Aiming to entertain
BEMIDJI -- It will be all about quick draws and precise aim this weekend at the Beltrami County Fairgrounds, as shooters from across the region shoot it out in a mounted shooting competition.
The second annual Raid on the Gold Mine Minnesota Get Together will draw cowboys and cowgirls, young and old alike, for two days of quick shooting and high-speed horsemanship Saturday and Sunday.
Members of the Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association, Minnesota Mounted Shooters Association and Wild Rice Peacemakers will compete in these fast-paced, timed events, riding their horses while shooting at 10 targets with two .45 caliber single action revolvers.
"It's the fastest growing equine sport in the world," said organizer and competitor Joe Waslaski. "It's just an action-packed, quick moving event."
The shootout is free of charge, with events starting at 10:30 a.m. Saturday and a cowboy church and music program presented by Kent Dudley and Bended Knee occurring at 8 a.m. Sunday, preceding the shootout at 10:30 a.m. Vendors will also accompany the shooting event.
"This is a family oriented event," Waslaski said. "We wanted to get this event here and show people what it's all about."
Entering the arena, riders are signaled when it is safe to begin their stage, whereupon they speed to complete their assigned racing pattern through a maze of cones while firing at 10 balloon targets with their two pistols. The pistols are loaded with five rounds of blank shells, and filled with black gunpowder to create a brief spark that bursts the balloons.
Whereas Saturday's shootout consists of .45 caliber revolvers, riders will complete similar stages Sunday, but with rifles and shotguns.
Each day consists of four shooting stages, which are drawn at random from 60 different courses the day of competition.
Rider's times from the four stages are combined to determine winners.
To keep the competition fair, Waslaski said riders are categorized into six skill levels, and it takes four stage wins to win one skill point. A total of four skill points is needed to advance to the next skill level.
Kris Klasen, Waslaski's wife, who has been organizing the event and will also compete in the event, said she has been competing in mounted shooting events for three years, and the event is unlike any other equine competition she has been involved with.
"The people you compete with are the best," she said. "They will give you their horse, their guns - anything. You don't see that in any other competition."
Waslaski, a level two shooter, and Klasen, a level four shooter, who own of the Gold Mine ranch, have traveled to many equine competitions around the country, earning numerous titles.
Klasen and her horse Flicka have won 10 world championship and eight world reserves.
"Mounted shooting is still so new a lot of people have not seen it," Klasen said. "The image they get isn't always how it actually goes."
According to Klasen, the second annual shootout will draw record attendance numbers, with more than 65 riders registered so far. She said all 55 horse stalls have been rented out for the weekend.
With the only two mounted shooting clubs in Minnesota coming together for a competition, Klasen said the mounted shooting event creates a sense of home for many of the shooters.
"There's a lot of socializing that goes on here," she said.
For the family of Rachel Larson, the "family feeling" is what has encouraged her entire family to take part in the event.
"It's our hobby," she said. "To me, it's like one big family."
A family of four, Larson, her husband, Scott, and her eight-year-old twin daughter and son, Ella and Garrett, has been involved in mounted shooting together for nearly a year.
"It's kind of cool to shoot a gun off a horse," said Ella, who has been riding horse since age 2.
Still too young to shoot a .45 revolver, Ella, and all other competitors under the age of 11, must shoot the targets with a cap gun.
Co-hosting the event, Larson, a level two shooter, said the bond needed between rider and horse is extremely unique.
"To be able to shoot off of your horse is special," she said. "Your horse has to be listening to you and they have to listen to you."
If you go:
What: Raid on the Gold Mine Minnesota Get Together mounted shooting event
When: Saturday and Sunday
Where: Beltrami County Fairgrounds