The Missouri Department of Conservation’s 2014 summary books of hunting and trapping, fishing and turkey hunting are available.

Archery enthusiasts and anyone else interested in trying their hand at using a bow and arrow now have a new option available in Texas County.

The Missouri Department of Conservation has opened a walk-through archery range at the Gist Ranch Conservation Area, between Houston and Summersville. The facility features a gravel-covered trail that includes 16 targets at varying distances.

The four-foot by four-foot targets are made of stacks of fiberboard planks, and each sports the likeness of a game animal, such as deer, bobcat and squirrel. Targets range from 14 to 31 yards away from specified shooting points and are positioned in a way that shooters experience uphill, downhill and flat shots.

“There isn’t a lot of distinct topography here,” MDC Texas County Resource Forester Travis Mills said, “but I think we found the perfect spot.”

While the range isn’t unique among the MDC’s conservation areas, it’s one of few of the walk-through variety in southern Missouri.

“A lot of them are static ranges,” Mills said. “We tried to lay this out so that it would better simulate an actual hunting environment.”

Construction on the range began last summer and was completed in the fall, but it only recently opened after inspections and other requirements were complete. Mills said his crew members from the MDC’s Houston Field Office, Bryant Chilton and James Harlan, were key in making the range special.

“They deserve a lot of credit for this,” he said. “We all worked on it, but they’re my field guys and their effort was much appreciated.”

The range is surrounded by a safety fence placed at a minimum of 100 yards from each target, designed to protect people who might be unaware of wandering within range of flying arrows that missed their mark. Only field point or target point arrows are allowed, while broad head arrows and firearms are prohibited.

One of the range’s most notable features is a sturdy, 11-foot high wooden platform equipped with a stairway that is flanked by three targets about half way through the 1/3-mile trail loop.

“It simulates shooting from an elevated position, like a tree stand,” Mills said.

Mills said he envisions the facility as providing year-round opportunity, not just during archery hunting seasons.

“Some people travel a long way to use (the Gist Ranch) rifle range,” he said, “and I think once they discover this, they may combine the two. This was a real good project for us, and I think it’s a good thing to leave something like this behind.”

For more information, call the MDC office in Houston at 417-967-3385.

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