Last updated on May 21st, 2018 at 06:54 pm
Mother’s Day 600-yard Mid Range Prone Match - La Crosse Rifle Club
La Crosse Rifle Club has a tradition of hosting a 2-day 600-yard match over the Mother’s Day weekend that dates back to long before I ever found out about this sport. I’ve been shooting matches at La Crosse for 4 or 5 years now, but in previous years, one commitment or another has always prevented me from making it there for the Mother’s Day match. As you’ve probably guessed by now, this year I did finally get there.
2018 is a selection year for the US Palma Team. Since making it onto the United States National Rifle Team (the development program for the US Palma Team) in 2013, being selected as one of the 16 firing members of the 2019 Palma Team has been my only goal in competitive shooting. I’ve achieved some success and have had some very good days along the way, but they were really just stepping-stones on the path to that goal. 2018 is the most important year to date in my shooting career - this is the year that I will either reach that goal, or fall short and be faced with another 4 long years before getting another chance. 4 years is a long time, and I have no idea where life might find me in 2022. So, with that in mind, I am shooting every match I can conceivably get to in 2018 in an attempt to maximize my chances of being selected. My saint of a mother agreed to an early Mother’s Day dinner on Thursday, my wife wanted to come to the match, and we had a babysitter for the dog. My bases were covered.
29 other Sling and 9 F-class shooters must have made similar arrangements, as there were 39 of us at the range on Saturday morning ready for action. The forecast had looked fairly ugly for most of the week, but had gotten considerably better as the weekend got closer. The La Crosse area had gotten 5.5” of rain in the week leading up to the match, but by the time we were called into prep, it seemed to be over. It was a cool 50º, but the sun was coming out, and it looked to be a nice day. The match program called for 2 Any Sight matches and 2 Iron Sight matches each day. There were 9 of us shooting Palma/irons the whole way, along with some other non-scope Any and Service Rifle shooters.
As usual at LRC, the winds were calm early in the day. The weatherman called for 7-9 mph throughout the day, but that kind of wind rarely makes it into the well-protected valley where we shoot. Some huge scores have been shot on this range on days like this, including Morgen “Man-Boy” Dietrich’s historic 1600-120x wth his scoped 6BR back in 2016. All present would be trying to recreate some of that magic this weekend. 3 of us took advantage of the condition in the first match, as Jeremy “Gravedigger” Graves locked up the win with his 14x clean Creedmoor’ing my own matching score. Ginormous Jay Johnson’s 9x clean rounded out the list of 200’s for that opening match. Those 2 guys do not give up many points on this range, so anyone wanting a chance at winning anything would need to be on their “A Game” all weekend. Jeff Dick continued right where he left off last weekend, getting off to an early lead on the F-open crew shooting a 199-8x, while FTR wizard Steve Ernst led that gang with a 195-7x.
The wind was up a little for the second match, but things were still looking good, as 6 shooters dropped no points. Jay (16x) and Jeremy (13x) were first and 2nd, while Marky Mark Liebetrau (11x), Brian Mrnak (10x), Brady Westling (10x with a Service Rifle), and Ernst (12x FTR) all shot clean. Jeff Dick won his second F-Open match string with his 198-10x. I put up 17 x’s, but got caught in a little pick up that resulted in a perfect waterline 9 at 3 0’clock. Not the start I wanted, but I was happy to see how well the rifle/ammo combo was holding elevation. I just put this barrel on in March, and so far every match I had shot had been in conditions too harsh for me to be able to get a good read on its accuracy potential. Those 31 out of 40 shots into the x-ring in those first 2 matches gave me a lot of confidence that it is performing the way I will need it to.
After the first 2 matches, my relay was sent to the pits to pull 4 strings for the other shooters. When we got back 2 hours later, the sun had gone away and a dreary overcast was hanging over us. The sky was threatening rain, and the mirage that we had been leaning on for wind advice earlier in the day was mostly gone. The wind held pretty consistent though, and careful shooters were able to pick their way to clean scores again. My 200-11x topped the field, with rising star “Party” Marty Gunderson and Jay shooting matching 9x cleans for 2nd and 3rd place. The Steve Brothers (Clark and Knutson) put up 8 and 5 x’s, while Graves let one slip away to finish with a very respectable 199-14x. Brady was still in command of the Master Class, and Misters Dick and Ernst continued their dominance on the little targets.
“A” games were brought to match #4, and my 200-13x was only good enough for 3rd place, as Jay slammed the door on the Saturday agg with a masterful 17x clean. Ricky Hunt’s 14x took 2nd place, and 9 total shooters shot clean to finish the day, including juniors Josh Hanrahan (13x) and Mikko Waino (9x). Jeff Dick and Steve Ernst each won their 4th consecutive match of the day in Open and TR respectively; giving them both the daily agg wins with 793-38x (Jeff) and 789-37x (Steve). As mentioned, Jay Johnson shot clean through all 4 matches to finish with a stellar 800-51x for the day. This is the 2nd 800 that I’ve witnessed by Jay at this range with his 6 Dasher - this man can shoot. Jeremy and I at least kept things interesting for him, my 799-55x and Graves’ 799-53x kept the pressure on him until the last shot of the day was out of the barrel and through the target!
Unfortunately, family commitments kept Jay from being able to come back to defend his 800 on day 2. That was a shame, as if there was ever a match weekend with 2 consecutive days to shoot perfect scores, this was it. Without Jay there on Sunday, Jeremy and I would be playing defense trying to keep guys like Gunderson, Knutson, Marky Mark, and Hanrahan from overtaking us. The day was about as perfect as you could ask for; cool temps, overcast skies, and near-perfect calm. While there wasn’t much wind to speak of, there also weren’t any real wind indicators to look at, either. The cloud cover made mirage all but invisible, and the wet flags from more overnight rain left them hanging almost motionless. Spotter chasing seemed like it was going to be the best strategy for the day, and many of us proceeded to do just that.
The dark conditions kept the 200’s to a minimum in the first match, but Josh Hanrahan and I managed to keep them all in the middle, as my 15x just squeaked past his 14x. Steve Ernst kept up Saturday’s streak winning Sunday’s opener with a 199-10x, but Earl “The Kid” Liebetrau upset Jeff Dick in the F-Open class. Young Earl’s 199-13x led all F-class shooters to kick off day 2.
After a sight alignment error in the first match, The Gravedigger was back with a vengeance in the 2nd with his own 200-15x clean. Hanrahan and I were next up; my 14x again sneaking past his 13. Ernst put up the only F-class 200 with 11 x’s, while Earl’s 199-12x gave no ground to the other Open shooters. Brady Westling had a firm command over the Master Class, and Junior Riley Stewart had the same over the combined Expert/Sharpshooter/Marksman class.
I came back to win the 3rd with another 15x-er; with USNRT wind coaches Rick Hunt and Steve “Classic” Knutson hot on my heels with 14 and 12 X’s of their own. Brady wins the Master Class for the 2nd time in 3 matches, but Mikko Waino takes the combined class to keep leader Riley Stewart in view. Earl responds to Ernst’s 11x clean in the second match by beating it by one X in the 3rd – 200-12x wins that match. Ernst again tops the TR class, that’s 7 straight for the weekend with one left to shoot.
Last match of the weekend, here we go. The condition is as good as it’s been all day, and Josh Hanrahan proves it – bringing the hammer with his match-winning 200-16x. Party Marty is back in with an excellent 200-14x, and I lay down a spastic 9x clean to hang on for 3rd. The F-class guns are all warmed up as Randy Snook finishes off a solid day with a 200-9x clean. Ernst puts an exclamation point on his performance; 200-15x is the top F-Class score fired all weekend, and also gives him the clean sweep winning all 8 matches in FTR. Steve finished the day with a 797-47x. Earl Liebetrau was no slouch; his 199-13x was enough for him to hold on for the Sunday Open agg with 797-50x. I refused to open the door for anyone in the sling class, and finished with my first all-Palma 800. I have shot two other 800’s in my lifetime, but have never done it shooting Palma/irons/155’s the whole way. I kicked myself for blowing the opportunity on Saturday, so I was very happy to be able to follow through and check that box on Sunday. Hanrahan was scary close with a monstrous 799-57x. I talked to Josh a couple of weekends ago at another 600-yard match, and he said he was still a little rusty after some time away from shooting. Apparently, the rust is now off! Josh recently finished Army National Guard boot camp, and will be shooting for the All Guard Team starting later this year. I’d say they are lucky to have him.
The weekend aggs looked like this:
Steve Ernst – 1586-84x
Earl Liebetrau -1585-76x
Erik Rhode – 1599-108x
Brady Westling made short work of the Master Class, steering his Service Rifle to an excellent 1572-58x, while Mikko Waino topped the Combined Ex/SS/MM class at 1559-46x.
The folks at La Crosse Rifle Club always do an excellent job with these matches. Each person knows his or her job, and everything moves like clockwork. Each day, it took 5 ½ hours to get 3 relays through 4 matches each. On Sunday with the 8am start, all matches were finished by 1:30 pm. Sandy, Chris, Bill, John, and everyone else involved are pro’s who know how to get things done.
I am already looking forward to coming back in 5 weeks for the Father’s Day weekend matches on my way to Midwest Palma. See you all there!