It might have been hit and miss to get there, but four local gunslingers wrangled top kudos from their Yankee cohorts during a cowboy action shoot-out held in New York.
When their Yarmouth ferry crossing was cancelled, Whip, Zeke, Skipper, and Festus Buzzard had to hightail it for 18 hours by electric buggies to the 17th annual Heluva Ruckus shoot-out held in Saratoga, New York last month.
This three-day championship attracts hundreds of cowboy action shooters from across the U.S. and Canada. This style of shooting aims to celebrate the culture and history of the frontier.
Cowboy action shooting is a multi-faceted sport that uses guns typical of the American West: single action revolvers, pistol calibre lever action rifles, and old-time shotguns.
All shooters must adopt a spirit of the game code to participate.
Shooters adopt an aliases and wear period costumes when they practise and compete in timed old west shooting scenarios that are worthy of a Louis L’amour story. This code requires members to participate fully in adopting the appropriate dress, guns and ammunition and traditions of the old west.
“This is a great sport for people of all age groups, and skill levels,” says Zeke (aka David Lewis). “There are different categories according to your age, your shooting style.”
Zeke and his buddies: Whip (a.k.a. Sean Wheeler), Festus Buzzard (a.k.a. Duane Weaver), and Skipper (a.k.a. Barry Oliver) all belong to the South Mountain Regulators, a cowboy action shooting club based in the Annapolis Valley.
Zeke and Whip were already hot from the trail to the Canadian Central Regional Championship shoot-out held at Bar-E-Ranch, in Barrie, Ont. Zeke took home the top spot as fastest gun in that part of the country.
Whip was named the fastest in the gunfighter division and third overall in the match. Another member of the Regulators, a fella named James Jackson, was fastest among the Wrangler division and came seventh overall.
Lewis, Wheeler and Myette often travel to competitions where they take home the top spots in national and international competitions. Wheeler (Whip) writes eloquently about their trials and tribulations at the Ruckus in New York in his travel journal:
“Day six: The Snipe Hunt 2.0
An auspicious start to the day when the sounds of the night can still be heard in the doorway.
“Shot our stages in the morning with a cool fog hanging for the first few hours. Small mercies.
“Fort Misery continues to be aptly named as I took a chunk out of my hand on a rifle reload. Didn't realize until after I had bled on my shooter's handbook; adds character.”
It may have been a tough road to their victory in New York, but Lewis was named best shooter in the senior division and finished overall in the top 10 at the New York State Cowboy Action Shooting championship hosted by the Circle K Regulators.
Sean Wheeler finished in the top 25 overall, and second in the gunfighter division.
There are about 40 cowboy action shooters in Nova Scotia practising at various community gun ranges. Men and women of all ages compete in various age categories and shooting styles.
The sport is governed by the Single Action Shooting Society (SASS) and is hosted in clubs all over the world. There are at least 15 clubs across Canada, with a high number practising in British Columbia.
Clubs are also active in Australia, New Zealand, Finland, Europe and South Africa.
Cowboy Action Shooting became an organized shooting discipline in the 1970s and it is one of the fastest growing shooting sports. Shooters compete in staged scenarios aiming at a sequence of steel targets.
Unlike other shooting disciplines, cowboy action shooters must adopt a shooting alias appropriate to the 19th century and wear a costume to compete. Aliases must be unique to each person, with no duplicates permitted.
Many people want to adopt historical names like Doc Holiday or Annie Oakley, but once a member registers a persona, the alias can’t be used again or modified. The name of the game is to be creative and build a unique persona with a singular style appropriate to the era.
Some shooters bedazzle with fancy duds, but beginners can get started with a button-down shirt, jeans and leather boots. Shooters will need gun leather capable of securely carrying both revolvers and a belt for shotgun ammunition.
Shooting scenarios are timed and can require participants to fire several rounds from their two pistols, four to six from their shotguns and 10 from their lever-action rifles.
Deductions are given for missed targets. The shooting competition occurs in staged settings where each shooter is closely monitored for time and safety.
Shooters first load the guns at a table under the watchful eye of a club official, and later unload them afterwards at another supervised table. The game uses two single-action revolvers, a lever action or pump-action rifle in a pistol calibre, and a side-by-side shotgun, or model 97-style pump shotgun.
The staged props could be staging scenarios of a train heist, or a shoot out taking place at a saloon in the center of town. A brief story is read to the shooter along with a description of the requirements of the shooting sequence.
Often an opening action is required — such as a door is kicked down — or the shooter must yell out a phrase such as “You’ll never take me alive!” or “Shoot first, ask questions later!” before the shooting sequence begins.
There are four cowboy action shooting clubs based in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. The Nova Scotia Cowboy Action Shooting Club, in Camden, started in 2006 and was the first of its kind in this region.
A few years later the South Mountain Regulators, based out of The Annapolis Valley Shooting Sports Club in Canaan, was formed in 2010. This club hosts monthly matches as well as invitational matches twice a year.
For more information on the South Mountain Regulators, visit The Annapolis Valley Shooting Sports Club www.avssc.ca. For more information on The Nova Scotia Cowboy Action Shooting Club visit http://www.pdlabel.ca/nscas/