THE 2013 EAST COAST SLINGSHOT TOURNAMENT REVIEW
Like many of the other attendees, I found it difficult to break away from shooting long enough to take photos. I did upload a few videos to my YouTube Channel during the event and have more yet to upload soon. In the meantime, I thought I would share my thoughts of my ECST 2013 adventure.
Two and one-half days is not nearly long enough for a slingshot event, so I left my home on Wednesday afternoon June, 5 in the mountains of NC to Blue Skeen’s house in the mountains of VA. That night, Blue and I tied bandsets, talked slingshots, and giggled like school girls in anticipation of shooting with our friends in Alverton. The next morning, after some shooting of course, Blue and I rolled out and made the six hour drive to Alverton. We arrived around 1 pm to find the course already set up, Crazy Mike and Big Bill Steiner on site and the shooting began. Blue, Bill, Mike and I shot all afternoon, experimenting with the epic arcade target built by Bill Steiner. Ray Bazonski (Rayshot “the Champ”) showed up around 7 pm and we shot some more. In fact, we shot until about 12am that night in a light rain and inside the clubhouse.
The next morning was cool and overcast and the shooting commenced immediately. Folks started to trickle in slowly and the fun range was a constant clamor of metal on metal and periodic “Yahoos and hell yeah’s”. No one really got around to shooting their tournament targets that day; it was more fun, fellowship, and metal denting. I rode my unicycle around the event site interviewing attendees, shooting from the saddle and having more fun than is legal in Iowa and Kansas. By the evening, most everyone had arrived and the shooting once again continued until well after midnight. To say that some epic shots were accomplished is an understatement. In the relaxed atmosphere of fellow shooters, we were all making shots that would be considered extremely difficult under normal circumstances, but they were happening with regularity. Crazy Mike was shooting blistering fast with great accuracy, Rayshot was (as usual) shooting with perfect form and rarely missing, and the rest of the gang were constantly amazing one another and themselves with some truly world class marksmanship….until it came time to shoot for real!
Saturday morning greeted us with clear skies and cool temps. It was a perfect day for shooting. Several new shooters trickled in and we all got to connect screen names with faces. There was a buzz on the entire event site and no pocket was spotted that did not contain at least one slingshot. The practice range was elbow to elbow and the kids (and adults) were having a blast breaking glass at the glass busting range. Lots of fun was being had by all and the tournament contenders began to look at one another in a different way…. We knew the time was drawing near to shoot for score and then the nerves took over. Rayshot and I were doing our fair share of gentlemanly sh#t talking, attempting to psych one another out. Blue was his normal calm and collected self, Crazy Mike was shooting well and actually dancing, M_J was working on his record attempts, and Jim Harris had just arrived after pulling an all-nighter, but shooting with his usual precision.
Around 10am I collected my crew- Blue, Rayshot, and Crazy Mike and we began shooting our paper targets. Ray shot first and to my surprise, and everyone else, he actually missed the black once or twice on his 10m targets. Ray’s hands were not as steady as normal. This provided me and others a much needed sigh of relief, as Ray was shooting with flawless consistency elsewhere. His 20m target was equally impressive. Next, it was my turn to shoot. Upon releasing my first shot on the 10m target, it hit exactly where I was looking and I felt a wave of confidence settle over me…then I completely missed the black on the next shot. The nerves that had affected Ray got me too. I had to take conscious deep breaths to pull my mind and body into sync and the resulting scores were about the same as Ray’s…good shooting but nowhere near the level of consistency we shoot outside the tournament arena. Next was Blue. Blue simply sat down and made it happen- cool, calm, collected. I suppose that is what happens when you have to count the tournaments you did NOT win when assessing your lifetime experience in slingshot shooting!
With the paper targets behind us, our next challenge was the 3D course… my personal favorite. The course consisted of 30 metal silhouette targets positioned at unknown distances spaced out over about 10 acres. The distances ranged from 3 to 25 meters- one shot on each target. If you made a metal on metal sound, it counted as a hit. Needless to say, strolling through the woods with seven of your new best slingshot friends resulted in not only a good time, but some truly spectacular shots along the way at random targets. Our rag tag slingshot crew shot really well on the 3D course and I was the only one in our crew, or perhaps the entire tournament to shoot a perfect score on the silhouettes (a personal challenge I had set for myself). At the end of the 3D course was the gong shoot, wherein you had five shots from 70 and 40 yards respectively at an approximately 2.5’ diameter sawblade. No practice shots were allowed and the shot was downhill, through a tight corridor of trees. On the 70 yard stake, Rayshot hit 3/5, the best in our group. Next was the 40 yard, where Rayshot once again displayed his rock solid shooting with 5/5. As we all slowly laughed and shot our way back to the clubhouse for lunch, we took the opportunity to punish every can and piece of trash found on the roadside.
One great thing about the ECST venue is the fact that it is held at a dedicated shooting sports facility. The clubhouse sports a full kitchen where a staff of excellent cooks was on hand to provide nourishment between shoots. The kitchen served up some excellent hamburgers, hotdogs, pie, kielbasa, noodles and cabbage, hand cut French fries and other excellent vittles. Breakfast and lunch was served each day. It was a real treat to not have to leave the site to eat and made for more time to shoot.
With Saturday afternoon’s NCA demonstration match a few hours away, folks were furiously trying to finish their scored targets. Rayshot, Blue and myself headed down to the range to shoot the final scored event- the speed shoot on cans. The format was simple- 25 seconds to shoot five cans at 10m. We all shot okay, but it could have been better. Once again, nerves can get the best of anyone. By the end of that event, it was abundantly clear that Rayshot was yet again our winner with a score of 123 out of a possible 147, I was right behind him in second place with a 117 and Crazy Mike on my heels with a 114 and Blue barely behind Mike at 111. Anyone of the top four shooters could have secured first place by shooting just a little better on the speed shoot. In fact, had Blue shot the way he normally does, he would have likely bumped Ray from first place. Guess who will be working on those skills next year? Everyone!!
Around 4:30 in the afternoon on Saturday, we all congregated for the NCA inaugural ‘test drive’ clay event. The idea with this event was to attempt a new format of tournament shooting, borrowed from the Spanish. Each shooter donated $10 to the fledgling NCA with the chance to win the $200 prize money donated by Jim Harris and myself. The format was as follows: Each shooter had 20 shots at 20 targets. The first six targets/shots were to be fired at a 2” diameter clay from a distance of 10m. Each hit was one point. Next the shooters moved back to the 20m line where 10 standard sporting clays were positioned on a board and 4- 2”clays were positioned on the flanks at random distances. The shooter was left with 14 potential targets and 14 shots- each hit scored one point. At the end of the event we were left with a tie for third place- Blue Skeen, Ray Bazonski, Marty Downs (treefork), and Crazy Mike. We decided to make it a sudden death shootout where the shooters each took one shot a 2” clay from 20m. If you missed you were out. Slowly the shooters went down and finally Ray was left standing in third place with six hits overall. Jim Harris took first place with 9 hits and I took second place with 7 hits. All of the winners donated the prize money back to the NCA and at the end of the event; the new NCA was $350 towards becoming the de facto governing body for slingshot tournament shooting. It was a fun format for the shooters and spectators alike and a good start to a great thing.
With all of the tournament shooting complete and the winners determined, there was little else to do but have fun with our new friends and…. Shoot! After dinner, we all enjoyed one another’s company, swapped stories and slingshots, enjoyed frothy adult beverage, and generally reveled in our wonderful company and circumstance. The shooting continued on the range, in camp, throughout the tournament course and elsewhere. The sound of steel on steel was musical and the vibe throughout camp was one of joy, fun and fellowship.
But wait… it is not nearly over!
About 9:45pm that evening, I was overcome with a stroke of inspiration bordering on genius. Prior to my leaving home, I cleaned out my catchbox and put it all in a bucket- about 30 pounds of ammo in all. There were all sorts of different projectiles in the bucket- all sizes of steel from .177 to 5/8”, all sorts of lead from .32-14mm, marbles, hexnuts, acorns, rubber balls, rocks… basically several months of catchbox detritus. So, I rallied my friends and laid out my plan as follows: Each person was to grab their chosen slingshot or slingshots and meet me in camp. There, I instructed everyone to fill their pockets with the random ammo in the bucket- in the dark, no picking or choosing. Once everyone’s pockets were full, we set off in the dark with our flashlights, random ammo, slingshots and sense of adventure. We all lined up at each station of the 3D course where we would set the challenge for the shot. On the first target, we all took turns shooting without light at the target- going by sound alone and a generous use of ‘the force’. As the walk progressed, we created challenges for one another, such as one quick flash of the light to identify the target location then shoot in darkness. Btoon had some glow sticks which we placed in a water bottle hung from a tree about 6 feet of the ground. We all took turns attempting to hit it anywhere from 40 to 8 meters… and it was amazing how many time we hit it in complete darkness, especially with the fact that we were all shooting completely random ammo! This shooting took us completely through the entire 30 target course, gong shoot and beyond. Around 12:30am we were finally finished with the course and folks were getting low on ammo… we shot almost the entire contents of the bucket! But was that enough? Not a chance! Next we filled glass bottles with glow sticks and set them up on the glass range. We began our shooting at about 50 yards slowly working our way closer to the targets until we got to about 20 yards, where we were all hitting extremely well. Finally, about 2am we were all getting tired physically, yet energized due to the great company and recent fun. Upon the beginning of this inspired shoot, I told each participant that the next day that they were guaranteed to experience no less than 37 seconds of awesomeness due to their participation in the night shoot. Boy, was I wrong! I think we all experienced at least 42 seconds of world class awesome… I am still personally coming down from the experience and can’t yet shoot in front of others due to puddles of awesome sauce dripping from my shooting ability. To say it was fun is a gross understatement! Shooting in the dark with good friends and good shooters makes everyone a better shooter through some form of harmonic induction of shooting awesomeness! If you have not tried doing so, we all highly recommend it.
Sunday morning greeted us with blue skies and warm weather. The sense of elation was strong, but so too was the impending hour when we all must depart one another’s company. At 9am we began the Dennis the Menace shoot. In this shoot, each participant must use a natural fork slingshot and stones for ammo. Several folks brought a good supply of excellent stones and in practice we could all see that this was to be a competitive shoot. The format required each shooter to shoot five times from 10 meters at a metal disc approximately 4” diameter suspended within a toilet seat(why not place it in the middle of a toilet seat?). Randy Early(Just an Old Kid) and M_J tied for the event with 3/5. The sudden death shoot off was anything but sudden. Rather, due to pressure and stone ammo, they battled it out for several rounds until Randy finally prevailed the winner.
Next was the $100 shoot sponsored by Slingshots USA wherein the participants shoot a Chief AJ quickpoint slingshot at a standard 10m target- 10 shots. Randy Early also won this event and donated the winnings back to the ECST.
Finally, it was time for the Eagle Eye shoot. In order to qualify for the Eagle Eye, one must pay $1 for two shots at 1.5” or so circle. If you hit the circle, you qualify for the shoot off. Once the shoot off commenced, qualified shooters were called to place one shot in the target at approximately 10m. If you missed, you are out. The shoot off ended with a head to head match between Marty and M_J, wherein M_J took the entire pot of about $35.
Next were the awards and door prizes. This year had some great door prizes and everyone got to go home with something. I did find it odd though that the few same folks show up each year ONLY for the door prizes and usually walk away with more swag and free slingshot gear than the participants of the tournament. Oh, well, we can only hope that they are enjoying the gear and not selling it on ebay.
At this time, everyone shared their farewells and exchanged contact info and sentiments of mutual awesomeness. Everyone put their slingshots in their pockets, packed their cars and travelled far and wide to return home.
Until next year my friends…shoot ‘em straight and may the force be with you always!