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Irwin Sportsmen's Association hosts successful outdoors open house

| Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012, 9:01 p.m.
Clay Sheffield of Level Green takes aim as Irwin Sportsmen's Association officer Jack Ruffner releases a clay pigeon during the Irwin Sportsmen's Association open house on Saturday, Sept. 23, 2012. Submitted
Competitive archer Dallas Krezberger looks on as Kaitlin Korinek tries her hand at archery during the Irwin Sportsmen's Association open house on Saturday, Sept. 23, 2012. Submitted
Irwin Sportsmen's Association officer John Shaffer observes as Rachel Testa of Irwin takes aim at a rifle target during the Irwin Sportsmen's Association open house on Saturday, Sept. 23, 2012. Submitted
Shelly Shaplye of Irwin and her daughters pose with Bobber the Water Safety Dog during the Irwin Sportsmen's Association open house on Saturday, Sept. 23, 2012. Submitted

The day is called National Hunting and Fishing Day, but at the Irwin Sportsmen's Association, those two activities are only the tip of the iceberg.

An estimated 200 members and guests took part on Sept. 23, when the association hosted its annual open house to celebrate 40 years since the inception of National Hunting and Fishing Day.

The open house has been a tradition for more than a decade, and this year's Irwin event fell one day after the national celebration's date, which was formalized by Congress in 1972 and has been recognized with annual proclamations by every U.S. President from Richard Nixon to Barack Obama.

“The law was passed years ago to celebrate the contribution of sportsmen to conservation, wildlife and safety,” said Sam Petrill, the financial secretary of the Irwin Sportsmen's Association and one of the key figures in organizing the open house.

“The last 10 years or so, we've done this down at the club. When it started, our main point was to try and get more women and more kids involved, and also to let people see that there was more to what we do than shooting up the countryside.”

This year's open house gave visitors a chance to learn the basics and try pistol and rifle shooting, trap shooting and archery. With those activities, the association also promoted one of its biggest missions — safety in outdoor sports.

In addition to the action on the ranges, state park ranger Mark Keppler and mascot Bobber, the Water Safety Dog taught water safety lessons to many of the younger attendees. Food was provided by the Manor Grille and served by members of the association, which also grew during the open house.

“I was inside for most of the open house, and we took in a bunch of new members,” Petrill said. “It was a great chance to get an overview of what (the association) has and what we're about.”

New members who joined during the open house got the benefit of a discount that the association traditionally offers at the open house and, according to Petrill, it intends to continue to offer when it holds the event next year.

“We're proud of what we do here,” Petrill said. “For some reason, we're one of the only (outdoor sports) clubs in Westmoreland County that still does something like this. I tell people at other clubs what a great opportunity it is to get more people involved.”

More information on the Irwin Sportsmen's Association can be found at More information on National Hunting and Fishing Day can be found at

Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5830 or

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