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Burning River 120 A.A.F.T.A. Grand Prix Match is Back in Ohio

(Match Report by Tyler Patner)

September 24-26th of 2021 was the second Burning River 120 AAFTA Grand Prix match. After taking a year off as many typical GP host clubs did in 2020, we were looking forward to seeing old friends, sharing the lanes and enjoying some spirited airgun competition. 45 shooters made the trip to Chagrin Falls, the home of the Northeast Ohio Airgunners at the Twin Oaks Airgun Range.

Before we get to the action and results, there are a number of folks that deserve our collective thanks, praise and recognition for making this event happen. First and foremost, Anne and Ashley Reily! Anne and Ashley are the property owners of our incredible range and graciously allow us to build the courses however we dream them up. I cannot count how many compliments we received from first time visitors about how amazing the property is, and how lucky we are to call it home. On behalf of the club, our members, and all those that attended this match, a massive thank you to the Reily’s for their assistance, hospitality and generosity!

Bill Rabbitt, Jeff Paddock, Ted Andro, Larry Justinus, Dan Putz, Dave Hitchcock, Tim Baylor, Roger Barker, Rick Smelko, Lucas Marusiak, Gary Palinkas, and Joe Tricomi, thank you for helping get both courses ready, arranging the food, awards, shirts, scorecards, setup, teardown, and anything else I may be forgetting. We are so fortunate to have all of your help and consistent support, but more importantly, your friendship and fellowship. Your efforts are greatly appreciated by all who attended. And if I left anyone out, my sincerest apologies.

As shooters arrived on Friday, the weather was just perfect for a great day of FT. It was great to catch up with so many friends that we did not have the opportunity to see in 2020. Before the pistol match, we took the time to chronograph the pistol competitors' guns and make sure everyone was within the 12FPE limits. After everyone completed the chrony check, we headed into the woods and the match began. The 40 shot pistol course was 32.6T difficulty with an average target distance of just a hair over 24 yards. We utilized a number of tree stands to get the targets off of the ground, and when coupled with the wind that could be felt moving through the woods,a number of shooters had trouble. Jeff Paddock and I marshalled the match and there were no issues to speak of. When the shooters came in and the scores were verified, Nathan Thomas (Limited) and Brian Van Liew (Hunter) stood above the rest posting impressive 36/40 final scores. Great shooting guys!

As we turned our attention to Saturday’s rifle match, there was some concern over a small chance of rain later in the afternoon. With that in mind, a hot topic of conversation was which division would shoot the woods and which would be in the field. As we switched the woods course back over from our pistol setup to the rifle setup, we decided to put the Hunter shooters in the field and all of the WFTF and Open shooters into the woods. Thankfully, on Saturday morning, we woke to a refreshed forecast that dropped the chance of rain to zero. While the threat of rain was gone, there was still a good amount of wind called for(between 5-15 MPH). As shooters came off of the sight in line, we made sure to chronograph the competitors as is now required at GP’s under the AAFTA rules. Thankfully there were no issues and everyone was within the required velocity ranges for their respective divisions.

Bill Rabbitt plugged everyone's lane assignments into his computer which was displayed on a big screen TV for all to see and we held our shooters meeting before sending folks out to the lanes. I should mention here that both courses were set long. The Woods course featured 17 targets over 40 yards, an average target distance of 38.7 yards and an overall troyer of 32.8T. Add in a number of targets elevated off of the ground, the tricky lighting that the canopy over the woods creates and some wind and the course posed a real challenge. In the field, there were 13 targets over 40 yards, the average distance to target was 35.7 yards and the overall troyer was 31.3T. While that doesn’t sound as tough, you must understand that our field course is in an old vineyard. Some lanes are cut in between rows of old grapes, others are completely open. There were targets on tall stands elevating them over any protection and there were targets nestled into spots within the vine rows that were completely shielded from any wind. It’s a very tricky place to shoot, and even harder to get a read on the wind as it kicks up through the day.

Coming off of the field, Bill Day and his Thomas led the pack in Hunter PCP with a fantastic 55/60. He was trailed by Rick Vaeth on a 52 and four others on 51. In Hunter Piston, Dan Putz had a commanding four shot lead on his nearest competitor, posting an impressive 48 with his Air Arms TX200. As shooters began to emerge from the woods, Paul Cray came in on top with a stellar 57 followed closely by Tyler Patner and Will Piatt on 56. In WFTF Piston, Matt Brackett held a two shot lead over Leo Gonzales finishing on a 49. And to round things out, in Open PCP Keith Walters shot a 56 which was two shots better than his closest competition, Chas DiCapua.

After the match we enjoyed fried chicken and pierogies for lunch, repainted the courses and caught up with old and new friends alike. Later that evening, 10 of us met up at the local Cowboy Bar and Grill for dinner and we had a great time recapping the day's events and discussing all things airgun. A small group of us headed back to set squads and lane assignments for the final day.

Sunday morning arrived with a forecast that called for blue skies and temps near 70. As the sun warmed things up, shooters began arriving and sighting in for the 60 shots ahead of them. Again, we chronograph tested all of the shooters equipment and began the shooters meeting with a few notes for the competitors from the previous day. Then we sent the shooters on their way with the Hunter shooters making the long walk to the woods course while the WFTF and Open shooters were settling into the field course. As a side note about the woods course, on a spur of the moment decision by property owner Ashley Reily, an entire new section of the course was cut about two weeks before the match. The woods course was not too long to walk prior to this, but the addition adds enough room for another 10-15 lanes easily. So in an effort to use some of this new trail, we cut a few new lanes to replace some of our lanes that required us to traverse a pretty swampy section of the property to get to our target placements. While these new lanes were really fantastic and much easier to set, they did create an extra few hundred yards of walking for the shooters. But hopefully everyone found it to be worthwhile for some new lanes and a great challenge.

I can tell you that the field on Sunday was full of tricky wind. There were certainly lulls but for the most part, there was a constant threat of being pushed out of the kill zone. Because of this, many shooters struggled to find their respective grooves early, but those that were able to get a good read on the wind produced some fantastic scores. In WFTF Piston, Matt Brackett posted a stellar 52 to firmly secure his place at the top of the division. In Open PCP, holding a two shot lead, Keith Walters managed to fend off challenges from Chas DiCapua and Brian Van Liew, shooting a 53 to take a one shot victory over Chas in the overall standings. Paul Cray held his composure to take WFTF PCP in a battle with Tyler Patner that came down to the very last lane.

As the Hunter shooters began to return from the woods, we heard whispers of an absolutely massive Hunter Piston score from Dan Putz. Sure enough, Dan managed to post a 56/60 in the woods, absolutely having his way with the course and cruising to victory. And in the tight Hunter PCP race, Dennis Himes clawed his way back with a 56 of his own to tie Bill Day in the overall standings and force a shoot-off. We set two equal shoot-off lanes in our very windy sight-in range, featuring a ¾” KZ around 30 yards and a 1.5” KZ in the 50’s. Each shooter was given two minutes to take their shots on the near target, before we would move to the far target. As the time ticked away, and the crowd settled, both shooters made quick work of the near target. Moving to the far target in the wind, again, both shooters dropped the full size kill zones with apparent ease. So we moved onto kneeling. Bill takes his kneeling shots from the offhand position, so it was a bit of an odd sight seeing one shooter kneeling and one standing. As both shooters took aim at the near target, the wind picked up and we saw our first misses of the shoot-off. Since neither was able to knock over the target, each shooter took aim again, this time, Dennis was able to quickly dispatch the reduced kill zone target. Bill took his time, but was unable to match the hit. A good shoot-off is a fitting way to end a great weekend of competition and congrats to both Dennis and Bill on their good shooting.

After a great BBQ pulled pork and mac-n-cheese lunch was enjoyed by all, we held our awards ceremony and drew a few raffle prize winners. Speaking of raffles, a very big thank you to Janice Himes for her assistance with selling raffle tickets. Her persistence got a lot of folks to participate which helps put some funds back into the club so we can continue to grow and improve. And I should also bring up the awesome awards that Bill Rabbitt and Tim Baylor put together. Tim made up the cherry bases and engraved our match logo into them, while Bill cut and painted the flaming place placard. They really turned out great and those that got to take one home will certainly appreciate them.

As a final thank you, to all of the shooters that attended the 2021 Burning River 120, we appreciate your support of our club and this match more than you know. The camaraderie that we experience at GP matches is one of a kind that I am not sure exists in any other competitive environment. Your praise and kind words mean the world to us and I can speak for all of our members when I say that we are looking forward to seeing you again in 2022. Until then, shoot safe and we will see you on the lanes.

1st Place Hunter PCP

2nd Place Hunter PCP 3rd place Hunter PCP

1st Place Hunter Piston

2nd Place Hunter Piston

1st Place Open PCP

2nd place Open PCP 3rd Place Open PCP

1st Place WFTF PCP

2nd Place WFTF PCP 3rd Place WFTF PCP

1st Place WFTF Piston

1st Place Hunter Pistol

2nd Place Hunter Pistol 3rd place Hunter Pistol

1st Place Limited Pistol

2nd Place Limited Pistol


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