Straight-shooters aim for speed in Superior this weekendTravel back in time to the Wild West this weekend at the Head of the Lakes Fairgrounds in Superior. Saloon girls, trappers and cowboys will take aim at the state cowboy fast draw title. Everyone is invited to stop by for some old-fashioned fun.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
Travel back in time to the Wild West this weekend at the Head of the Lakes Fairgrounds in Superior. Saloon girls, trappers and cowboys will take aim at the state cowboy fast draw title. Everyone is invited to stop by for some old-fashioned fun.
“It’s great to have people come out and see how much fun we have, and the family and the companionship and the friendship and the camaraderie that goes with it,” said local shooter Cat Mattson, who goes by the nickname Connecticut Cat. “Plus we also get to kind of relive the Old West. We get to dress up and have fun.”
The local Black River Bandits group has about 40 members, half of whom will compete during the state shoot. For Mattson’s husband, Pete, whose fast-draw name is “Deerslayer,” it’s a chance to wrest the state title back from Beaver Creek Kid, who won the Superior shootout last year. His sister, Lori “Dusty Bottoms” Adrihan, is the women’s state champ.
For the first time, the state shoot will include a youth match. Danny Merrill, a 12-year-old from Wrenshall, will vie for the title under his moniker, Wolfman.
“We work with all ages,” Adrihan said.
Children as young as 8 can become members.
Danny’s mother, Stephanie “Dame Quick” Merrill, encouraged him to give Cowboy Fast Draw a shot.
“She wanted me to try it then I got into it more,” he said. “I love it; it’s real fun.”
“He’s shooting a little over half a second … 0.650,” Merrill said. “I’m faster than him; he’s a little more proficient. It’s amazing. We enjoy it so much.”
The sport involves shooting wax bullets from .45-caliber single-action pistols at a round target. A quick draw doesn’t ensure success. The key to the sport is accuracy.
“You gotta hit, otherwise it doesn’t count,” Pete Mattson said. “You can be as fast as you want, it doesn’t matter.”
Luck also can play a role.
“There are lots of factors,” said Deb Stadin, whose shooting name is Lightnin’. “It’s anybody’s game.”
The bandits have had a string of successes since local shooters Adrihan, her husband, John, and their friends, Von and Jerry Wittkopf, started competing in cowboy fast draw more than eight years ago. Adrihan has earned five titles; Stadin earned four titles over the past year, Cat Mattson has one state title under her belt, and her husband has three victories — two state titles and one territorial win. He’s also wicked fast, said his wife, with an average speed of 0.39 seconds.
“Of course, Pete and I are lucky,” she said. “We get to travel all over the country doing tournaments, and we’ve met people from all over.”
Some fast-draw enthusiasts are more interested in the characters and costumes; others focus on shooting. But there’s something for everyone, Pete Mattson said.
“This sport — anybody can do it,” he said. “You might not be fast right away, but anybody can do it.”
Stadin originally dropped by to cheer on shooters.
“It’s something that I never thought I would be interested in,” she said. “I was happy to just come back and watch. But there’s something addictive about it.”
And it’s all about family.
“That’s what’s fun,” Adrihan said. “Husbands, wives, mothers, daughters; we have it all.”
Safe shooting is the group’s No. 1 priority, followed closely by having fun.
“I think it gives people a different perspective of guns,” Cat Mattson said. “Guns can be safe. And obviously one of the biggest things we promote is gun safety. But it’s a sport, and it’s a family sport with a lot of husbands and wives. There’s grandkids, there’s kids. And it can be a fun, safe sport.”
Don’t take their word for it. Members of the bandits hold open practices 1-3 p.m. every Sunday at the 4-H building at the Head of the Lakes Fairgrounds. Visitors can try the sport free and see if they, too, get the bug. Or drop by the state match this weekend. A celebrity shootout runs 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday.
The state shootout runs 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday with a second shoot, either the end of the championship or just a fun shoot, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.
All events are free. Donations are accepted. Money raised is divided between the Challenge Center and the Veterans Transportation Fund.
The shootout is held close to the fairgrounds entrance along Tower Avenue.
If you go
What: Wisconsin State Fast Draw Championship
When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday
Where: Head of the Lakes Fairgrounds, 4700 Tower Ave. in Superior
More info: blackriverbandits.org or (218) 428-8079