Muzzleloaders Rendezvous this weekend
Yes, it's the women who are the sharpshooters, and they've got the muzzleloaders to prove it. The Bearclaw Muzzleloaders of Northern Minnesota Annual Rendezvous is July 17-18 at the Height of Land Sportsmen's Club, and most of the events are brok...
Yes, it's the women who are the sharpshooters, and they've got the muzzleloaders to prove it.
The Bearclaw Muzzleloaders of Northern Minnesota Annual Rendezvous is July 17-18 at the Height of Land Sportsmen's Club, and most of the events are broken down into men's, women's and youth categories.
"We're all doing the same thing, it's just that they are scored separately," Al Witthoeft said. "It kind of evens it out. Well, to be honest with you, women are better shooters than the guys.
"Yup, they are. There aren't too many men out there that will disagree with that. We like it separated so we have a chance."
And when the youth get close to the cut-off age for adulthood, they are a challenge to everyone as well.
During the weekend-long event, competitions will be held both days. The public is welcome to come see any and all of the events and the reenactment of pre-1840 days.
Some of the competitions include paper target shooting at three different distances, black powder shotgun shoot and a cooking contest -- where contestants are given one ingredient and cooks are to provide the rest.
"It gets pretty inventive," he said.
There are also competitions in hawk and knife throwing and a novelty, or primitive, range.
"It's just about anything you can do to give them something to shoot at," he described of the novelty range, which he is in charge of setting up. "Like, one of the most fun things are the little green army men we used to have as kids, we staple those across a board or down the side of a board and try to shot them at 15, 20 yards."
Another novelty shoot might include drilling holes in a 2x4 board, putting toothpicks in the holes and then stick candy corn, raisins or mini marshmallows on the ends of the toothpick to shoot off.
They also have an archery trail walk, social hour and closing ceremonies during the rendezvous.
"I think I can brag when I say we have one of the best archery trail walks in the country," he said. "We have people that come just to do that."
The Bearclaw Muzzleloaders Rendezvous is one of six that the Witthoefts take part in. They have been involved since 1995, and enjoy their weekend trips to other shoots.
"There's stuff going on every weekend someplace," he said. "You could be gone every week. It's bigger than a lot of people realize. They're all over."
The Witthoefts take part in the Hill City, S.D., rendezvous, a 10-day event, where they take their vacation every year.
The groups are close-knit and share in their travels. They have also started a fund that they all contribute to through shooting competitions, and if someone in the rendezvous family should get sick, the group writes out a check of support.
Witthoeft said last year when his wife was battling cancer, they received a check for $100.
"It helped for gas or to go out to eat one night. It's not like it'll pay your electric bill, but..." he said. "Every month, those guys are writing a check for someone in our family, I guess you'd call us."
At the Detroit Lakes rendezvous, Witthoeft said there are about 30-55 camps. During the event then, someone will go through and pick the best-looking camp and award them a prize.
"Usually it's the most primitive camp -- one with not a lot of extra stuff lying around. It's just real primitive looking," he said.
"We like it when everyone comes and camps primitive. With the white canvas tents and cooking over the fire pits."
And it's not just the camps that are authentic. The clothes are, the moccasins are, the buckskin clothing is and even the details, like tent stakes, are handmade, authentic.
"That's part of the fun of it, too, being able to say, 'I made that.'"
The Bearclaw Muzzleloaders of Northern Minnesota Annual Rendezvous is July 17-18 at the Height of Land Sportsmen's Club, located 15 miles east of Detroit Lakes on Highway 34. The public is welcome to watch, and every year the event gets more and more spectators, Witthoeft said.
It is Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. to noon.