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Mad Dog didn't shoot his eye out after all
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Not since my brother and I won the Moose Dropping Toss Contest in 1990 during the annual Moose Dropping Festival in Talkeetna, Alaska had I ever heard of a better pitch than what Rick Bernal, a.k.a. "Delta Glen," lobbed my way last week.

'Wanna give it a try?' he asked me.

The truth is, "Delta Glen" said it best when he told me that I really wouldn't know how to write about cowboy action shooting unless I actually tried it. And upon saying that, he proceeded to ask me if I wanted to give it a shot, no pun intended.

You remember the line from the movie "A Christmas Story" - 'You'll shoot your eye out.'" Well, that's the only thing that was dancing in my head after hearing those words. I absolutely love that film; I've seen it at least 50 times. So, maybe that explains why I had never shot a gun during my 28 years of existence - that is, until Friday.

Last week, I had the distinct opportunity of covering a local interest story concerning live cowboy action shooters at the Shootout at Mule Camp. It was a blast, and I hadn't experienced that much fun in quite some time. Talk about an adrenaline rush. Although it took me several minutes to shoot my rounds, I ended the day with a clean sweep, meaning I was a perfect 12-for-12 using three separate guns - a rifle, a shotgun and a pistol. (And no, my intention is not to brag here because even the most skilled shooters can finish under 20 seconds - that's how talented they are with the steel.)

The event is hosted by the Mule Camp Cowboys and the South River Gun Club, and lasted six days. The shooting match is sponsored and sanctioned by The Single Action Shooting Society (SASS), and is without question one of the fastest growing and most exciting games in the country. It was a regional event, as well, meaning shooters from all over the country traveled to Covington for the festivities.

Of the 400-plus shooters participating in the event, all of them had Western nicknames, whether it was "Robin T. Banks" or "Gus Odum" or "Sassy Motchie" or "Montana Brown," or even my alias - "Mad Dog" Murdock. Creating a nickname just adds to the mere fun of this particular sport.

Unfortunately, I didn't have the luxury of actually dressing up for the event, which - from what I hear - only enhances the experience. In fact, I was one of the only shooters not in Western attire, and felt more like Al Pacino in "Scarface" rather than "Wyatt Earp." Nevertheless, it was amazing.

I was impressed with the stage designs, especially the detail regarding the shootout. There were 12 different set designs based on the film "Lonesome Dove," ranging from a saloon to a train to Hat Creek Ranch. Prior to drawing your piece, each shooter must recite a specific line from the movie before taking aim at the initial target, making it all the more enjoyable and putting you right in the middle of the action.

I was equally impressed with the safety precautions taken by each participant. Not only was everybody required to wear eye and ear protection, but alcoholic beverages were not permitted. The shootout used a posse system to help monitor the individual events, as well. In addition, all shooters must be SASS members in good standing, which clearly I wasn't, of course.

In summary, I had an absolute blast covering this occasion, and it served as a reminder to me why I love my job here at The News.