Walt Proulx: A Man With a Plan for Cameo Shooting + Education Complex

 Walt Proulx

Walt Proulx

 Proulx talks safety with writer Richard Rosenblatt, who never shot a gun before writing this story. See Rosenblatt’s personal essay below.  Photos by Tyler Logan

Proulx talks safety with writer Richard Rosenblatt, who never shot a gun before writing this story. See Rosenblatt’s personal essay below.

Photos by Tyler Logan

Meet Walt Proulx, a champion competitive shooter, avid fisherman, and hunter who landed the assignment of a lifetime as manager of the new Cameo Shooting and Education Complex, located off of I-70 just east of Palisade.

Proulx is the ideas man for the 2,000 acres being developed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the town of Palisade. He calls Phase 1A, which opened officially in September 2018, the “footprint” of the complex.

Currently consisting of shooting bays, multiple gun and archery ranges, and an office — all in a lovely mountain setting — the facilities are available to the public and for instruction and law
enforcement training. 

The complex will ultimately be a world-class outdoor recreation mecca. When complete, there will be more than 70 pistol/rifle bays, 25 action shooting bays, a sporting clays course, three trap and skeet fields, two dozen archery ranges, 20 long-range rifle bays, a clubhouse, picnic shelters, pavilions, storage, and RV parking. Expectations are for 50,000 visitors annually.

“When it’s finished,’’ Proulx says, “it will be unique not only in Colorado and the United States, but in the world.”

Joyce Wilson, executive director of the International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA), agrees. “This complex is destined to become quite possibly the premier shooting and education complex in the world.” In August, the range hosted the IDPA’s Colorado State Championship, which drew 180 competitors from 19 states — along with spectators, a first for the IDPA.

“The backdrop of this beautiful facility is an incredible mountain that seems to sing as the shots are fired. The bays are spacious and manicured to withstand any of the elements,” says Wilson. “It’s a shooter’s dream.”

The shooting portion of the facility will be hosting competitions ranging from local clubs to IDPA National Championships in 2020 and 2021, and the IDPA World Championship in 2023, according to Proulx. 

 Proulx hopes to invent new sports for the complex—like bike biathlon and equestrian biathlon.

Proulx hopes to invent new sports for the complex—like bike biathlon and equestrian biathlon.

The complex will be much more than a shooter’s paradise. The next phase includes the sporting clays course, plans for an education and visitor’s center, a four-acre lake stocked with bass, a botanical garden, and bike trails. 

Education is a huge piece of the plan. “We’ll be hosting hunter’s education classes as well as shooting-related pursuits,’’ says Proulx. “We’ll teach kids in District 51 about ecology, we’ll have peninsulas where we can teach fly fishing... If locals want to teach a class, be it basket-weaving, canning, dog training, or flint mapping, we would have those options. And if you’re hesitant to get involved in shooting, we’ll have an opportunity here for completely inexperienced shooters. When we’re done, this will be the only complex in the world that will have what we have.’’

During his travels to state, national, and world shooting events, Proulx routinely jotted down notes about each facility. When asked to submit a design plan while applying for the job of manager, he already had one drawn up in detail. He’d considered everything from drainage and proper berm height between bays, to creating easy navigation for competitors, officials, and spectators.

“We’ve got so much room and amazing terrain up here on the bench, we’re planning to invent sports,’’ says Proulx. “Like bike biathlon and equestrian biathlon. They’re like Nordic biathlon in the Olympics, only with bikes and horses instead of snow skis.”

The timeline for completing the entire project depends on funding, including grants, donations, and sponsorships. “We’re looking for companies and individuals who are involved in our mission statement — the recruitment and retention of future generations for hunting, fishing, and outdoor activities in general,’’ Proulx says.

All in all, he says, it will be a win for everyone.


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He Shoots, He Scores

Without getting too technical, I’d like to tell you about firing a pistol for the first time in my life, and I’m a child of the 60s. I drove out to the Cameo Shooting and Education Complex in October to write a story for Spoke+Blossom. Asked f I’d like to shoot at a target, I said yes.

A detailed, 45-minute gun safety lesson and shooting demonstration from Walt Proulx, champion shooter and complex manager, ensued. I had no idea about handling a firearm, much less how to operate one. But Proulx was fantastic.

He gripped his .45 with his shooting hand, muzzle pointing away, and carefully went over all the safeties – the thumb safety, the grip safety – and told me about the firing pin lock. He moved my hands around too, so I’d grip the gun properly. He showed me how to aim (front site has a little green fiber optic, the rear is a U-shaped notch).

“You want the top edge of the front site to split the object like an aspirin,’’ he told me.

Proulx shot first, nailing the target with every shot. He loaded the gun for me with a single bullet, explaining exactly how the bullet worked. My turn. I walked up to the shooting bay line, took the pistol in my hand, and faced the target. Keep a nice, high grip. Point the gun downrange. Keep your feet at shoulder’s width apart. Put your other hand up to the gun. (I had a little trouble keeping my thumbs in the proper place next to each other). It’s a funky, weird feeling the first time, Proulx told me.

Ready.

“Focus on a firm grip, put the green dot in the middle of the target, and pull slowly,’’ Proulx said.

Bang! Ping!

Actually squeezing the trigger was scary, but the bang didn’t shake me. The reverberation – not to mention the ping of bullet hitting target – had me a little shaky. So much noise for squeezing a little trigger. Perhaps it was anticipating the loud bang I caused that was nerve-wracking.

“Really, it’s not that loud,’’ said Proulx, who’s been shooting since he was a kid. “If a 12-year-old is stout enough to handle it, you’re stout enough to handle it.”

Thanks.

“You want to do that again?” he asked.

“Yes.”

“I figured.”

I proceeded to nail the metal target three of four times from about 20 yards.

“That’s pretty awesome,’’ an encouraging Proulx told me. “The 1911 is a rather difficult one to start with.” (That would be Proulx’s own M1911 .45 semi-automatic pistol.)

That’s my story. It was a great experience, and I’m going back, no doubt.

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Cameo Shooting + Education Complex

From I-70, take exit 46, turn north and follow
the signs to Cameo.

Public shooting range open Wednesday-Sunday, 10am until one hour before sunset. Prices coming soon.

Range Office: 970.464.1339,
open Monday-Friday, 8am-5pm.

cpw.state.co.us/thingstodo/Pages/cameo-shooting-complex.aspx