The 2016 competitive rifle shooting season continued this past weekend down at the North Star Rifle Club just north of Red Wing, MN. At what might be the most beautiful shooting venue in all of the Midwest, matches are fired in a scenic valley, with thick woods on all sides, and frequent sightings of Bald Eagles overhead. Once again this Spring, the weather forecast was less than perfect, which again had a negative effect on attendance. I am holding out hope for a
good forecast on a match weekend sometime this year, but I guess only time will tell.
On Saturday morning, 10 sling shooters and 3 F-Classers braved the elements to shoot the “Mini Palma” course of fire, which calls for 20 shots for record at the 300, 500, and 600 yard lines. Also on the schedule after the Mini Palma was a 20-shot “Any sight” match at the 600-yard line that lets the sling shooters add a scope to their rifle in an attempt to tighten up groups even further. The temperature at kick off time was just below 40º, with strong gusting headwinds out of the North, and dark skies in all directions. I made the decision to go with long underwear for the match, and this turned out to be a wise decision. Things got a little better as the day went on, but the cold winds continued to dry shooters’ eyes and scatter bullets to exciting and unexpected places on their target faces.
On the F-Class target, Magic Mike Lehmeier and Bob “The Maestro” Mead traded matches and shot close scores throughout the day with Bob eventually coming out on top by just 3 points with a score of 781-32x. Both of these gentlemen are somewhat new to F-Open for 2016, but definitely not to F-Class, or to competitive shooting in general. Mike has won quite a few matches including State and Regional championships shooting F-TR, but this year he has thrown his hat into the ring with the F-Open crowd. Bob Mead is a world-class sling shooter and long-time wind coach for both the US Palma and F-Class national teams. I have been lucky enough to shoot under Bob’s coaching many times, and can vouch for him being among the very best in the game. Bob also finished 3rd overall at the 2013 F-Class world championship, so he really is not a stranger to the game either. Bob has recently switched from mostly sling shooting to all F-class in preparation for the 2017 World Championships to be held right down the road in Lodi, WI. With 18 months to get into WC form, I wouldn’t bet against him.
4 sling targets were in the air as 5 High Masters and 5 Underclassmen fought the nasty winds to keep shots in the middle throughout the day. Steve Knutson, Morgen Dietrich, and Erik Rhode all started strong, but at the end of the day, Rhode had dropped only 2 points, giving him the lead going into day 2. The bonus Any Sight match turned out to be a close one, as Morgen posted the only 600-yard clean target of the day with his 200-10x squeaking past 199’s from Knutson and Rhode. Dave Holtegaard and Kurt Borlaug kept things close in the combined Master/Expert/Sharpshooter/Marksman class with Dave’s solid 771-20x coming out on top. Worth mentioning is that Kurt was shooting a Palma Rifle built entirely from scratch. I don’t mean that he bought an action and put a barrel on it, he actually designed the whole thing, and machined it himself from raw steel. Kurt made the action, trigger, and even the sights. This is an extremely talented guy. With a little more time behind the trigger of his creation, I’m sure he will be moving up the leader board in future matches.
Sunday morning was still chilly, but the sun was shining and the wind was a little less dramatic. Better weather helped to increase the number of shooters for a net gain of 7, with 9 each for sling and F-class. Sunday’s matches were all scheduled to take place at the 600-yard line – 4 of them to be precise. Mike and Bob traded wins again all day in F-Class, but this time Mike dealt the finishing blow and his 791-40x topped Bob’s 787-30x. His 4-point margin of victory gave him the weekend agg by a single point over the Maestro. Sunday-only shooters Andy Jewison and Chuck Van Heel kept things close in FTR, with Andy finishing with the top score of 777-21x.
On the sling side, things were knotted up at the top after the 2 Any Sight matches, with Knutson and Rhode down only 1 point each, and Dietrich hot on their heels down 2, but leading in X-count. Craig Bennis, Bill Lair, and Omer Hamer were still in the hunt as well, down just a few from the leaders. It was looking like things would need to be settled in the Iron Sight matches. Steve and Morgen put up solid showings, but Erik managed a pair of 199’s in the final 2 matches to hang on for the Sunday win, with Morgen and stave taking 2nd and 3rd places. The weekend agg shook out much the same, with the same guys rounding out the top 3.
Cap’n Bob Peasley did a masterful job as per usual as match director, and NSRC had ample club volunteers on hand to handle things like stats and pit boss duty. The range was in fantastic shape, and aside from a little adverse weather it was a great weekend to shoot.
Congrats to the winners, and thanks to NSRC for hosting!