2018 MN State Fullbore Championship
Last weekend, 21 sling and F-Class shooters gathered in Harris, MN for the only chance to pair-fire in the whole upper Midwest. Minnesota’s Fullbore Championship is possibly the most challenging Fullbore match in the country, and also one of my favorite matches every year. It is more challenging than other similar matches for 2 reasons; we don’t waste any time shooting at 300 or 800 yards (arguably the 2 easiest targets), and we pair-fire at ALL yard lines, including the Long Range stages. The distances shot in MN Fullbore are 500, 600, 900, and 1000. I like to tell visiting shooters that if they don’t have a High Master card in Fullbore when they show up for the match, they aren’t going to have one when they leave, either. That 98.5% bar is plenty high as it is, but taking out the easy stages and pair firing the whole way makes it a tall order indeed.
Mother Nature seemed unhappy with the competitors this year. I’m not sure who did what to make her angry, but she took it out on us all weekend. Friday’s course of fire was 2 convertible sighters and 15 for record from all 4 yard lines. The Friday matches are not part of the State Championship aggregate, but most shooters choose to shoot anyways to get good zeroes for the weekend matches. 100º heat and 15+ mph fishtailing winds turned the day into an endurance contest, particularly for the guys shooting sling with coats and sweatshirts on. Visiting North Carolinian Keith Hoverstad (originally from MN) handled the punishment best, topping the day down 11 points through 60 shots, while natives Pat Scully (F-open) and Ed Dike (F-TR) cruised to victory against the F-class shooters. The food truck was waiting after the match with pork chops, baked potatoes, cole slaw, and corn ready to re-supply the poor shooters who had lost 20% of their body weight shooting in the heat.
Saturday proved to be a bit better, with temperatures dropping down into the low 90’s and wind slowing down to more normal levels for GRRC. Another visitor took the lead for the championship agg; this time it was Idaho’s Steffen Bunde shooting lights-out losing only 3 points for the day, including clean 150’s at 500 and 900 yards. I was 2 points further down having lost 5, with Steve Knutson just 3 X’s behind in 3rd. Scully continued to dominate F-Open, winning 3 out of 4 matches and the daily agg, with Rick Sievers 4 points back in 2nd. F-TR was a dogfight, with Canadian hoser Larry Brice, Ed Dike, and Steve Ernst all winning stages throughout the day. Ernst was the most consistent, and finished the day with a healthy lead.
After the individual matches, there was a 2-man team match held at the 1000-yard line to finish the day. Once again, the native MN boys were shown up by the out-of-staters. Stef Bunde shot his 3rdclean of the day while teammate Keith Hoverstad shot a fine 146 to finish with an excellent 296-15x. Newt and I gave it our all and matched the score, but fell 2 x’s short. Larry Brice and Ed Dike were the only F-Class shooters feeling lively enough for another half hour in the sun, and they finished with a solid 285-5x. The food truck was back again, this time with cheeseburgers, hot dogs, and brats for the hungry crowd. GRRC has been providing food at the last few major matches, and I have to admit I’m starting to get used to it!
At the conclusion of the day’s festivities, the forecast for Sunday was not looking good. Most weather apps were showing 70% or better chance of rain for the whole day, and match director Mark Rohmann decided if it turned out we’d be able to shoot, he would start us at the 1000 yard line and work back to the shorter lines in order to get the hardest (and most important) stages completed first. Being 2 points out of the lead after day 1, I was perfectly happy to shoot in a tornado on Sunday if it gave me a chance to make up some ground, but we’d have to see how things played out…
The forecast turned out to be pretty much right on the money, and as we arrived at the range on Sunday morning we were right on the leading edge of a rain system that stretched all the way into the Dakotas. It looked like there might be a short respite on its way, so a vote was taken at 8:30 to decide what to do. The majority of the shooters wanted to shoot if at all possible, so MD Rohmann decided to delay the match to 9:30 and then re-evaluate the weather situation. At 9:30, the rain had stopped and it looked like we might have an hour or so to get some rounds down range. Relay #3 headed for the pits, while relay 1 brought their gear to the line. I was lucky enough (or so I thought) to be squadded on the first relay, but I’ve been caught in the rain enough times to know better than to not be prepared. My trusty 2-gallon Ziploc was in place covering my ammo box, and my homemade action cover (made from another Ziploc, it’s a genius design) was velcro’d onto the side of the rifle – just in case.
Well, it was a good thing, because the rain started about the same instant that MD Rohmann called us into prep. The rain was coming down steadily when prep time expired, but there was no sign of lightning, so we continued. Just like at Camp Perry, right? Due to the rain, all of the wind flags hung completely lifeless, despite the obvious wind. Mirage was out of the question too, so I decided that shooting fast, chasing the spotter, and getting the heck out of there was going to be my best strategy. I got lucky on my initial wind call and converted 2 10’s for sighters to shorten my exposure. The targets and number boards were pretty dark, but when I could see my target, I shot it. At one point, it rained so hard that I could not make out a single number board or target, and all guns were silent while we all hoped for a little more light. After 3 or 4 minutes, it lightened up just enough to make out the dull gray blob above #16, so it was time to get back to work. The wind was up after the heavy rain passed, but there was still not a single indicator to use to judge speed or direction. My last 2 shots were a 9 and an 8 out the left as the wind built, but I was happy to be dumping out my shooting mat and getting off the line.
The F-Class shooters used a similar strategy of shooting fast, and both Scully and Sievers ended up with 147’s. Sievers had more X’s, but they wouldn’t be enough to overcome Pat’s 4-point lead from Saturday. Steve Ernst’s 143-3x extended his lead in F-TR, sealing the deal for him. My 146-5x ended up being a pretty good score for the rainy condition, and it gave me just enough points to catch Stef in the agg.
The rain let up a little after that and relays 2 & 3 shot their 1k matches, but they also ended up soaked. Everyone agreed that we had all had enough shooting for the weekend, and the remaining matches were cancelled.
After all the water-logged gear was put away, the 2018 MN Fullbore State Championship winners were:
F-TR: Steve Ernst 721-18x
F-open: Pat Scully 739-29x
Sling: Erik Rhode 741-35x
Thanks to Mark Rohmann, the GRRC volunteers, and all the club members who once again ran a first class match. Thanks to the food truck guy – I am really starting to like this concept of dinner included with the match. I will be back to try it again on August 3-5 for the MN Long Range and Palma State Championships. That will be 2 days at 1000-yards, and one day of Palma (800, 900, and 1000 yards) to decide who those state champions will be. There will be catered dinners on both Friday and Saturday evenings, along with lots of prizes after the match on Sunday, so make sure you put it on your match calendar!