Nanaimo resident Mike Bennie (left) throws a homemade knife during the Thanksgiving black powder shoot. He was born and raised in Williams Lake, and this was his fourth time competing in the Desert Rendezvous. Photo: Ken Alexander.

Annual Desert Rendezvous in Ashcroft a popular event for shooters

Black powder shooting fun and helps folks make good friends

by Ken Alexander

The Fifth Annual Desert Rendezvous in Ashcroft attracted several black powder enthusiasts on Oct. 6-7.

Hosted by the South Cariboo Sportsmen Association (SCSA), this year’s event saw 21 shooters compete in 17 events on reconstructed trails that were razed by the 2017 Elephant Hill wildfire. The fire caused the cancellation of last year’s annual Thanksgiving weekend event.

Co-organizer Ken Brown says the wildfire took out the main power pole, which had to be replaced. “We’ve had bad luck this whole year. Last year was bad, but this year was worse cost-wise.

“We had to replace our transformer and the pole by the clubhouse. We were fortunate we didn’t lose our clubhouse, because the fire went around it.”

Brown says they had to change their whole trail system. “With the [help of] volunteers, we replaced everything.”

With the flooding this year, they also had to make trail adjustments and put some wooden walkways over banks where floodwater washed away soil.

Brown says the numbers were down a bit this year because of the gloomy weather. However, people travelled quite a distance to compete at the Desert Rendezvous.

“We have people from Okotoks, Alberta, from Prince George, and one person from Ontario. There are people here from Vancouver Island, Chilliwack, and Salmon Arm – all over the place.”

Nanaimo resident Mike Bennie was one of the people who travelled to Ashcroft to attend the event. Born and raised in Williams Lake, Bennie has been competing in black powder events for 10 years and says he likes coming back to this area. “A fellow I worked with was into [black powder shooting] and got me interested.”

Bennie travels around the province to go to events, and this was his fourth trip to Ashcroft. He is Métis, and through the Métis Association in Nanaimo, he goes to schools and does demonstrations.

“We go into the schools and have the kids throwing tomahawks, and I have a big fur trade display I put on with furs, traps, and guns.”

Noting he makes tomahawks and knives, Bennie says the students throw lighter tomahawks. “We go over safety first, let them handle the tomahawks and get them throwing.” He can see the sparkle in their eyes, “especially when it sticks.”

Bennie says he enjoys the black powder shoots and seeing the friends he’s made over the years.

Brown notes that black powder shoots are held at least once a month on weekends throughout the province. He adds that participants are usually dressed up in historical garb for the Desert Rendezvous, but the day’s cold weather had many competitors dressed for warmth. “There was some great shooting and good camaraderie.”

Anyone who wants more information about the SCSA can call Brown at (250) 453-9415.


Rifle Trail men: first, Mike Bennie; second, Merv Kovach; third, Bill Sainsbury

Rifle Trail women: first, Donna Sainsbury; second, Judy Marshall; third, Irene Roggensack

Rifle Trail junior: first, Dallas Rooy

Smooth Bore Trail men: first, Ian Marshall; second, Lloyd Cushway; third, Mike Brown

Flintlock Trail men: first, David Wright; second, Ian Marshall; third, Chris Buckley

Hawk and Knife men: first, Ian Marshall; second, Mike Bennie; third, David Wright

Hawk and Knife women: first, Judy Marshall; second, Y-Von Clarke; third, Donna Sainsbury

Hawk and Knife junior: Dallas Rooy

Pistol men: first, Dave Ford; second, Ian Marshall; third, David Wright

Pistol women: first, Donna Sainsbury; second, Y-Von Clarke; third, Judy Marshall

Shotgun men: first, Mike Brown; second, Ian Marshall; third, Dallas Rooy

Shotgun women: first, Y-Von Clarke; second, Judy Marshall

Archery men: first, Mike Bennie; second, Ian Marshall; third, Panoggie Roggensack

Archery women: first, Judy Marshall; second, Y-Von Clarke

Archery junior: first, Dallas Rooy

Cartridge (Quigley) men: first, Mike Brown, second, Ian Marshall; third, David Wright

Muzzleloader (Quigley) men: first, Mike Bennie; second, Bill Sainsbury; third, Chris Buckley

Muzzleloader (Quigley) women: first, Judy Marshall; second, Irene Roggensack; third, Donna Sainsbury

Oldest firearm: Bill Sainsbury

Top Mountain man: Ian Marshall (62 points)

Top Mountain woman: Judy Marshall (34 points)

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Kelowna resident Irene Roggensack put on quite the smoke show at the black powder pistol range during the Fifth Annual Desert Rendezvous on Thanksgiving weekend. Roggensack was third in the Rifle Trail women competition and second in Muzzleloader Quigley (long distance) women. Photo: Ken Alexander.

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