John and Candice Gregorich outside their tent at this year’s Black Powder event.

Annual Ashcroft – Cache Creek Black Powder event a success

The Black Powder shoot brings participants from all over the province to re-live frontier days.

The fourth annual Black Powder Shoot, sponsored by the South Cariboo Sportsman Association, was held over the Thanksgiving weekend at the gun club between Ashcroft and Cache Creek. There were 25 shooters enjoying two days of events, which included archery, a (toma)hawk and knife event, and a variety of pistol and rifle events.

“Black powder” is in reference to the fact that participants use weapons that were current in the early- to mid-nineteenth century.

They also dress accordingly, donning the costumes of fur traders and mountain men and women. Some even go so far as to sleep under canvas at the events they attend, called rendezvous.

At this year’s event Candice and John Gregorich of Prince George, accompanied by their son and one of his friends, slept in a canvas tent heated by a wood stove.

This is the third year in a row they have attended the Ashcroft/Cache Creek event, and John says that while they usually get to three or four rendezvous a year, this one was the only event they attended in 2016.

There are about a dozen rendezvous throughout the province each year, with the Heffley Creek event at the end of August the biggest in Canada, attracting up to 500 people for ten days of competition.

This pales in comparison with some events in the States, however, which attract thousands of participants.

“It’s about recreating the fur trapping days,” says John, noting that while it can be difficult, at first, to acquire period-appropriate costumes and gear, it gets easier with time.

“Once you’re in the community you can find what you need. Everyone is so inviting and accepting. And we’re always looking for new members.”

Candice agrees. “We try to be authentic, and get as close as we can. We’re slowly accumulating time-period-appropriate items.”

These include muzzle-loader rifles, several of which are propped up outside the tent.

Candice Gregorich takes aim during the long rifle shoot. Photo by Barbara Roden

John and Candice both participated in the long shot competition, in which competitors took turns shooting at targets.

The rifles take considerably longer to prime and load than their modern counterparts, and are also louder and more pungent; the smell of gunpowder hung heavy over the range for the duration of the contest.

When asked where he acquires his rifles, John points to a tent across the way where Taylor Sapergia of Prince George is cleaning a rifle.

“I’ve built muzzle-loading rifles for fun since I was 14 years old,” says Sapergia.

“I’m 67 now, and have built more than a hundred. I’ve kept some of them.”

One of the ones he kept is a beautiful rifle with hand-chased brass detailing. It weighs ten pounds, which Sapergia says was common for rifles of the time. It took him three months to make the rifle, most of which he built from scratch.

This is not Sapergia’s first time at the rendezvous; at last year’s event he was named the Top Mountain Man.

“It’s a really family-oriented sport,” he says, nodding to where Candice and John’s son is busy climbing a tree.

The Gregorichs agree. “We like to make it a family event,” says John, saying that it takes about an hour for them to set up camp. “It’s an authentic camping experience, and a true taste of what camping should be.”

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