By Dale Cory
It’s been a Labour Day fixture on the Alberta sports scene for many years.
And, considering how many young children took part in this well-known shooting event Sept. 4 at Lake Pofianga, the Rifleman’s Rodeo is certain to be around for many more years.
There were more than 350 entries — one third of which involved the youth categories — when the Rifleman’s Rodeo celebrated its 43rd anniversary during the long weekend.
“It’s something different. Nowhere else around here really has a shootin’ competition like this,” said 15-year-old Mitch Dunz of Usona. ”I’ve been competing in the Rifleman’s Rodeo since I was 11, and shooting since I was probably eight.”
Dunz competed in the .22 calibre competitions, along with the centre-fire rifle competition, and the crow shoot.
He won the over-11 category by gaining 102 points while shooting at targets positioned 20 yards away.
“The actual competition isn’t really that much,” added Dunz, who, despite his teenage status, already sits on the Ponoka Fish and Game Club executive, acting as assistant chair for the fishing side. “It’s just getting out and shooting. The competition is fun too.”
While Dunz has been around the shooting game for many years, Prema Wolfe, an eight-year-old from Ponoka, was attending just her second Rifleman’s Rodeo competition. Last year, she finished second in the youth .22 shoot.
“It’s really exciting to come out, and you also get to camp for the weekend. I go in the crow shoot, the balloon shoot, and the target shoot,” said Wolfe, who has learned the basics safety tips that are impressed upon the youth who take part in the Rifleman’s Rodeo. “You should always point your gun to the side, be safe when you are shooting, and don’t shoot until it’s clear.”
The safety aspect of the Rifleman’s Rodeo was clearly evident during the Saturday morning youth competition, with many executive members helping the kids load their rifle and position it properly on the stand.
“You just kind of get tips from the guys who have been around, like, how to hold your gun differently. You can wrap your sling on your arm, and that helps to stabilize your gun better. There are tricks you can use,” explained Dunz. “When you are a youth, they have a certain order they call the targets in. In adult competition, they call the targets randomly. You pay attention to your flagman, who is directing everyone. And you make sure nobody is out on the range.”
For Leonard Davis, president of the Ponoka Fish and Game Club, the highlight of the weekend personally was winning the buddy competition. But for Davis and the hard-working members of the fish and game club, the Rifleman’s Rodeo is not all about winning a buckle.
“We need to have our youth involved in the rodeo so we are able to teach the younger generations that firearms are safe and fun if they are handled properly and treated with respect,” says Davis. “Being involved in an event that brought out family members of all ages — from seven to 70 — to compete in the sport of shooting was important to the club and to the sport in general.”
And the top shooters were…
• Youth under 11 years: 1st-Katrina Nabozniak, 2nd-Cody Lloyd, 3rd-Tamara Ferris;
• Youth over 11 years: 1st-Mitch Dunz, 2nd-Sara Nabozniak, 3rd-Jessica Nobozniak;
• Under 11 years balloon shoot: Tamara Ferris;
• Over 11 years balloon shoot: Reesha Dedio;
• Balloon shoot: Phil Donnelly;
• Black powder shoot: Phil Donnelly;
• Crow shoot: Ben Hellervik;
• Men’s category: 1st-Kevin Walcheske, 2nd-Bryan Walcheske, 3rd-Todd Nabozniak;
• Women’s category: 1st-Phyllis Walcheske, 2nd-Genevieve Walcheske, 3rd-Sherry Thoreson;
• Junior category: 1st-Samara Moussa, 2nd-Devon Tenborg, 3rd-Reesha Dedio;
• Family event: 1st-Bryan Walcheski and Reesha Dedio, 2nd-Ben Hellervik and Katrina Nabozniak, 3rd-Todd and Jessica Nobozniak;
• Buddy event: 1st-Leonard Davis and Phil Donelly, 2nd-Todd Nabozniak and Bryan Walcheske, 3rd-Lloyd Julson and Greg Labrun;
• Iron sights event: 1st-Ben Hellervik, 2nd-Bryan Walcheske, 3rd-Kevin Walcheske