Southwest Airgunners Aspen Mountain Airgun Rendezvous 06/20/20 Match Report
The inaugural match for the Southwest Airgunners took place this past Saturday. This club has been a few years in the making, and the idea was mostly hatched by my good friend Rex. We both started attending FT matches at the Airgunners of Arizona’s summer site just south of Flagstaff around the same time 3 years ago. That is a roughly 6 hour drive for him and a couple hours for myself. We’ve long discussed how neat it would be to have another club somewhere in eastern AZ/western NM and also another match for anybody interested to shoot at. Those discussions mostly revolved around the logistics, usually location and target acquisition. Well, last summer the Airgunners of Arizona club decided to upgrade some of their targets. The old targets had seen some mileage but were still quite serviceable, some of them were the old classic Juneaus as well as other makers. All in all there were some really neat targets in the bunch, double headed snakes with a different sized KZ for each head, running tree martins, snowy owl, etc. The AZ club held a vote and decided to pass on some of these phased out targets to Rex to aid in the desires of getting a club started, a very classy move on their part.
It all finally came together this past weekend. Rex found a beautiful spot for us high up in the mountains of western New Mexico. Around 9 miles south of the small town of Luna, NM, and just over the AZ/NM state line from Alpine, AZ, is a geological feature called Horse Mesa. Horse Mesa is situated just north of Aspen Mountain and the match area is accessed by the Saddle Mountain Lookout Road (FS Rd 209). All those descriptive landmarks sure make the area sound interesting, but really don’t even begin to hint at how neat of an area this is for a FT match. At an elevation of around 8600 feet we are thinking that this might very well be the highest elevation field target match in the country. The exact match area is a gently sloped portion of Horse Mesa covered in tall Ponderosa pine, interspersed with Gambel oak and even spruce and a few varieties of juniper trees. The forest floor has a nice soft covering of oak and pine needles and large areas of heavy shade.
As for the weather, we were treated with highs in the upper 70s and lows in the high 40s. Some of our shooters came up from Phoenix and had a welcome reprieve from the 112-114 degree weather often seen during the day down there. It was cool enough, even at the height of the day, to need a long sleeved shirt or sweater if sitting still in the shade. Beautiful weather.
Many of us chose to make a long weekend of it, camping and simply enjoying the cool mountain air. There were tents, campers, trailers, cars, bikes, motorcycles, trucks, kids, and dogs spread all through the camping area. I brought along my 6 year old son and we had a blast. It was really good to get away from electronics and work and life and just enjoy nature, especially in such a beautiful area.
Course set up
Rex and a few others got to the site earlier in the week but we set the FT course on Thursday afternoon. It was decided that there were enough targets for a 13 lane, 52 shot course. Rex had a good idea of what he wanted and we set about to make it happen. Bobby, in his standard gracious manner, offered insight and instruction about how to set a good course, as well as how to manage some of the idiosyncrasies of setting those older style targets. We had plenty of help, with Don B, John W, Ben S, and Dan L (and possibly others) lending a helping hand. The first 5 lanes resulted in shooting up a slight incline, straight north. Lane 6-9 shot west, with 10-13 shooting south and curving around the camping area to eventually culminate with lane 13 shooting in a southeasterly direction. We made good use of the natural features, with some targets being attached to tree stumps and others requiring the shooter to thread the needle through trees, stumps, fallen logs, rocks, saplings, etc. We even utilized a small rocky ridge for some thoroughly engaging target placement. Discussion on the difficulty level centered on wanting to make sure that some of the first-timers felt the sense of accomplishment of knocking down targets, but also providing a challenge for the more experienced shooters. We spaced the lanes out quite a bit, averaging probably 30-40 yards between lanes markers. Lanes 1-5 ended up with an average Troyer of 27.5 and lanes 8-13 had T factor of 37.65. The average Troyer for the entire course was a little over 35. Those were calculated using only kill zone size and distance. With the light breeze and heavily shaded areas, the T factor of the course would most definitely climb. I heard lots of muttering but none of it even remotely hinted at the course being easy. Most of us felt it was quite challenging. But surely fun.
20fpe Silhouette/FT game
On Friday afternoon we were treated with a fun side competition. Last summer Rex created a silhouette based airgun competition that we have also enjoyed on the Fridays before the Saturday shoot over at Mormon Lake. Through the winter he had some more silhouettes made and perfected the target stands and the arrangements to iron out some of the glitches. It ran very smoothly this past weekend. The game uses the standard .22 rimfire sized silhouette animals (ram, turkey, pig, chicken), but with the added challenge of two chickens at each distance. So, at 40, 50, 60, and 70 yards are placed a bank of a ram, turkey, pig, chicken, chicken. The 5 targets at each of the 4 distances results in a total of 20 shots. One shot per target. We shot through twice, for a total possible score of 40. And last but not least, the big kicker…….20fpe limit and shot from any field target position. Oh yeah, can’t forget the 8 minute time limit for each heat. Those chickens at 70 yards with sub 20fpe guns get pretty challenging but the game is tons of fun. I believe we had 12 participants for the 20fpe silhouette comp. Steve M came out on top with a 39/40 using his USFT clamped into the tripod that he employs for Freestyle class FT. Falling in after that, the competition was fierce, with a two way tied score of 38. Following that, we had multiple shooters with 37s and 36s. There was a shoot off to determine 2nd and 3rd place. Five chickens were set at 70 yards and a couple minutes put on the clock. Crystal G took out more of the 70 yard chickens than Steve Q to come in at 2nd and 3rd, respectively. Crystal used a Daystate Huntsman and Steve Q shot his Marauder.
This one shows the 20fpe silhouette game. Color coded so that each shooter is shooting at one color for all four distances for each heat. The benefits of the color coding were learned last year when we were shooting each others animals.
Saturday morning came around with a few more shooters having arrived. A total of 17 shooters competed in the official FT match: 3 in Open, 2 in WFTF, 3 in Freestyle, and 9 in Hunter Class. A handful of shooters were participating in their first ever match. We also had a good number of members from the Airgunners of Arizona FT club, as well as a handful from the Phoenix Airgun Club that holds matches down at the Rio Salado facility in Mesa, AZ. We were really pleased with the turnout and support from other FT enthusiasts across the state.
Random pics from the FT portion of the weekend.
This one has a frog on the stump, and a bird further out, with the far shot being taken through the gap between the log and the stump. Targets circled in red.
The above pic with a little zoom.
Here is a pdog for the near target and a bird out around 52 yards.
Snake in the brush pile. Walked up close to take this one.
This lane had a running martin and a squirrel target. Circled in red.
A close up of the running martin.
And Lauren P taking aim at the squirrel in the same lane (second pic above)
The following pics are just some fun target placement. Bird in the tree, bell target hanging from the curved oak, bell target behind a rock (from shooters angle and up close).
We had an odd number so needed one squad with three shooters. Barry took full advantage of the down time offered by being in a 3 person shooting squad. He looks quite relaxed in that sunshine. Some wondered if he was still alive for a few minutes.
Here are two combined squads right near the end of the course.
Here's one of a good group of shooters sitting around to hear the results.
I'd like to personally thank Rex for envisioning this, and making it all happen. And also a thank you for all those who chose to help and participate. Any competitive shooting even needs participants and it was great to see the support for this new venture. I'm hoping everyone had as much fun as me and my son. The event was a truly enjoyable weekend in an amazing location. We are already talking about doing more events at this site and will likely try to get an invite out ahead of time so that others can schedule it into their lives. We're viewing this as a "the more the merrier" type of get together. For many, travel time will be significant, but definitely worth it as the drive is very scenic. If coming from Phoenix you pass through Saguaro cactus desert and a couple different national forests to get here. I'll leave you with quick pics I snapped on my way back out to the pavement on Saturday evening. Even my 6 year old appreciated the salience of these last couple pics. They provided a metaphorical and actual sunset to an amazing weekend.
Great report on what looks to have been a wonderful match!