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Dokken: Dakota Sporting Clays course near Grand Forks has new owner

A captains meeting for the coming sporting clays season is set for 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 15, at the Dakota Hunting Club, 1389 18th St. NE, Grand Forks. The sporting clays season is set to begin Monday, May 16.

Aaron Thielke 2.jpg
Aaron Thielke of Northwood, North Dakota, is gearing up for the coming sporting clays league season as new owner of Dakota Sporting Clays near Grand Forks.
Contributed / Aaron Thielke
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Brad Dokken
Brad Dokken

GRAND FORKS – As an avid outdoorsman and shooting sports enthusiast, Aaron Thielke was on the hunt for a job that he loved.

He appears to have found it as the new owner of Dakota Sporting Clays, the sporting clays course west of Grand Forks. Thielke, of Northwood, North Dakota, recently bought the sporting clays venture from Mike Elgin, who purchased the sporting clays range and Dakota Hunting Club and Kennels in 2006 from founder George Newton.

Thielke only purchased the sporting clays portion of the business, which includes 200 acres of land, of which about 30 acres is the sporting clays course, he says.

“I’ve been shooting there for three years, and it just became a passion of mine,” Thielke said. “Everyone wants to do a job they love, right? So, I kind of wanted to pursue it that way and do something that I enjoy and am passionate about.”


The flicker is a woodpecker, but it has its own habits, some of them quite different than those of its woodpecker relatives.

A fairly recent newcomer to North Dakota, Thielke and his wife, Andrea, moved to Northwood from the St. Cloud, Minnesota, area, three years ago.

Thielke worked for 15 years as a welder before that and currently is employed at ADM Edible Bean Specialties in Northwood.

“I’d been coming out here hunting for 20 years or so,” Thielke said. “I wanted to escape the hustle and bustle of Minnesota so we moved out here.”

Purchasing the sporting clays business is both exciting and scary, Thielke says.

“I was nervous at first and I still am nervous about it, especially with inflation and (shotgun) shell costs and everything going up in price,” he said. “It’s kind of a leisure event; it’s definitely a want – not a need.”

On the upside, the Grand Forks area has a “good core group of shooters” who participate in the sporting clays league and other events, Thielke says, and he expects they’ll be onboard for the summer sporting clays season.

In recent years, there have been about 30 teams in the sporting clays league, each with at least five shooters, he says.

“I would say there’s north of 150 people shooting out there,” he said. “Probably, closer to 200 regularly for the league.”


A captains meeting for the coming season is set for 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 15, at the Dakota Hunting Club, 1389 18th St. NE, Grand Forks. The sporting clays season is set to begin Monday, May 16.

“I’m always a ‘glass half full guy,’ and I know I can make it work,” Thielke said. “I’m excited. Now, we’re two months away so it’s getting down to crunch time.”

In terms of changes, Thielke says he plans to re-establish five-stand shooting to the course offerings.

As the name suggests, five-stand is a shotgun sport with five stations, or stands, each with five targets thrown in varying configurations.

Price-wise, fees will increase “a couple bucks” to reflect the higher cost for clay targets, he says.

“I’d like to keep it close to what (Mike Elgin) had for this first year,” Thielke said. “I don’t want to come in as new management and raise the price a lot and make a lot of changes that people aren’t used to.”

The league season lasts 10 weeks, and participants shoot one 50-target round each week. The course fee will be $22 for a round – $220 for the season – he says, and the standard five-stand fee will be $10 for a round of 25 targets.

League shooters can also buy a 10-round punch card for $210, a savings of $1 per round over paying week-to-week, Thielke says.


“I had to bump it up a couple bucks per round, but I think it’s still – if you look around to sporting clays courses in Minnesota and all over the country, really – I’m way below,” he said.

There will also be a four-week fall season, Thielke says, along with a fun shoot and a league party at the end of the season.

For more information, contact Thielke at (701) 789-0988 or check out the Dakota Sporting Clays Facebook page at facebook.com/dakotasportingclays.

Brad Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and has been the Grand Forks Herald's outdoors editor since 1998.

Besides his role as an outdoors writer, Dokken has an extensive background in northwest Minnesota and Canadian border issues and provides occasional coverage on those topics.

Reach him at bdokken@gfherald.com, by phone at (701) 780-1148 or on Twitter at @gfhoutdoor.
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