“It’s a good community, the shooting community,” said Al Hunter.
He was at the 1,000 yard shoot, an event that took place on May 26-27 at the Tweedsmuir Park Rod and Gun Club.
It brought together sharpshooters from across B.C., along with participants from Alberta, Saskatchewan and one from Washington State.
Hunter, a 74-year-old retiree, has taken part in the event annually for more than 40 years, almost since its inception.
Back then, an ice-covered Decker Lake served as the shooting range. The event has come a long way since then.
Competition rooted in wager
The competition is said to have its roots in a 1974 wager.
One marksman claimed that a standard Lee-Enfield rifle — which long served as the basic infantry weapon in the British military — could hit a target from a distance of 1,000 yards, according to the official creation story for the event.
The following spring, a group of gun enthusiasts set up a target on the ice of Decker Lake, and the marksman’s boast turned out to be true. He shot five rounds, and three of them hit the target.
The event has continued every year since then.
Sense of camaraderie
Those early days on Decker Lake are fond memories for Hunter, a retired logging truck driver who lives in Endako.
“It was cold, guaranteed,” he said. But he recalled bonfires and a sense of camaraderie.
“On the ice down there, everyone was equal,” said Hunter.
The barrel-chested man wore a camouflage Remington baseball cap and an olive-green bomber jacket with a Hunting Magazine founder’s patch from 1973. “I was an initial subscriber,” he explained.
He figures that he’s been coming to the event for about 41 years.
The past few decades have seen huge changes, including major advances in firearm technology, he said.
“It’s evolved so much,” he said, as shots rang out in the background. “Barrels are that much better, actions are that much better.”
Today, plain rifles have been replaced by deluxe firearms often worth upwards of $5,000.
One rifle on a rack at the Thompson-Waldron range, where the competition now takes place, was finished with a skull motif, while others featured fine wooden patterns.
Hunter said he hopes people aren’t intimidated by the high level of shooting and the expensive guns.
“I’d like to see more people come out and try it,” said Hunter, noting that owning a gun isn’t necessary for taking part. “Someone will loan you a gun,” he said.
Hunter said he tries to help a junior shooter each year, though finding interested young people can be hard these days.
Moments before Hunter spoke to the Lakes District News, he was at the shooting bench providing some pointers to Jared Chapman, 16, a friend’s grandson who lives in Prince George.
As the interview wrapped up, Chapman showed up with an orange score card, which he presented to Hunter.
Hunter examined the card, beamed and shook Chapman’s hand.
“Really?” said Hunter, incredulous.
Chapman’s score was 8.875″ — that’s the distance between his most disparate bullet holes on the board.
“That’s a pretty good score for a guy who’s never shot before,” said Hunter.
How it works
Nicole Gerow, one of the organizers of the event, explained the sport to the Lakes District News.
Shots are fired in a three-round group, with the goal being to get the shots as close together as possible on a target that’s three-and-a-half feet squared.
Officials communicate by radio.
A range-master in the shooting shack lets the jurors know when it’s safe to come out from a steel-plated shack between shooting sessions to measure the results, which they radio to score-keepers.
And despite the name, the actual distance of the shoot is 1,048 yards.
Men’s Sporting Rifle: 1 Keith Matson 6.125″, 2 Lincoln Edward 7″, 3 Rob Edward 7″. Men’s Heavy Barrel: 1 Ryan Telford 3.75″, 2 Steve Wilks 5.25″, 3 Rocky Sayles 5.5″. Lady’s Sporting Rifle: 1 Jessie Maxon 8.125″, 2 Karla Matson 9″, 3 Christine Leader 9″. Lady’s Heavy Barrel: 1 Jessie Maxon 3.5″, 2 Jade Rogers 4.625″, 3 Karla Matson 6.25″. Unlimited: 1 Rob Edward 6.625″, 2 Ryan Telford 6.875″, 3 Lincoln Edward 6.875″. Senior High Aggregate Score: 1 Jessie Maxon 141, 2 Charlene Gustafson 140, 3 Ron Edward 140. Junior High Aggregate Score: 1 Jade Rogers 140, 2 Georgia Verduzco 137, 3 Hyatt Verduzco 132. Standing Gong: 1 Rob Gustafson. Hunter Class: 1 Harley Stewart 2.125″, 2 Jessie Maxon 2.875″, 3 Terry Close 3.75″. Junior 13-18 (Boys & Girls) Sporting: 1 Jade Rogers 7″, 2 Matthew Gustafson 8.375″, 3 Dawson Byman 9″. Low Aggregate Group: 1 Jessie Maxon 14.5″, 2 Ryan Telford 19.625″, 3 Lincoln Edward 20.125″. Jr Low Aggregate Group: 1 Jade Rogers 16.9464″, 2 Dawson Byman 25.75″, 3 Hyatt Verduzco 34.4375″. Top Gun – Overall Low Aggregate Group: 1 Jessie Maxon 24.125″. Egg Shoot: 1 Steve Wilks. Team Shoot: Team 1 Henry Woelders, Eric Lobban, Bill Watt. Lincoln Edward, Jessie Maxon, Hyatt Verduzco Low Aggregate Group 165.125″