Over 100 trapshooters, young, old, and everywhere in between, came from across the Northwest to compete for a coveted Crab Buckle, the signature award given out at the Del Norte Rod and Gun Club's annual Crab Buckle Shoot.
The 2016 Pacific International Trapshooting Association shoot drew a total of 105 shooters and threw 47,900 registered targets, which Del Norte Rod and Gun Club president Steve Bigham said is probably a record for the event.
The Crab Buckle shoot is about twice as large as any other shoot that the local club hosts throughout the year and serves as one of its main fundraisers.
"This is our big money maker for the year," Bigham said. "It is definitely our biggest shoot every year. Our other two PITA shoots that we put on we are lucky to draw 45 shooters."
The three-day event drew shooters from Alaska, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, California and British Columbia. This year's top marksman was Fred Coulson. The Del Norte Rod and Gun Club member hit 465 targets out of 500 to win the most coveted Crab Buckle of the weekend.
Many of the shooters who traveled the farthest to compete make the trip every year to Del Norte.
"There is a group of people from Nevada and a group from Canada that shows up every year. They are super nice people," said club member Mac Robertson, who started shooting at the old gun club behind the Del Norte Fairgrounds when he was 16 years old and has since won the high overall crab buckle himself. "There are also people that come from a little closer, like Redding and Medford. It is a good deal for the club."
Each year also brings with it some new faces to the competition, like Gene Kitchen of Medford and Stephen Ede of Eagle Point. Both shooters said they picked up the sport about nine months ago because their kids had joined the local club.
Kitchen and Ede first came to Del Norte for a shoot this summer when they heard about the famous Crab Buckle Shoot. They decided to make a return trip with their kids.
"What drew me back to Del Norte was just the people in the club. When you pull into the parking lot they welcome you here," Kitchen said. "They are just good people. You can tell they really enjoy having people come in and participating here."
The makeshift campground also comes complete with an unofficial handyman in club member Robertson, who owns Robertson Automotive in Crescent City.
"I have a repair business in town, so everybody comes to me when something is broken down," Robertson said. "I fixed a guy's heater out here last night that had broken down. I don't mind helping people out though."
Although the hospitality seemed to leave a lasting impression on those who participated in the shoot, the main draws for the weekend are the crab buckles.
"We want to win a crab buckle," said Cole Costanti, one of five youth shooters who made the trip from Medford this year along with his brother, Chase Costanti. "(Chase and I) have been trying for three years. Pretty much everybody that shoots here wants to win one."
"It is about the bragging rights," added Bailey Goble, another young Medford shooter.
Although none of the Medford youth shooters were able to capture a Crab Buckle this year, Goble did get an award for shooting her first perfect 25 of 25 over the weekend.
This year's event was aided by near-perfect weather for an event that is known for its past inclement conditions.
"Usually every Crab Buckle it rains," Robertson said. "Some more than others."
Friday was dry and relatively calm as shooters kicked off the event. "Saturday we got a little bit of mist, but that was just Del Norte dew," Bigham said with a laugh. Sunday, meanwhile, was almost perfect with sunny skies and still conditions.
In addition to Coulson, several other locals fared well throughout the weekend, winning a handful of events. Tammy Wakefield was the other local resident to win a high overall crab buckle in the D class, shooting a score of 438. Brian Hazen and Andrew Donatelli, both from British Columbia, won the AA and B classes respectively. Fred Hoven of Washington won the A class and Dalton Land of California won the high overall C class.
Reach Michael Zogg at email@example.com