(Match Report by Tyler Patner, Match Director)
The 2022 Burning River 120 is now in the books. For the uninitiated, AAFTA Grand Prix rifle matches typically span two days, where shooters tackle a different course on each day. Mother Nature had something to say about that for this year's match. Torrential rain and thunderstorms were called for nearly all day Sunday, so we made the decision to shoot both courses on Saturday. Thankfully, the shooters all rolled with the change and everyone seemed to stay in good spirits despite the long day.
As I normally do, I would like to thank all that were involved in making this year's match a reality. None need more praise than Anne and Ashley Reily, the wonderful property owners that allow us to call the Twin Oaks Air Rifle Range home! Their support has been a constant driver for our club, helping us improve and grow our courses to provide the most fun and challenging field target experiences we can dream up. To all of our club members that do their part in the match, from the awards, the meals, the shirts and the sheer labor of setting up, repainting, and tearing down the courses, Thank You! And certainly not least, are all of the shooters that join us and make all of the effort worthwhile. You are the reason we continue to put these matches on and why we constantly try to improve year after year. Thank you for coming and shooting with us!
We had 42 shooters attend the match this year, which is in line with last year if my memory is accurate. As has become the norm for us, we set up the pistol match in the woods for Friday afternoon. 15 shooters signed up for pistol, with a handful of others electing to shoot the match with 10-meter rifles from the offhand position.
The 40 shot pistol course was set on the long side, with the average target distance being 23 yards and the troyer rating coming in at 31.3T. While there wasn’t much wind to be had on the course, the woods did provide enough darkness to make ranging dark targets a challenge. As shooters made their way off of the course, there were whispers about a near perfect score. Turned out to be our own Dan Putz in Hunter, who shot his Crosman 1720T to a 38/40 to take the top spot! Followed by Brian Van Liew on 34 and Jeff Little with a 33. Nathan Thomas claimed the win in Limited Pistol with a 35. Great scores all around.
As Friday came to a close, we turned our attention to what would be a very long Saturday. Shooters began arriving while the sun was still fighting to get up into the sky to sight in. We chronographed shooters as they completed sighting in, and set out the score cards and times for the shooters meeting. In addition to covering the normal rules, procedures and safety issues, we also went over the proposed schedule for the day. Hunter PCP would be starting in the woods, and all other divisions would be starting in the field. After everyone completed their course, we would break for approximately two hours for lunch. This allowed enough time for repainting the targets, compiling the scores and for everyone to digest their fried chicken and pierogi lunch.
There were a few protests through the first session on each course but no other noteworthy stoppages. The conditions in the field were mildly windy, with some warming sunlight that poured in making the mid 60s temps feel more like the mid 70s. The field is an old vineyard, with some of the vine rows left intact to form lanes. So it offers some protected shots, and then some completely open sections where the wind tends to swirl. As we have in years past, we elevated a few targets on tall stands to get them just above the vine rows and into the wind more. These targets, along with a number of targets at an angle to the shooting line make it a real challenge to gauge the wind and get a consistent read. The course in the field featured 15 targets over 40 yards, an average target distance of 38.4 yards and a troyer rating of 32.4T. It was not an easy course by any means, but those who were able to decipher the wind fared well.
In Open PCP, Keith Walters led the way with a 57/60, followed closely by Brian Van Liew with a 56. In WFTF PCP, Tyler Patner turned in a near perfect 59, with Paul Cray posting a 54 in the second position. Leo Gonzales dominated WFTF Piston with a 54 of his own, leading his division by a ten shot margin. And in Hunter Piston, Eric Brewer threw down an impressive 44 to post a two shot lead over Greg Shirhall.
Coming out of the woods, two shooters stood above the rest in Hunter PCP, both shooting impressive 58’s. Bill Rabbitt and Tom Himes shared the lead with a number of others on 52. As the shooters turned in their scores and began to eat, a few of our members began repainting the courses while others were tabulating the scores. I want to post a special thank you here to Janice Himes, who graciously offered to convince our attendees to part with some of their money for our raffle and 50/50 drawings that would be held after the day's shooting was complete.
Squads were kept the same as the morning session just to keep things simple, and a brief shooter's meeting was held to address any questions or issues from the previous session. Making our way to the woods, you immediately notice it is a little cooler and considerably darker with the tree cover. Despite the minor temp drop we experienced about mid-week, things were still quite temperate. Our woods course is typically not very windy, but occasionally, you do see a little movement in your shots from the breeze. Much like the field course, the woods course is set long, in fact, longer than the field. 18 targets were over 40 yards, with an average target distance of 38.9 yards. The troyer worked out to 32.75T. In spite of this and the darker conditions, we still saw some great scores as shooters made their way off.
In Hunter Piston, Eric Brewer maintained his lead to cruise to victory with a 47, bringing his total to 91/120 on the day. 5 shots ahead of Greg Shirhall. Brian Van Liew posted a joint high score for the PM session in the woods with a 58, bringing him to a tie with Keith Walters who turned in a 57. Both shooters sat at 114/120 in Open PCP. In WFTF PCP, Paul Cray posted the other 58 of the PM session, but it wasn’t enough to catch up to Tyler Patner, turning in a 57 of his own to take the top spot with 116/120. Leo Gonzales matched his field score with another 54, bringing his total to 108/120 and winning the WFTF Piston division by a whopping 18 shots.
Coming off of the field, things in Hunter PCP had some definitive clarity. Rick Smelko posted the high score for the session with a 56/60, to work himself into third place behind the morning's top shooters in Bill Rabbitt and Tom Himes. You’ll recall they were both tied with 58’s. Bill managed to best Tom by one shot in the field, turning in a 55 to Tom’s 54, to take the top spot in Hunter PCP with a 113/120.
We quickly turned our attention to the lone shootoff that was needed. Keith Walters and Brian Van Liew stepped up to settle their tie on Open PCP. We set a 1” target at about 30 yards, and a 1.5” target at around 50. We started in the seated position, and both shooters took each target down with ease. I should note that the shootoff took place where our open field sight in range is, and while it was very calm at this point in the evening, the wind can be very tricky here, even for 20 FPE shooters. As the shooters took up their kneeling positions, the crowd hushed as both shooters took the close target down. Keith was first to shoot on the long target, ringing the faceplate. Brian steadied himself and was able to knock his target over, claiming victory.
As final scores were posted, we began winding things down with our raffle and 50/50 drawings. We are very fortunate here in Ohio to have great local airgun companies supporting us. Baker Airguns provided a few hundred dollars in gift certificates, and Pyramyd Air donated gift certificates and a loaner compressor that was used to keep our tanks full for the weekend. Additionally, we had a very nice leather pellet pouch donated by Larry Gromacki and a few bottles of locally made Mead donated by Paul Nickerson. Once everything was given away, we turned to our 50/50, which had amassed quite a pot. Ted Andro won and ended up walking away with more than enough cash to cover his entry fee and gas to and from the match.
We then gave out awards which were custom made by Tim Baylor and Bill Rabbitt, with artwork designed by Jeff Paddock. As they have been every year, they are one of a kind, and will surely be held in high regard on the award mantles of all of our winners and place finishers.
I want to again take the opportunity to thank all of the competitors who came out to join us. Ohio has quickly become a bit of a destination for field target in the Northeast and Midwest, and we are happy to be a part of that growth. We hope to continue to grow this event both in quality and headcount for years to come. If you haven’t made it to Ohio for a match yet, you certainly owe it to yourself to do so.
We hope to see you on the lanes soon!