Following in father’s Eagle Scout footsteps, son’s project enables prone shooting at Summit Range
DILLON — It was in March 2003 — 1 1/2 years after Dan McAuliffe joined the U.S. Army on Sept. 11, 2001 — when his son Dugan Ewelt-McAuliffe was born. Named “Dugan” after a Gaelic term for “sunburnt warrior,” Dan said the two traveled the south while he was stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia, to see Civil War battlefields.
One trip took them up to Virginia, where the young Dugan fell in love with the Mariner’s Museum.
“It inspired his marine engineering and naval architecture goals,” the father said. “He’s been set to do that since the age of 8.”
Dugan is following in the bootprints of his father, a lieutenant colonel and judge advocate in the U.S. Army who’s been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan several times. His interest in service and scouting continues a lineage of not only his father, but also his grandfather Donald. It was a decade ago when Dan began bringing Dugan to the Summit County Shooting Range in Dillon. Dugan was the same age as his father when he first learned about weapon safety and shooting.
“I love passing that heritage from father to son,” Dan said. “It means a lot to me.”
Another part of the family heritage is earning the distinction of Eagle Scout with the Boy Scouts of America. Four decades ago, Dan became an Eagle Scout with a final project that consisted of cutting down and selling beetle-killed pine timber in the Jefferson County Open Space west of Golden, where Dan grew up. Now, Dan is proud of Dugan’s Eagle Scout project.
Dugan, now 17, crafted extension platforms for four of the benches at the range. He executed the project after reaching out to Range Master Merle Schultz, and others on the range’s board, asking what the range could use most while sharing a few ideas he had.
The extensions were at the top of the list for Schultz. The platforms are 41.5 inches off the ground and now allow for those practicing their shooting to do so from a prone, or lying down, position.
“It’s a big deal because otherwise they don’t have a way of doing that,” Schultz said about range users, including local police officers.
Dugan obtained the materials for the box-platform project — pressure-treated wood and Trex decking — via donations from the Breckenridge Building Center. Dugan then put in the work before friends from Troop 376 helped him finish the installation June 19-20.
“The troop stayed and shot after the project was done, which was pretty neat for the scouts who didn’t know the range existed to see what kind of public amenity it’s become,” Dan said. “You know, the Summit range used to be up behind an old cemetery plot, closer to Dillon. It consisted of people dropping off old electronics and televisions to shoot at. So going from that wide spot at a base of a hill to what it is now is pretty remarkable to have seen.”
Dugan said it’s the meditative aspect of shooting at the range that he really enjoys, describing it as “very relaxing and therapeutic” to spend a couple of hours there practicing.
“My dad has imparted wisdom in me about being in the outdoors through shooting, and appreciating and being grateful for the land that we live on,” Dugan said.
Though Dugan downplayed his skill, his father said he’s modest about his pistol and skeet-shooting abilities. Looking ahead to post-high school, Dan said Dugan plans to go out for shooting and skeet teams at whatever college he attends. And that’ll come after he works to create a shotgun skeet club for his high school, something students don’t currently have. The club would encourage folks to become more knowledgeable about firearms. Dugan has a passion for that kind of education to reduce what his father says is a current stigma in society surrounding firearms for those people not as familiar with them.
“Before any of his friends, or parents, happen to go to the range with us, he’ll give them a complete safety briefing about the operation and other aspects of firearms,” Dan said. “Then he’s very insistent that the rules are followed.
“If we launch four, eight, 12 clays into the air, he’s usually dead-on at plus-95%,” Dan added. “That’s at least marksman if not expert at his age. And really just being able to pick up a new weapon like a 12-gauge, which has some kick to it, and feel comfortable and adapt to it quickly, to me, shows how skillful he’s become.”
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