There’s a lot that goes on in the hills around Ashcroft and Cache Creek that not too many people know about.
The Black Powder competitions aren’t a secret, they’re just… a little peculiar.
Ken Brown is vice president of the local South Cariboo Sportsman’s Association (SCSA) and director for the Black Powder event. Along with Jim Moon, 80, the two men form the gun club’s Black Powder group.
“It’s something I’m very passionate about,” says Brown, also known as Mountain Man 49 at Black Powder events. “We have a council fire and everyone sits around it and tells stories. It’s great to let all the modern stuff go.”
There are provincial competitions as well as national ones, and regulars who attend as many events as they can. In fact, there is a 10 day national event at Heffley Creek, the Black Powder Rendezvous, which has been an annual event since 1985.
Brown says the Black Powder groups keep in touch with each other. The Black Powder Association of BC is very active. Apart from the local Thanksgiving Shoot, his favourite event is Heffley Creek. He’s also been to events in Quesnel, Prince Rupert and Merritt.
The SCSA is hosting its third annual Black Powder Thanksgiving Shoot on Oct. 9-11 at the gun range above the Cache Creek Landfill.
Brown says it’s a family affair in the Black Powder tradition. They’ll be using Black Powder rifles, pistols, tomahawks, knifes and wooden bows and arrows in Mens, Ladies and Juniors categories.
The event has grown each year, he says, with as many as 52 participants coming from BC and Alberta. Last year a young competitor from Prince George, 10 years old, showed everyone how to throw the tomahawk and knife.
“Some of these guys, they take it to heart,” Brown says. “We dress up in our garb, our leathers and hats. There are people who camp NOT using modern things. I hope the fire ban’s been lifted by then or they’ll be eating their supper cold. We have a primitive camp and a tin camp (trailers). They love living the lifestyle that mountain men and women lived.
“We have a hoot when it comes to the Black Powder shoot,” he says. “We don’t do any damage, we just have a good time.”
Brown says he saw the movie Jeremiah Johnson (1972) in the 1980s and decided he wanted to be a mountain man. He says he got to have coffee with the star of the movie, Robert Redford when he was in Ashcroft shooting An Unfinished Life in 2006. “I told him how much of an influence he’d had on my life,” he said. “I think he got a kick out of that.”
Brown says he has the movie on CD and tape and still watches it several times a year to get re-inspired.
Spectators are welcome to attend the Thanksgiving Shoot, and that includes anyone who may have questions about Black Powder or be thinking of joining the club. He says the gates at the gun club will be open for the weekend.
One event that’s more geared towards spectators is the trapshooting at the clubhouse because of its stationary nature. It will get going around 2 pm on Saturday afternoon. There will be muzzleloaders as well as hammered rifles at this event. There will also be traders present over the weekend, selling items like flints and clothing.
Participants rack up points throughout the event for their clothing, for their skill in the events. The points count towards prizes and overall title.
One of the events is a trail walk with 21 different stations for the various weapons. One of the targets is a blade of straw. Some people think that a Black Powder rifle is not an effective rifle, says Brown, but he has used it to bring down big game. He has also sliced playing cards in half at events with his rifle.
Weapons can be purchased at most hunting and outfitter shops, he says, but they tend to the expensive side and they require a lot of maintenance. The clothing is made to order by a lady in Heffley Creek, but you have to supply the skins.
Merritt’s event has recently shut down due to lack of interest, he says.
“I like to think that it’s not a trend,” says Brown. “If two people here can make it work, either you’re into it or you’re not.”