Ottawa Sportsmen's Club News

UP Muzzle Loaders Rendezvous at OSC

by Nancy Besonen

The L'Anse Sentinel July 31, 2002

The Ottawa Sportsmen's Club took a step back in time this past weekend when it hosted the UP Muzzle Loading Association's (UPMLA) Annual Rendezvous and Championship Shoot.

A small settlement of 23 muzzle loading enthusiasts including men, women and children sprung up on the club's grounds July 26-28, 2002 for the event. Members of the UPMLA celebrate the skills and values of pre-1840 pioneers, and the annual rendezvous has both the look and feel of a family reunion.

The shoots reflect an era when survival depended upon a muzzleloader's ability to aim and fire. Competitions include muzzleloader and black powder pistol relays, and a woods walk where hunting parties encounter various targets popping up over a half mile course. There is also a fire starting contest using flint and steel - no matches allowed!

The tomahawk ("hawk") and knife throws follow a similar theme, with pitchers aiming at progressively smaller chunks of wood, but the pan and hammer throws are for pure fun. Sandy Henkel of Pelkie said that when pre-TV pioneers gathered for picnics and other social occasions they would compete by pitching frying pans and hammers, much like horseshoes.

Jon Henkel and Sandy are active members of the organization, and participated in this past weekend's rendezvous. Sandy became involved, in the UPMLA through her husband. When it came to competing she said set her sights low at first, but has hit high marks since.

"I had modest goals in the beginning," Sandy said, "like, get out of the bottom! In 2000, 1 was the Woman High Shooter for the UP".

Muzzleloaders rendezvous are held nearly every weekend of the summer in locations throughout Wisconsin and lower Michigan, Henkel said, but the UPMLA hosts only one per summer. The past weekend's rendezvous at the OSC opened with registration and camp set-up on Friday.

Both primitive and modern RV units shared space on the OSC grounds. Clyde Mikkola, UPMLA president, set up his canvas tent in a plow point configuration with the doorway left open to the elements. Another member erected his teepee on the grounds, but did his cooking on an open fire outdoors.

Competition commenced Friday evening with a candle shoot at 8 p.m. Shooters were required to snuff the flame without breaking a small birthday candle. That contest was won at a distance of 30 paces by Lyle Merrill of Quinnesec.

Saturday opened with shooting relays in divisions A, B and C. Men's division A was won by Dave Bilski of Iron Mountain, B was won by Adam Jeffery of Lake Linden and C was won by Al Torkko of Menominee. Grace Pinchon of Flat Rock was the women's division A winner, and Seth Merrill won High Junior.

The pistol shoot that followed was won by Al Pinchon of Flat Rock Next on the agenda was the hawk and knife contests. The men's hawk was won by Dave Bilski, women's hawk throw was won by Bonnie Willcox of Skandia and junior, Seth Merrill. Top knife throwers were Al Pinchon, Sandy Henkel and Katie Merrill.

The pan and hammer throws are gender specific contests, with ladies wielding specially welded flat iron pans and men pitching heavy hammers. The contests are divided by age groups into over 45, under 45 and junior, which is under age 16.

In the pan throw, Kerry Merrill of Quinnesec won the over 45 and Sue Dyke of Nisula won under 45. Junior winner was Katie Merrill. Top hammer throwers were Al Pinchon for over 45, Lyle Merrill of Quinnesec for under 45 and Seth Merrill, junior. The fire starting contest held immediately after the pan and hammer throw was won by Clyde Mikkola of Calumet.

Saturday's activities wound up with a pot luck dinner, awards presentation and official UPMLA meeting. New officers elected for the coming year are president Jim Jeffery of Lake Linden, vice president Les Hebert of Ishpeming arid secretary-treasurer Lyle Hebert of Ishpeming. New board members are Gary Peterson of Menominee and Adam Jeffery of Lake Linden.

Prizes awarded for the weekend ranged from UPMLA trophies to handmade lanterns and buckskin pouches, and nobody went home empty handed. The rendezvous is a first for the OSC and according to comments received by Henkel, the club was a hit with the shooters.

"Everybody complimented us on the facilities and hospitality given by members of the club." Henkel said.

Jon Henkel reported that "Twenty four enthusiastic souls" entered the woods for Sunday's half mile. woods walk. The father and son team of Lyle and Seth Merrill with Adam Jeffery emerged victorious, bringing the UPMLA Rendezous and Championship Shoot to an official end.

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