By Todd Wels

Triplicate staff writer

SMITH RIVER The thunder of muskets roared through Rowdy Creek Wednesday.

Though many of the shooters wore buckskins and coonskin caps, they werent aiming at Redcoats or fighting for freedom; they were shooting targets for points.

The event, which began on Monday, was part of the annual Jed Smith Mountain Men Tall Trees Rendezvous.

Shooters of all ages came to the rendezvous, looking to prove their prowess with a musket against several targets of increasing difficulty.

I like it the hard way, said Gary Grable of Hayward, after taking a shot at a buffalo that swung between the trees. Anyone can shoot a cartridge gun.

He and many others defended their weapon of choice against the more rapid-fire firearms of today.

Unlike modern firearms, a musket contains only one bullet at a time. To load that bullet, one must first pour a pre-measured amount of black gunpowder into the barrel, and then ram a steel ball down the approximately three-foot barrel with a ramrod.

A metal hammer with a spring is then pulled back. When the trigger is pulled, that hammer drops onto a flint, creating a spark which ignites the gunpowder. The gunpowder explodes, sending the ball flying out the barrel.

With such an intricate system for firing even one shot, many would say there is a greater potential for inaccuracy.

Jim Willyard disagrees.

At 50 yards, these guns are more accurate than your centerfire cartridge guns, he said.

Jack Sanders of Burney agreed with Willyard, having used a flintlock musket to hunt since 1958.

These are a very capable killer out to 125 yards, he said.

For some, the event was about more than marksmanship it was about history.

Austin Wade, 12, of Burney, has been shooting for seven years.

The fun of it is knowing what people did 100 years ago, he said, adjusting his cowboy hat, how they won the West.

I feel some connection, said Sanders, but its a sport. It gets you away from the doorbell and the telephone.

For many, the shoot was a family event, with people of all skill-levels, with some participating for the very first time.

Aaron Hubik, seven-and-going-to-be-eight-this-year, of Ft. Bragg said Wednesdays shoot would be his first.

Ill do good, he said.

The event, held at the Rod and Gun Club off Rowdy Creek Road, continues through Sunday, when a wedding will take place.