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Shooters sharpen their skills
Ellen Trout, of West Virginia, checked the raspberry pie she was baking.

Shooters sharpen their skills

Jul 5, 2013 - By Andrea Novotny, Staff Writer

Black powder gunmen take aim at the 1838 Rendezvous range

Black powder musket shooters are sharpening their skills this week at the 1838 Rendezvous shooting range.

The shooting range is open from 8 a.m. to noon each day and again from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m..

An initial fee of $10 buys 16 shots, distributed between four stations with varying difficulty. After the initial fee, reshooting at any point during the Rendezvous is $3.

Target distances at the site range from 25 to 100 yards. The most difficult targets are the "novelty targets," including potatoes, marshmallows, which are about an 1-inch wide, and cheese balls, about 1-inch wide.

The most difficult target is a series of colored straws, each about 1/4-inch wide, meant to be cut in half with a perfect shot.

Wind River Muzzle Loaders' member Louella "Little Dot" Ebert, of Bonneville near Shoshoni, said she had been "hitting all the drones" Friday. Ebert said she has been shooting all of her life, but took up black powder shooting only eight years ago. She also competes in knife and tomahawk throwing, taking state in 2009 for knife throwing.

Bruce Schwindt, the Rendezvous range master, said there has been "tight competition" so far, with two shooters hitting 13 of the 16 targets, and two hitting 12 of the 16. So far, no one has gotten a perfect score.

Schwindt, who lives southwest of Laramie with wife and co-range master Teri Schwindt, has been shooting black powder since 1975.

Now retired, the Schwindts travel full time to different Rendezvous events, mostly in Arizona, California, Utah, Nebraska and Wyoming. Their next stop is the Rocky Mountain National Rendezvous, beginning July 12 near McFadden. There the couple will be competitors.

Bruce Schwindt said he has earned about half a dozen national records in muzzle loading at the national competitions in Phoenix.

Schwindt initially said his wife was uninterested in black powder shooting, but he bought her a muzzleloader anyway, and now, he said, "She's as hooked as I am." Teri Schwindt holds three national muzzle-loading records.

Teri Schwindt also is an avid seamstress. Like many at the 1838 Rendezvous, the Schwindts attend in garb reminiscent of the actual 1838 Rendezvous. Teri Schwindt makes their clothing from scratch using tanned leather, which she soaks, stretches, cuts and sews into authentic mountain man attire. She also made her wedding dress, bridesmaids' dresses and husband's tuxedo -- but not from tanned leather.

On Saturday, shooters will compete in the Calcutta competition, beginning at 9 a.m. after an auction of the shooters at the roost. The winning bidder on the best shooter will receive a cash prize. The winning shooter will receive a custom-made knife by Rendezvous trader Warren B. "Fish" Trout.

Trout and his wife, Ellen Trout, of West Virginia, trade and sell handmade custom deer antler knives, jewelry, whistles and pipes at their booth. Their inventory also includes various items they have acquired at the Rendezvous via trade, custom-made pies, made on the site of the 1838 Rendezvous grounds and envelopes full of "rattlesnake eggs."

When the envelopes are opened, the eggs begin to rattle in the hands of the patron.

"They'll throw those and scream," Trout said. "And the hell of it is, rattlesnakes don't lay eggs anyway."

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