At the base of the Sheep Mountains, Rick Knopick lives in his recreational vehicle for months at a time at the Clark County Shooting Range.
A satellite dish rests outside of his 47-foot-long, two-bedroom home on wheels.
That's for the 65-inch high-definition television in his "man cave," where his wife allows him to smoke cigars, Knopick said, beaming.
The couple retired two years ago, selling their Summerlin home and everything in it, to travel the country. Their journey leads them each year right back to the valley where they lived for 19 years.
Knopick, 54, participates in the range's host camper program, which means he is one of the 50 or so volunteers who help maintain the $61 million range in exchange for free camping. Park manager Steve Carmichael said the program saves the county about $500,000 in maintenance costs for the 2,900-acre range.
Knopick, who has been at the site since mid-September, does not pay for water, electricity and sewer hookups in his camper. He and his wife work seven hours a day, two days a week picking up remnants of shotgun shells, raking the desert gravel and sweeping the sidewalks at the shotgun range. Sometimes they encounter spiders and scorpions. Sometimes it's too windy, hot or cold to work.
Last year, he stayed for seven months.
"We have to pick up those little plastic 'birdies' " -- part of the shell casing, said Knopick, who once worked as a booking nurse for the county's detention center. "My wife is good at walking back and forth in the 2-foot ditch. She scoops them up, and then like Santa Claus, I pick up the bag on my back, bring it up the hill and bring it to the Dumpster."
Host campers must undergo background checks through the county and be physically fit enough to handle the labor.
"We really love it," Knopick said. "We'll keep coming here as long as they'll have us."
More than 80,000 shooting guests visited the range last fiscal year. In the first three months of this fiscal year, the park has seen more than 25,000 shooters -- with hopes of significantly surpassing that 80,000 figure, Carmichael said. Since its opening in early 2010, the range, formerly known as a shooting park, has been unable to turn a profit. County officials are reducing recreation activity fund subsidies each year by 50 percent, until the range is expected to become profitable in 2014. That means the range will still need $250,000 more next year.
There are seven full-time staffers and 60 part-time workers.
The range generates revenue from day fees, room and range rental, clay targets and the complex's two retail shops.
The shooting range brought in about $93,500 per month and spent about $123,500 per month for the first two months of this fiscal year, said Ed Finger, assistant county manager
The project caused backlash from some private range owners. Bob Irwin, president of The Gun Store, said he supports the county providing a place for gun enthusiasts, so they don't shoot out in the desert but disagrees with "the government competing against private enterprise."
"If they lose money, the county puts in money to keep them propped up," Irwin said. "If I lose money, I just go on unemployment. That's wrong. I disagree with the direction they've gone. Let a private contractor take over the entire range. I don't mind competition on a level playing field."
In a letter written last year to the range's advisory committee, whose members include Commissioner Tom Collins and state Sen. John Lee, D-North Las Vegas, former range manager Don Turner explained how the many hurdles the project faced interfered with its profitability.
"Unfortunately, the site development proved to be very expensive, and we could not build the majority of ranges and features that were part of the master plan and would have generated additional shooting opportunities and revenue," Turner wrote.
Manager Carmichael said the range at least will break even once a new sporting clay shooting range is up and running. Construction is slated to start in February with project completion expected by October. An archery complex also is expected by the end of next year.
Some funding is expected to come from mining the site's high-quality gravel, which can be used to build roads. County officials recently put out a request for proposal to find out what kind of demand there is in the market for the natural byproduct. Gravel sales could generate money for future range improvements, and some folks in the business suggest there is a demand, Finger said.
In turn, the shooting complex gets its ranges graded out, Carmichael added.