Last updated on November 14th, 2017 at 06:20 am
The Midwest Palma Championship held every June has become one of the premier Long Range rifle matches in the country. Some of the best shooters from all over the USA make an annual pilgrimage to the long range Mecca of Lodi, Wisconsin to battle it out against the infamous Winnequah winds. This year was no exception, as 104 sling and F-class shooters made the trip, including 2 all the way from Japan! The MWP Championship is made up of 5 days of shooting. Monday is the 4-man team match, while Tuesday through Friday make up the 4-day individual aggregate. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday are 45-shot Palma matches, and Friday wraps up the agg with 3 20-shot matches all fired from the 1000-yard line.
Monday saw 13 teams on hand as coach extraordinaire Bob Mead led his squad of US National Team members to victory for a 3rd straight year with a match winning score of 1759-65x in the sling division. Firing members were Brian Mrnak, Stu Mackey, Randy Gregory, and Erik Rhode. Team Brux Barrels won the F-Class division with Bob Sebold at the helm. MN boy Pat Scully was the top shooter on the team as they cruised to an easy victory over 2nd place Michigan FTR.
The real surprise of the day was the un-coached pick-up team from MN who placed 3rd out of the 12 sling teams present. Long Range newcomer Steve Naumann showed he is more than just a Service Rifle shooter by reaching way up from the Expert class to shoot a High Master Palma score of 438-10x. The rest of the team followed suit with solid scores at the top end of the Master class to finish with an excellent team score of 1737-51x. Besides Steve, shooters were Craig “The Menace” Bennis, The Serbian Sensation Elliot Zunich, and Gentle Jim Soderstrom. These guys need to shoot together more often!
Tuesday rolled in, bringing the hot weather from Lacrosse, along with the famous switching winds of Winnequah. Scores were generally low for the palma match as most shooters were caught off guard more than once by the lightning fast switches. Michigan’s Bob Steketee showed us all how it’s done only dropping 3 points for the day. A 447 is a great Palma score any day, and to do it on this particular day was particularly impressive. Local favorite Waylon Burbach was 3 points back, and I managed to take 3rd for the day with a 442-23. Things looked similar down at the low end of the range, as Don Nagel’s 444-18x topped all F-Open contenders, with Jim Murphy close behind with 442-15x. Dan Lentz was at the top of the FTR heap, with Bill Litz in 2nd by 4 points. After the Palma match, a few brave souls tried their luck on the 1200-yard line for an extra 15-shot match. If you have shot Winnequah in the afternoon before, I don’t need to tell you about how dark the targets get when the sun is behind them. I will tell you that the sight picture does not get any better by waiting another hour and moving back an extra 200 yards. Norm Crawford schooled everyone by shooting a ridiculous score of 145 with his scoped 284 Shehane. I didn’t get a picture of the final scores for this match, but I don’t believe that anyone was within 5 points of Norm’s score when it was over.
Wednesday brought a nice change of pace, with cooler temps and overcast skies for most of the day. Winds were more consistent, and shooters took advantage of the favorable conditions. In stark contrast to the single 445+ score from the day before, there were 17 scores over that mark today. I was fortunate enough to win the day by shooting my first-ever clean Palma score of 450-23x. Keith Hoverstad and Bob Steketee rounded out the top 3 with scores of 449-26x, and 448-29x respectively. Nagel and Murphy stayed at the top of F-Open for day 2, but this time it was Murphy who won the day with a cool 449-20x. Ian Klemm’s 444-24 gained him 3 points on Dan Lentz, who was 2nd with a 441-18.
Extra credit for the day was the 2-man team match at the 900-yard line. I also didn’t get a picture of the final score for this match, but I can tell you that my partner Randy Gregory and I put the smack down on the competition, dropping only a single point between us for the match win. Randy is steely-eyed shooter who has probably won more matches than I’ve entered, and I’d be proud to pair up with him any day of the week. Between the 450 Palma score and the team win with Randy, Wednesday just might have been the high point of my shooting career to date.
Thursday’s weather was much like the day before, and again the conditions were right for big scores. Bob Steketee was not going to be outdone by my 450 on Wednesday, and proceeded to shoot his own in the last Palma match of the week, besting all challengers by a wide margin. This score was going to make catching Bob in the aggregate a longshot for anyone still in the hunt. My 2-man teammate Randy Gregory was 2nd with a 446-25, and I was right behind him at 446-24x for 3rd. Most of the top F-Class shooters remained bunched up with scores in the mid-440’s, but Danny Biggs rose to the top with a monster score of 449-30x. Dan Lentz and Ian Klemm were first and 2nd in the FTR class.
Friday was the last day of the grand aggregate, and 3 20-shot matches from the 1000-yard line were on the docket. The blistering sun was back out, and brought with it the high heat and humidity. The wind condition was unstable, and the scores would show it. My on 199-9x was good enough to win the first match of the day, just squeaking past Ohio’s Kim Rowe by 2 x’s. It’s worth mentioning that Kim is a Master classified shooter, and she was shooting a .223 against everyone else’s .308’s when she shot her 199-7x! If that doesn’t impress you, I don’t know what would. Steve McGee took the 2nd match by shooting a 199-6x, and as Steve’s scorekeeper for that match; I know that this was no mean feat. The conditions were getting so tricky by this time that many of the best shooters in the country were walking off the line shaking their heads with scores in the low to mid 190’s – if they were lucky. Things were downright ugly by the 3rd match, and Norm Crawford once again made good use of his trusty Shehane. Norm’s 197-9x was the top score for that match of the 70+ sling shooters present. Jeremy Graves was close behind at196-7x. Don Nagel shot the only clean 200 of the day with 11 x’s in the first match in F-Open, and Ian Klemm’s 199-10x gained him some more ground on the FTR leaders. 2nd match went to Pat Scully in Open, and John Pierce in FTR. Bob Mead’s 197-8x took 1st in the last match of the day in F-Open, and late arrival Ray Gross led the FTR pack with a 193-3x.
Also decided on Friday was the “No Pink Nails” aggregate that pitted 5 shooters against each other with the owner of the week’s lowest agg having to wear pink nail polish to the awards banquet. This year, it was Ashland, WI’s own Brian “Short Pants” Mrnak who got in touch with his feminine side by shooting the low agg of 1310-49x. Being a man of his word, Brian was pretty in pink at the banquet, and the rest of the weekend.
As the dust settled and the final agg scores were tabulated, it was no surprise to see Mr. Steketee at the top of the list for Midwest Palma Championship. Bob shot nearly flawlessly all week, winning 2 of the 3 Palma matches, and also the 100-yard agg on Friday. He also had 20 more X’s than his closest competition (me), further removing any doubt that he was the best shooter around. His agg score of 1932-109x was head and shoulders above the rest. I managed 2nd place for the week, with my 1922-89x trailing by 10 points. Norm Crawford and his Shehane rounded out the top 3 at 1911-69.
In F-Open, it was early-surging Jim Murphy who hung on for the win with a fine score of 1921-76x. Don Nagel’s 1915-91x put him in 2nd, and Pat “Square Head” Scully’s 1912-71x secured 3rd place. Dan Lentz’s 1904-74x gave him a decisive win over 2nd Place Ian Klemm’s 1869-45, with John Pierce’s 1882-57x taking 3rd.
I think I had more fun shooting this week than any since I’ve started shooting. Winnequah is truly one of the great clubs in the country, and the matches all ran like a Swiss watch. Special thanks to Earl & Karin Leibetrau for making these matches happen along with the rest of their family. Mark, Scott, Kevin (thanks for the barrel!), and Kyle were seen working hard behind the scenes almost anywhere I looked. Also, thanks to Steve Suhr and his lovely block officer for keeping things running on schedule. This match is a huge undertaking of logistics and manpower, and there is no way it could ever happen without all of these great people volunteering their time to bake in the hot sun all week long. If the folks at NRA Competitions wanted to learn how to make the nationals run more smoothly, they need look no further. 2016 was my first year of shooting the MWP, but it will definitely not be my last. I plan to make this an annual trip.
See you next year!