BLUE HILL, Maine— Down East Maine looked a lot like the Old West on Saturday as cowboys, cowgirls, sheriffs and even a “soiled dove” or two gathered at the Blue Hill Rifle & Pistol Club to show off their quick-draw speeds and shooting skills.
It was the second Cowboy Action Shoot of the season, and club members and onlookers enthusiastically cheered one another while admiring their period costumes and firepower.
Mustang Mabry, a tough-looking gent who bristled with spurs, a sheathed knife, a replica 1873 Colt Peacemaker .45, a replica 1873 Winchester rifle, a shotgun from the early 1920s and bands of ammunition strapped across his body, said that he’s a big fan of the Old West shoots.
“It’s for people who love the history, the romance and the lore of the Old West,” said Mustang Mabry, who also is known as Bob Ellis of Ellsworth. “People believe in the ‘Cowboy Way.’”
That, he explained, means doing the right thing, and speaking up when something’s not right.
But that’s only part of the appeal of the Cowboy Action Shoots.
“It’s all about the bling,” Ellis said with a grin, showing off his old-time pocket watch, cash and several mock tokens that purport to be good for an evening with some of the ladies of the Old West.
About 20 shooters came from parts as far flung as Cutler, Seal Cove and Orrington to participate in the competition.
Organizer Sue Bryant of Brewer, whose cowboy name is Stormy Shooter, said the event is family-friendly and safety-oriented.
Cowboy action shooting is an internationally recognized sport where participants dress in pre-1900s clothing and shoot at targets with original or reproduction firearms of that period. All firearms used are single-action, she said, and it’s a real competition judged on speed and accuracy of firing.
“There’s no money on the line here,” Bryant said. “It keeps it honest.
“At the end of the day, you get recognition and bragging rights — and it’s worth it. The camaraderie is really fantastic.”
The Blue Hill Regulators are competitive nationally. Bryant is the 2010 Maine State Ladies Champ and also the National Ladies 49er champion.
Two youngsters also honed their shooting skills Saturday — siblings Dan “Dan the Man” Vilasuso, 12, and Ashlee “Little Miss Sassy” Vilasuso, 10, both of Orrington.
Ashlee, in her third year of shooting, hopes to head to the national competition soon, as does Dan. The two have a shot at competitions in Maryland and New Hampshire.
“I like learning a lot about stuff,” she said after taking aim and firing bullets at the targets with her specially cut-down rifle.
Sandy Vilasuso, their mother, said neither she nor her husband shoots but they’re proud of their children’s skills.
“We love watching them,” she said. “It’s a fun thing for us.”
Peggy “Petunia Flame” Smith of Southwest Harbor, clad in boots and a black dress, said it was her second shootout.
“My arm’s going to be sore tomorrow,” she said, gesturing to a bruise she’d received firing the shotgun. “I’m going for the soiled-dove look, a dove with a broken wing.”
Jon “Woodbutcher” Sheets of Seal Cove was the director of the event, which is in its 10th year at the club.
“Hands down, it’s the camaraderie,” he said when asked what he enjoys about the shoots. “These guys and gals, they’re the best group of people. And second to that, it’s the costumes.”