnati, Ohio in 1831. In 1866 Charles Portlock of Boston, MA introduced the glass target ball from England. Glass ball matches were held during the remainder of the 19th century. Great glass ball shooters including Capt. Bogardus, Doc Carver, Ira Paine, and Annie Oakley, who set glass ball records in exhibitions and matches. With the invention of clay targets in 1880 (called Ligowsky targets), trapshooting has evolved into the sport we know today.
Shooting sports have long been a part of Ontario County’s recreation history. A short article published in the Naples Record on July 2, 1880 noted that some members of the “Canandaigua Sportsman’s Club” chartered a small yacht, the “Rover”, to spend the day at a cabin on Maxwell’s Point on Canandaigua Lake.
On October 8, 1880 an official document was submitted to New York State requesting the establishment of the “Canandaigua Hunters Club”, the purpose of this club was to “hunt and fish in a lawful manner”. Sir James Menteth was one of the signatories of this document, and it was said that he and his friends used glass balls filled with feathers as targets.
The Geneva Gazette, in its December 27, 1895 issue, noted an upcoming prize-shooting contest taking place on the grounds of the “Canandaigua Rod & Gun Club”. Prizes included fifty loaded nitro shells, a box of cigars, one dozen photographs, a hunting cap, and Lancewood cleaning rod.
On January 14, 1904, the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reported that an organizational meeting of the Canandaigua Sportsmen’s Club was held at the Webster House on Main Street in Canandaigua, where 5 men were selected to be officers. One of their first tasks would be the “extermination of carp which have nearly ruined the fishing in Canandaigua Lake”. For the next 6 to 8 years, the efforts to eliminate the carp continued. During this time and beyond, the club was responsible for releasing millions of trout fingerlings and whitefish into Canandaigua Lake.
In January of 1914, at the club’s annual meeting, 150 new members were voted into the club, largely to help raise funds for a new clubhouse on a site on Lake Street (eventually to be renamed Lakeshore Blvd.). Six months previous, the club voted to increase annual membership fees to $5.00 to help finance the construction of a clubhouse. The Buffalo Evening News, on February 26, 1914, reported that the Canandaigua Sportsmen’s Club closed negotiations for the purchase of the William Garratt lot on Lake Street on which it planned on erecting a clubhouse. On July 4th the club initiated their new grounds with a big shoot, furnishing guns to those members who were “gunless”.
On January 27, 1914, the organization of the Canandaigua Sportsmen’s Club was formally completed, and the constitution and by-laws were adopted. Membership would be limited to those who were residents of the Town of Canandaigua, or residing within one mile of the shores of Canandaigua Lake. At a meeting of the membership on April 8, 1914, a motion was unanimously approved by a vote of 14-0 to incorporate the club with the name “Canandaigua Sportsmen’s Club, Inc., its purpose: “the protection and propagation of fish and game, the practice of trap shooting and the promotion of good sportsmanship”. James Robson, Justice of the Supreme Court, approved the Certificate of Incorporation on April 17tth, 1914. The membership at this time consisted of 154 sportsmen from all walks of life; including doctors, lawyers, merchants, and farmers.
In the February 10, 1917 issue of Sporting Life, the top trap shooters in registered tournaments in 1916 were listed. Among the New York State shooters listed, 22 were from the Canandaigua Sportsmen’s Club.
Indebtedness was discharged on April 4, 1917, and arrangements were made to celebrate by burning the mortgage. Plans were then made to proceed on making improvements to the grounds on Lake Street.
On February 21, 1930, the Geneva Daily Times reported a fire destroyed a large gas station, restaurant, and tourist home on Lake Street. It was only the presence of heavy winds that nearby buildings of the club, located just west of the burned structure, were saved.
On April 14, 1939, the Canandaigua Sportsmen’s Club purchased its present location on Emerson Road and since then has built trap, skeet, pistol and rifle ranges, and a clubhouse.
Throughout the years, constant improvements have been made to the property and facilities to adjust to the wants and needs of its members. In the early 1990s a sporting clays course was constructed. The new 5-stand facility was completed in 2004, and in 2007 the sporting clays course was updated with fully automated traps. As recently as 2014 a new 32 by 50 foot storage facility has been constructed.
In the one hundred years that the Canandaigua Sportsmen’s Club has been incorporated, hundreds of competitions, training, and charity and social events have taken place, and countless lasting friendships made. All this, while continually striving for excellence in providing a safe and well-maintained facility for the shooting sports, which now includes a fully automated sporting clays course, 5-stand, three outdoor ranges dedicated to rifle and pistol target shooting, year-round leagues, and certified instructors for classes and lessons for both youth and adults.
With anticipation and eagerness, we look forward to the next hundred years.