Would-be trappers, hunters and warriors of the Old West are gathering at Jeremy Ranch this weekend for a test of skill in the 20th annual Utah State Muzzle Loading Championship and Rendezvous.
Hundreds of competitors will take their turns at black-powder rifle shooting, pistol-firing matches, knife and tomahawk throwing and setting traps all day Saturday and Sunday until 2 p.m. At about 5 p.m. Saturday, "we'll have 12 or 14 cannons all lined up" for the cannon-shooting match, said coordinator Jim Salmon.Some big names, including Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ted Wilson, ice cream mogul and Republican congressional candidate Richard Snelgrove and several media personalities will be on hand for the celebrity black-powder shoot-out starting at about 12:30 p.m. Saturday.
Besides the contests, booths will sell pelts, jewelry and old-time Western garb.
The gathering is part of a tradition that began in the 1820s, said Salmon. Back then, and for about 20 years, beaver-fur hats were the style in Britain and the pelts came from the American West. Since a trek into a port town like St. Louis would mean weeks lost from the hunt, trading companies would send representatives to a rendezvous site where all the trappers of an area would gather.
"They would get the trappers drunk and leave the next day with the pelts," said Salmon with a chuckle. "Since the trappers were dependent on them for supplies, they were pretty well committed to hunting for another year."
Although the custom ended around 1842, when the fad as well as the number of beavers faded, Salmon and co-sponsors of this year's rendezvous, the Mountain Men of the Wasatch and Rocky Mountain Fur Company, have done their best to keep it alive. For instance, almost every contest has a double where all participants are required to wear period clothing representative of the profession 200 years ago. And almost everyone who chooses to camp on-site for the weekend does so in a tepee or a cloth lean-to.
Shoot-outs and rendezvous' are not particular to Utah or even the West, said Salmon. At a 1986 national event staged by the Mountain Men of the Wasatch, clubs from as far away as Europe and Scandinavia joined those from virtually every state. The contests are open to men and women and Salmon said anyone with a black-powder rifle collecting dust is welcome to bring it up to Jeremy and give it a try.
Follow the signs to a spot on a dirt road about two miles down East Canyon from the Jeremy Ranch Clubhouse to reach the rendezvous and shoot-out. The event is open to spectators and is free.