Local outdoors folk mourn loss of 'friend'

Downtown Henderson is home to one of those small businesses that are reminiscent of days gone by, days when customer service was a real part of doing business and not merely an advertising slogan. It is one of those places where people know your name, everyone is treated like a friend, and some folks drop by just to visit. Perhaps you have been there, too.

The first time I walked into Spurlock’s Gun Shop I was met by a friendly man with a ready smile, and it was apparent that there was nothing artificial about either one. Both the man and the smile were genuine. He introduced himself as Rance Spurlock and asked how he could help me.

Instead of buying one of his firearms, I asked Rance to sponsor an outdoor radio show I was producing at the time. Rather than showing me the door, he showed genuine interest in my endeavor. Then, after taking a few minutes to set this former game warden straight on a few things he didn’t like about some wildlife officers, Rance wrote me a check. That day a friendship was born, one that has far outlasted the radio show.

One day Rance called to tell me I needed to drop by the store to see photographs of a deer hunt he had been on with his very good friend and hunting partner, Tommy Ford. While it is not uncommon for a hunter to share pictures of his own hunt, I have met only a handful of hunters who are so excited about their friend’s success that they invite other friends to come and see the pictures. That says a lot about the man.

Even though his gun shop is not large by today’s standards, Rance’s influence in Southern Nevada’s hunting and conservation community is huge. Through the years he and his wife Pat have actively supported most, if not all, of the area’s conservation organizations, from the Fraternity of the Desert Bighorn to Wildlife and Habitat Improvement of Nevada to the Mule Deer Foundation and the local chapter of Safari Club International.

If you have purchased or won a gun at one of the local conservation banquets, chances are it was Spurlock’s that made it possible by facilitating the process and handling all the paperwork.

Unfortunately, men such as Rance often leave this earth far too early, leaving behind a giant hole where they once stood in their community and in the lives of their friends and loved ones. And so it is with Rance.

Last week, while in the final days of a four-week African safari, Rance fell ill and passed away. News of his death spread quickly through the hunting community, and with it stories of his goodness and contributions.

I stopped by the store and, as always, it was full of people. However, this time many were there to see what they could do for Pat and the Spurlock family, not the other way around. Some brought flowers and others a simple expression of concern and condolences, but it was Pat who was doing the consoling.

As one might imagine, the process of bringing Rance home from Africa has not been an easy one, making an already difficult time even more so. Pat said a memorial service will be held, but plans can’t be finalized until Rance makes it back to Henderson.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Pat and the whole staff at the gun shop,” wrote Jelindo Tiberti to members of the Fraternity of the Desert Bighorn, “At 55 years young Rance was doing something he enjoyed very much. A great member of the community and friend will be missed.”

Yes, he will.

Freelance writer Doug Nielsen is a conservation educator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. His “In the Outdoors” column, published Thursday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, is not affiliated with or endorsed by the NDOW. Any opinions he states in his column are his own. He can be reached at intheoutdoorslv@gmail.com.