Written by Rusty Ulmer.
“As challenging as it was, I really enjoyed that stage. All of the shooting was done from natural terrain with no man-made props, although being a contortionist would have come in handy to get into some of the positions I ended up in.”
The Last Match of 2017
The last NRL match of the regular season for 2017 was held on September 30 and October 1 at the famous Blue Steel Ranch outside of Logan, New Mexico. It was generously sponsored by Butchs Guns, the second match that Butch Fjoster sponsored this year. Wes Rolan was the match director and was assisted by Curtis Winner and the rest of the NM shooting crew. They are a relatively small group which means that each of them had to work their proverbial butts off to put this match together and have it run as smoothly as it did.
Friday afternoon before the match we all met at the range to register, check zeros, and have a shooter’s meeting before heading into town to check into our hotel rooms and grab a bite to eat. When I was checking into the Budget Inn the clerk asked if I was one of them shooters. When I said yes he asked what time in the morning everyone would be leaving for the shoot and said he would have the free breakfast out extra early for us. I love small towns!
Going In Blind
Wes wanted to try a little different format for this shoot. There were no match books given out so you couldn’t go back to your room and study the COF for the next day. At each stage the shooters were sequestered behind a juniper tree or some other natural barrier to keep the shooting positions and targets (usually either 3,5 or 6 per stage) hidden from view. At this waiting area a crude map of the target layout along with the distance to each target and how many times each target was to be engaged was posted. When it was your turn to shoot, the RO called you up and explained the COF without pointing out the unpainted targets. You were shown a left and right limit of where the targets would be found, and then your 3 minutes to complete the COF began. First you had to find the targets before you could shoot them. Usually they were fairly easy to find but it did take some time. There were a few that were hidden pretty well and I was glad I had a pair of range-finding binoculars mounted on a tripod for this task. After each shooter completed a stage, he/she would help RO for the next shooter before moving to the next waiting area. There was no getting wind calls from the previous shooter. The time constraint made it difficult for most competitors to complete many of the stages, so at the BBQ they provided for us that night, Wes announced that the next day all of the stages would have 4 minutes instead of 3. I didn’t hear anyone complain about that decision. I still managed to run out of time on a few stages the next day.
Day 2 Winds Pick Up
The winds weren’t too bad the first day, but by the time I made it to the long range stage on Sunday afternoon they were around 20 mph and gusting higher. I don’t remember the exact distances but there were three targets at around 1000, 1200, and 1350 yards. As challenging as it was, I really enjoyed that stage. All of the shooting was done from natural terrain with no man-made props, although being a contortionist would have come in handy to get into some of the positions I ended up in. Most of the target arrays were engaged shooting from rimrock across a canyon or down into a valley. I know Wes stuck his neck out a little by trying this format and I talked with several people who weren’t happy with having to find the targets on the clock, but I think that was because it wasn’t what they were expecting or they had never done a match like that before. I know most people did enjoy the format. It definitely took us out of our comfort zone.
After every match I always like to look back at several… okay I mean MOST of the stages, and wish I had another chance to do them over again. This match was no different. I know I learned a lot and I really hope they do it again next year with a similar format. I was lucky enough to get in a really fun squad made up almost entirely of Colorado shooters. All of the entertaining conversations and joking around made the misses a little less painful. Interacting with other people who also enjoy this sport is always the best part of any match. This was the first match I shot with my new 6XC built for me by Owens Armory and it shot great… the misses were all on me!
After the shooting was done we all headed into town to the community center where another feast awaited us. In a surprisingly short amount of time, considering no electronic scoring was used, Curtis came in with the match results all tallied up. I didn’t feel like I performed very well but I guess the unique format affected everyone else as well. I was surprised to find out I ended up in 6th place. Congrats to the Top 5:
- Tate Streater
- Jake Vibbert
- Austin Orgain
- Grant Urick
- Tyler Hughes
The prize table was stacked with generously donated items. Wes even donated all of the unused funds to the prize table! I was able to pick up a Nightforce scope – THANK YOU NIGHTFORCE!!! Also, thanks to all the ROs for donating your weekend so that the rest of us could shoot, and to CONX Media for all of the fantastic photos.
I’ll see you all at the Championship match!