By Rob Vogt
The clock will turn back to the late 1800s next week when cowboy action shooters with names such as “Alberta Annie”, “Southwest Trapper”, and “Greenhorn Slim” will gather in the hills west of Granum to determine who will be the national champions.
From Aug. 15 to 20, the Porcupine Hills Shadow Riders, the local club, will present the “Shadow Rider’s Revenge,” the Single Action Shooting Society Canadian National Championships at Willow Lane Ranch.
Keith and LeAnne Lane are part of the Shadow Riders. He is the silver senior classic cowboy world champion and Canadian classic cowboy champion. She is the Canadian women’s champion.
They explained the sport of cowboy action shooting dates back to 1987 when the Single Action Shooting Society was formed in the United States.
The society’s goal is to preserve and promote the sport of cowboy action shooting. It is cowboy action shooting’s governing body ensuring safety and consistency in the sport.
Members share a common interest in preserving the history of the Old West and competitive shooting in a safe, fun, family-friendly environment.
Every member receives a numbered badge.
One of the founders, with Badge #1, is “Judge Roy Bean” who is still alive. Other founders, “Tex” and “Cat Ballou” are still competing in their 80s.
Keith Lane joined the Shadow Riders in 2009, taking the alias “Southwest Trapper”. He was introduced to the sport by his brother Walt, also known as “Greenhorn Slim”.
LeAnne Lane joined in 2010, adopting the alias “Alberta Annie”.
She explained all aliases are registered. Like cattle brands, only one member can have a name. No duplicates are allowed.
According to the society’s website, aliases must also be appropriate to a character or profession of the Old West era, a Hollywood western, a character from western fiction – even a combination or an avenue to pay homage to the member’s region, individual roots and family history.
The Porcupine Hills Shadow Riders was started early in 2012, by “Greenhorn Slim”, and John Simpson of Stavely, known as “Swallow Fork”, who was the first president.
The club started with 10 members and has grown to 51 members at present. They come roughly from within 100 miles or 30 minutes, including Stony Plain, Medicine Hat, Calgary, and Rocky Mountain House, with a healthy helping of local members.
LeAnne explained the sport is a re-enactment of various battles and gun fights from the Old West.
Guns are all from pre-1900, and there are some actual original guns used by members.The required firearms are two single-action revolvers; one lever-action or pump rifle; and one shotgun, side by side or pump.
“The idea is to keep them all before 1900,” Keith said.
However, LeAnne said the federal gun laws have hampered the sport, and are a barrier to attracting new members.
No hand guns can be bought, sold, or traded, so people new to the sport cannot get guns to shoot.
Members have all the required courses and registration, so they legally own their guns but cannot sell them.
In fact, LeAnne said, there is a young man interested in shooting, but he has to borrow guns to do it.
Nevertheless, the Lanes love cowboy action shooting.
“We have fun doing it,” Keith said. “We travel all over.”
In Canada, they have competed in events at Rocky Mountain House; Medicine Hat; Vermilion; Carmichael, Saskatchewan; Saskatoon; and Nanaimo, Kamloops, and Courtney, British Columbia.
They also travel all over the western United States including Montana, Idaho, Washington, California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah, and Alaska.
Keith said in the U.S. a shooter can mostly find an event within an hour of where they live, while in Canada it is more spread out.
There are differences travelling to the U.S. but, for Canadians going south, the gun laws are less restrictive. The Lanes have a form they need to fill out that goes to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and they can travel as long as they abide by the gun laws of the state they are shooting in.
They have also found Canadians take the sport more to heart, especially in following all the costume guidelines. They go the extra mile to make their costumes authentic.
However, this can provide a disadvantage for competitors as wearing more clothes, makes it harder to shoot.
Keith competes in the Classic Cowboy category, where he must wear five of: a felt hat; jacket; spurs; knife; pocket watch; vest; scarf; sleeve garters; chaps; and leggings.
A cowboy action shooting match usually is made up of 12 stages.
Each stage has a different set of targets and a different set of requirements.
The leader or posse marshal will stand up before the posse and read out the stage instructions. Competitors must follow the instructions or there are penalties.
For example, a stage can have 10 pistol, four rifle and four shot gun.
Then they start by saying, “They escaped certain death.”
“It’s all about speed and accuracy,” LeAnne said.
She added most events have a theme or story to go with them.
The match theme for the national competition is Jerry Potts. So each stage has an excerpt from his story.
She stressed safety of the competition is emphasized above all else.
“It’s absolutely paramount,” she said, adding guns are always pointed down, and no loaded guns are allowed off the range.
Competitors load, shoot, unload then leave until their next shoot.
Keith said competitors can be any age, from the legal age of 12 to over 85. At the nationals, four shooters 80 and over have registered.
The nationals will be hosted by the members of the Porcupine Hills Shadow Riders.
“They are the reason it is going to be,” LeAnne said of the club. “We have such a talented bunch.”
The entire range out at Willow Lane Ranch was built by club members.
“Everyone has their talent,” LeAnne said. “They all go the extra mile. We just can’t say enough about them.”
The nationals will be unlike any other event that has been hosted out at Willow Lane Ranch.
There will be a large tent, entertainment, a dance, a ladies tea at the Fort Museum in Fort Macleod, a costume contest, and more.
In fact the Lanes have won best dressed.
“There’s a social part of this sport that’s very important,” Keith said.
Leanne added they have a saying, “Come for the shooting, stay for the people.”
She also observed there is a real camaraderie to the sport. For example, if someone’s gun breaks, 10 other people will offer theirs.
The 18th annual nationals will take place from Aug. 15 to 20, with 115 shooters registered so far, coming all the way from Vancouver Island to Ontario.
More than 150 people are anticipated on site, with people also using hotels in Claresholm and the campground in Granum.
“It’s the first time it’s in Alberta since 2011,” Keith said, adding it is being forecasted to be the biggest nationals to date.
People are welcome to come out and watch, but they must have eye and ear protection.
By Rob Vogt