Karen Barker, of Logan, also known as Book Cliff Sally, aims with her rifle at a target in the bank stage: Ruby Jane makes a withdrawal. Barker was one of the 118 shooters who took part in the competition.
The Old West was alive and well, complete with rifles, revolvers and shotguns and confrontations with some mean characters, as shooters from all over the country came to compete in the 2010 Single Action Shooting Society 2010 Utah State Championship: The Castle Gate Robbery.
The event held at the North Springs Shooting Range was sanctioned by the SASS and put on by the Castle Gate Posse, July 15-17. The state championship was held at North Springs last year and is scheduled to be held there again in 2011. The event was held in the Cowboy Action Town which is complete with 15 buildings and nine shooting bays for cowboy action and public shooting and over 300 steel targets.
The event brought 118 people from across the country and Hawaii, according to Scott "Wolf of North Springs" Olsen, range master at North Springs Shooting Range. People of all ages from eight to 80, came out to compete at the event bringing along their firearms, old west style clothing and their aliases, which is a necessity when doing cowboy action shooting, Olsen said.
There are 12 different stages for the competitors to compete in, each with its own unique setup and story behind it. Stage one was the church, where shooters must take on some "ruffians" who are looking to take over and claim Castle Gate as their own territory. Competitors needed to fire 10 shots with a pistol, 10 with a rifle and six with a shotgun at targets spread throughout the designated area. At this stage, shooters must shout out the line "Sure could use some help, Maude," before they began firing off shots. Other stages included the Deadly Dentist, Gunplay at the Livery, the Tale of Cowboy Murder'n Maude, Defending yer Dinner, Dynamite for Butch and more.
The shooters were separated into 10 different posses and would move from stage to stage, eventually completing all 12 over the three-day event. There were different categories for ages and talent level. Each shooter must follow all of the rules for each different stage, as well as all of the safety precautions to maintain a safe and enjoyable environment. Shooters were timed and had to complete each requirement or they faced penalties for not following instructions, not properly handling guns or not following the rules of the town.
To do well in the competition, shooters needed to practice consistently ahead of time so when the event arrived the shooting becomes second nature.
"The shooters need to practice so that it is just second nature to them," said Robert Nelson, a match director who goes by the alias "Doc Nelson." "You can't be thinking about anything when you are shooting."
While competing against other talented shooters was a highlight of the event, being around other gifted shooters and having a good time with friends placed high among many competitors.
"This is a good hobby because of all of the fun and good times we have," said Cameron "Fargo Kid" Montgomery, president of the Castle Gate Posse. "There is some tough, top notch competition here and to get better at this you need to be shooting with other good shooters."
North Springs garnered the attention of many who participated in the state championship, including a 2008 Overall National Champion, Joel "JT Wild" LaBorde, of Morgan. LaBorde, who worked as a range master for the event, said it was fun to see people living the history of the old west and being a part of the exciting and challenging nature that shooting events like this provide.
"To do well at this you have to put everything you have into it," said LaBorde. "But this is so much fun and every shooter's teeth are liable to shake when they go home after this."
Having been to many different shooting ranges across the county, LaBorde said North Springs ranks up near the top.
"It's one of the most beautiful shooting venues around the country. There is no comparison with this one. It would be hard to surpass this place," said LaBorde.
While the event brought out a number of people and vendors to the range, Olsen is hoping that more people will hear about the events taking place at North Springs and decide to check things out for themselves.
"We are still kind of a secret out here but the more people who hear about the competition and events that go on here will want to come out and use the facilities," Olsen said.
For more information about the Castle Gate Posse and to view results from the event, visit www.thecastlegateposse.net.