Shooters try out for nationals competition


By Treena Mielke

The staccato crack of gunfire, lots of black smoke and mounted riders with handguns aimed, cocked and ready set the stage for action at the Rimbey Rodeo grounds Sept. 4.

To the casual observer it could have been a sneak peek into the scene from a wild west movie where gunfire and horseback riders are nothing out of the ordinary.

However, the scene played out at the rodeo grounds did not involve the making of a movie, but was, instead, a group of mounted shooting enthusiasts competing for a spot in a national mounted shooting competition to be held in Nampa, Idaho Sept. 1 to Oct. 2.

Gail Cook from the Wildrose Mounted Shooting Society in Bentley attended Sunday’s qualifier and is one of 12 people from Alberta who will travel to Idaho to attend the competition.

Cook, who lives on the Rainy Creek Road west of Bentley, has been a participant in mounted shooting for about three years and finds the equestrian sport exciting and challenging.

“I like horses, but I want something to do with the horses besides just riding them,” she said. “I have done a little roping. I decided to try this (mounted shooting) after I saw an article in a magazine. It turned out to be great fun and a real adrenalin rush.”

The Wildrose Mounted Shooting Society comprises about 30 members and is the newest shooting club in Alberta.

“The club was formed this spring,” said Cook. “We started out with only four members, Bev and Claud Lawes from Bluffton, Lee Stuckey from Bentley and myself. However, it has grown considerably.”

Cook explained that mounted shooting requires accuracy and speed.

Contestants compete using two .45-calibre single action revolvers (1898 period correct Colt replicas) each loaded with five rounds of specially prepared blank ammunition.

When competitors start the run they draw a gun, shoot five balloons that have been set up for that purpose, holster, draw the other pistol and shoot the remaining five balloons.

The ammunition used in the rounds consists of coarse black powder with a crimped end to hold in the powder.

“It’s the burning embers that break the balloons and the smoldering particles provide the momentum,” said Cook.

Live rounds of ammunition are prohibited during the sport and there is a range master in the arena at all times to ensure the safety of the riders, horses and balloon runners. A restricted firearms license and transport permit is required and all participants must be a member of a mounted shooting club.

The horses used in the competitions have been de-sensitized to the gunfire and are provided with hearing protection.

Cook said mounted shooting has been popular in the United States for many years, but started in Canada about six years ago.

“It’s very popular in the U.S. and we are hoping it grows here as well,” she said.

For more information about mounted shooting check out the website at