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Cowboy up! Mounted shooters from around region descend on Fairgrounds

Dacean Thomas of the Wyoming Desperados Mounted Shooters Club blasts a balloon en route to a first place finish in the ladies level one division at the 2017 CMSA Wyoming State Championship Saturday at the Park County Fairgrounds. Thomas was also presented the Comeback Kid Award after recovering from a riding accident last summer. Dacean Thomas of the Wyoming Desperados Mounted Shooters Club blasts a balloon en route to a first place finish in the ladies level one division at the 2017 CMSA Wyoming State Championship Saturday at the Park County Fairgrounds. Thomas was also presented the Comeback Kid Award after recovering from a riding accident last summer. Tribune photos by Don Cogger

The Park County Fairgrounds looked and sounded like a scene out of the old West over the weekend, as mounted shooters from around the region competed in the 5th Annual Battle in the Basin CMSA Wyoming State Championship.

Hosted by the Wyoming Desperados Mounted Shooters Club, the two-day event featured riders and shooters competing for bragging rights in six stages and three events — pistols, rifles and shotguns. Saturday’s competition was followed by a benefit concert and dance, with proceeds benefiting Cole’s Western Wishes, a non-profit organization providing help to agricultural youth in Montana and Wyoming. 

Desperados President Albert Kukuchka called the event a success.

“It was a good time, I think everyone enjoyed themselves,” Kukuchka said. “It was a learning experience for me, but we had great help, and that always makes a difference. We’re already making plans for next year — starting to get sponsors together to make it bigger and better.”

Mounted shooting is a sport for riders of all ages and skill-levels, but unlike other equestrian sports, gunfire is added into the mix. Riders negotiate their mounts around the arena in randomly selected patterns, firing at 10 balloon targets with single-action .45s, loaded with black powder blanks, as they compete for the fastest times with the most accurate shots.

Unlike barrel racing or pole bending, mounted shooting features a variety of different patterns and contestants don’t know which pattern they’ll have to run until the morning of the match. This means their horse can’t memorize the pattern, so the rider and horse have to be in constant communication.

This year’s event featured 18 competitors in men’s, ladies’, senior men’s and senior ladies’ divisions at three different levels. Level one is for novice and beginning competitors, and shooters move up based on performance. Level six is world-champion caliber; level four was the highest level competition this weekend.

In the seniors level four division, Donnie Miller from Dubois had the fastest time among the men at 125.236. Teri High from Gallatin Gateway, Montana, was first in the ladies division with a time of 120.542.

In senior men’s level two, Montana’s Mike Lukenbill won with a time of 133.852. In senior ladies level three, Kim Miller from California was first at 162.413; Lyle Spence topped the senior men’s level one with a time of 168.700.

Montana’s Scooter Reeves finished first in the ladies level three division, while Chris Heyer finished first in men’s level one with a time of 159.036.

Deaver’s Dacean Thomas — in her first event back after an injury last summer — finished first in ladies level one with a time of 154.483. Thomas was also presented with the Comeback Kid Award. Her mother, Darby Thomas, was given special recognition for her volunteer service.

“The most gratifying thing about the event, for me, was that everybody enjoyed it,” Kukuchka said. “Everybody had fun. There were no wrecks, no injuries. And to see Dacean [Thomas] do as well as she did, coming back from her accident, it was just fantastic to see.”

The Desperados will next head to Bozeman for a regional shoot over the Labor Day weekend, followed by the Montana State Shoot at the end of September in Lewiston. After that, they will begin practicing for next year, Kukuchka said.

“Right now, we just want to get the word out to let people know what we’re all about, when and where we’re doing these events,” he said. “We want to get more people involved.”

Anyone interested in learning more about the Desperados can contact Kukuchka at 307-202-0793.

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