FEATURE - "Blazing Saddles, Bear River Shoot"

TREMONTON - By Ellen Cook, Headliner Media Specialist - June 30, 2021

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Remember those cowboy days of yesteryear when the hero would come riding into a lawless western town on his fast, four-legged partner, guns blazing in both hands? He could shoot a weapon from the bad guy’s grip at full speed, and not even miss a step.

You thought those days had passed? Then you are in for a treat.

Those same sharpshooters will be firing in Tremonton at the Box Elder County Fairgrounds in the two indoor arenas on July 10, beginning about 9 a.m. and running most of the day. The public is invited to attend this free demonstration and competition being tagged as The Bear River Shoot. It will feature about 50 cowboys and cowgirls from across the western United States.

The event will be a one-day US Mounted Shooting competition being promoted by Utah Mounted Thunder, a state group of men, women and children who enjoy the thrill of skilled riding and shooting. One of those members is Steve Flint of Honeyville. Flint said he hopes to make this year’s Tremonton event the foundation for future national competitions to be held in Box Elder County, maybe as early as this fall. One three-day national shoot is already planned for 2022. National events are usually televised.

“That would be a big deal,” Flint said, as such a major event could bring up to 400 shooters into the area. “Tremonton would be a good spot for it.”

There are two main national groups, according to Flint. “There is the CMSA, Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association, and USMS, United States Mounted Shooting.” Although different is some aspects, the end results are the same for both clubs.

The basic concept of this growing sport began in Arizona, Flint noted. “Mounted Shooting has been around about 30 years. It started out with a couple of guys who were using live ammo and shooting cactus. Then they went to balloons.”

Today the live ammo is also a thing of the past and participants now fire black powder loads at a random pattern of balloons (84 different ones) while at a full gallop, using either a pistol, a rifle or a shotgun. This is a timed event, so making a good run requires speed, accuracy and a great horse.

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Contestants in CMSA are classed as Wranglers (younger than 12) who ride the patterned without shooting, just to improve their horsemanship. Then there are Men’s and Ladies (13-50) competitions, as well as Men’s and Ladies Senior categories. Each have various levels from beginners to masters. In USMS, Men’s and Ladies are combined.

Flint considers himself a novice to the sport of mounted shooting but has honed his skills enough in the past year to shine at several competitions, including a recent one in Nevada, where he took first in his class.

He got into the sport with his grandson, Corbin Davis, after being encouraged by a fellow rider of the Weber County Sheriff’s Posse, of which Flint is a member.

“I wanted to do something with my horse other than feed it,” Flint said. He had seen a short demonstration of mounted shooting at Pioneer Days during a pre-rodeo performance and was intrigued. Soon he was attending regular practices and was hooked. He even purchased a new horse that was less gun-shy in the arena. “She has just been terrific for me,” he said.

Flint said the Utah group practices once or twice a week and usually head to a competition around the state at least every other weekend.

Flint and his fellow marksmen and women are looking forward to sharing the art of mounted shooting at the Bear River Shoot in Tremonton on July 10 and are always looking for new members to join them.

“It’s the fastest growing equine sport in the country,” Flint said. “There are a lot of ex-barrel racers and ex-ropers who love the competition and an opportunity to keep those horses going. We have a lot of youth who are getting involved in it, and they love it. It’s a real family-oriented sport.”

For Flint it is a welcomed step back to a time gone by.

“I’ve made so many good friends over the last year,” he acknowledged. “You have so many things in common. This is John Wayne’s sport. You get to get on a horse AND shot a gun! Who gets a chance to do that!?”

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