Riders will compete in four rounds on Saturday. Everyone returns on Sunday for three additional rounds of action.
“I hope people come in and take a look to see what we’re about and get an interest in it,” said Albert Kukuchka, a local member of the Wyoming Desperados mounted shooting club who, along with the Montana’s Wild Bunch club helped get the weekend event organized. “We can even loan the guns to get them started.”
Kukuchka got started in mounted shooting roughly four years ago. Along with club members Jason Thomas and Nicole “Scooter” Singbell, he’s gone to a pair of shoots in Montana so far this year. All three have already qualified to compete at the national championships later this year in Nampa, Idaho. This is the first time they’ve done so as a part of a Wyoming club, however.
“We decided to get as club going in the middle of the year,” Kukuchka said, adding that the trio had formerly been affiliated with a club out of Montana. “We’ve got sponsors for this year that are helping us out a lot.”
Singbell notes that mounted shooting is a popular activity across the nation and, for that matter, around the world.
“I think there are clubs in just about every state,” said Singbell. “There are a lot of different organizations in the United States. There are clubs in Canada and Germany.”
Singbell is no stranger to the arena. A former barrel racer, she says the variety of courses was a major lure that drew her to mounted shooting.
“What I really like is the number of different courses they can use,” Singbell said. “Your horse doesn’t get patterned like it does in barrel racing because every round is different. The courses are picked right there at the event, so there’s no way anyone can practice them beforehand. Your horse has to listen to you because it’s a different event every time out.”
On a typical course, Kukuchka notes, the first five targets are generally splayed out in a random pattern, forcing riders to journey from one to the next. The last five targets are generally positioned on a straight line back to the finish line to allow riders to make a charge for the finish line, but also forcing them to accelerate their rate of fire if they wish to clock a good time.
Adult and senior competitors are placed into one of six levels. Level one is reserved for novice and beginning competitors. Shooters move up based on performance. Those in level six are world-champion caliber. For youth, the rules differ slightly.
“The younger kids come out and just ride the course to get a time,” Singbell said. “Then they’ll walk them back out and let them shoot at the targets, so they separate the shooting and the horsemanship. That’s part of why this is such a family-oriented activity. There’s a level for absolutely everybody.”
In addition, participants make an effort to add to the aura by dressing in period-specific attire. Although the rules, which used to require such attire at all times, have relaxed somewhat over the years, many competitors still opt to remain in traditional western attire throughout the competition, including the down time between runs and in the evenings after the day’s shooting has finished.
“I hope people will come check it out,” said Singbell. “I think they’ll have a lot of fun watching and seeing what we do.”
Both days of the state competition are free of charge for the public to attend.