BLUE HILL, Maine — The echo of gunshots. The smell of rifle powder. The satisfaction of hitting a target 50 yards in the distance.
There is a romance to competitive shooting that draws many Mainers to local shooting clubs and target areas, including the Blue Hill Rifle & Pistol Club, which held its annual Fall Shoot and Open House on Sunday.
Grace Clement, president of the club, said the event is held every year in October — just one week shy of the beginning of deer hunting season — as a way for hunters and other sportsmen and women to come together.
The event features shooting events including wobble trap shooting (clay pigeons), cowboy fast draw and gong shooting (long-distance targets).
“There is something for everyone, for any age,” Clement said Sunday.
The low temperatures and threat of precipitation produced a relatively low turnout at the event, but Clement said the participants who showed up were pleased with the offerings.
The Blue Hill Rifle & Pistol Club, founded in 1946, has more than 200 members from all over Hancock County. The annual open house is a way to boost membership, Clement said, and to celebrate the camaraderie of shooting.
Jon Sheets, who manned the quick-draw competition, explained the appeal of using guns like legendary cowboys.
“First, you get to dress the part,” he said, referring to his Stetson hat and leather vest. “But it’s fun, too.”
In cowboy fast draw, two competitors line up next to each other, facing targets about 15 feet away. Sheets hollers for the two competitors to get set, then flips a switch connected to a timer. A light on each target comes on two to eight seconds after Sheets hits the switch. The competitors wait for the light to come on, then draw their revolvers and fire a single shot. If the shot hits the target, the timer stops. Anything less than one second is considered solid, Sheets said, but serious competitors can do it in less than half a second.
Another station featured a wobble trap, which fires clay pigeons for shooters to try to hit. The pigeons are fired at varying heights and latitudinal positions. Each round features five pigeons per competitor, and there are five rounds. If a pigeon is hit, it explodes in midair.
Good shooters typically hit four of five or all five in a round, Clement said. Hunters looking to shake off the rust could target-shoot at fake deer 50 yards in the distance, or moving targets as well.
When participants grew cold, they ducked inside the club’s indoor facility, which also includes a shooting range, for warm drinks and food. The conversation stayed with guns though.
“Everyone’s a family here, but we’re always looking for more,” Clement said.