SUMMIT STATION – Although pickup trucks – rather than ox-drawn wagons will be used for transportation, for the next 10 days, a portion of southern Schuylkill County will return some 200 years back in time for the Eastern Pennsylvania Rendezvous and Muzzleloader Shoot at Blue Ridge Rifles Muzzleloader Club.
A self-supporting muzzleloader club founded in 1976, Blue Ridge will be the site of one of the largest living-history events of its kind, beginning today through Memorial Day, Monday, May 31. Both pre-1840 primitive camping and modern camping areas are available at the club's 22-acre range, located off Route 183, on Coon Club Road, south of Summit Station.
Like other clubs affiliated with the Pennsylvania Federation of Black Powder Shooters, Blue Ridge Rifles is dedicated to the preservation and advancement of the lifestyle, ideals, patriotism and freedoms of early American pioneers between the years of 1750-1840. In addition to those camping at the current event, day visitors and shooters can also participate in a variety of activities and seminars that will be held throughout the event.
Informal shooting, including blanket shoots and a woods walk, will be held daily through Thursday, May 27. To enter a blanket shoot, participants place a prize of a designated value on a blanket, and prizes are then selected in order of finish, and a woods walk involves shooting at targets of unknown distances, similar to hunting.
Three days of competitive target shooting will be held Friday-Sunday, May 28-30, for traditional flintlock and percussion muzzleloaders loaded with blackpowder and shooting patched roundballs. Paper targets are shot at 50 and 25 yards for rifles, smoothbores and pistols, and separate events are held for men, women and juniors.
During the three days of competitive shooting, the Schuylkill County Sportsmen's Association Muzzleloading Club Challenge will be held for three-member teams from clubs affiliated with the Schuylkill County Sportsmen's Association. This event is sponsored by radio stations Magic 105.5-FM, Oldies 1410-AM, "Experience The Outdoors" radio program and Delrose Awards, Lansford.
A highlight of the event will be held Monday, May 31, when the "He-She Shoot" is held for teams comprised of a male and female shooter. This match is held on the 25-yard range, and the winning team is awarded a special prize by the club.
There is also a primitive range with novelty targets at varying distances, and specialty matches are held after the regular shooting events for rifles, fowlers and shotguns. These matches include clay birds and candle shoots, which are shot at dark with competitors attempting to shoot out the flame without hitting the candle stick.
Separate from the firing line is a primitive archery woods walk and a knife and tomahawk area. There are also non-shooting events and contests and primitive games for children.
In addition to being one of 36 clubs that are members of the Pennsylvania Federation of Black Powder Shooters, Blue Ridge is also affiliated with the National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association, the National Rife Association, the Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen's Club and the Schuylkill County Sportsmen's Association. Club members donate their time to participate in various educational events to promote muzzleloader shooting, and the range is used for muzzleloader and .22 shooting during the three-day Norm Thornburg Youth Conservation Camp sponsored by the Schuylkill County Sportsmen's Association.
Club grounds are approximately one mile north of the site along the Appalachian Trail where Fort Dietrich Snyder once stood. This fort was one in a series of frontier fortifications along the Blue Mountain that served as a place of refuge in the mid-1750s for settlers during the French and Indian War.
There are several State Game Lands nearby for those who enjoy spring gobbler hunting, and several nearby lakes, streams and rivers for fishing. Early arrivals for the event have the opportunity to attend a variety of seminars to be held on site and some field trips, including a private tour of the Yuengling Brewery in Pottsville.
In addition to this year's 10-day event, the club hold's a women's-only primitive rendezvous, a four-day shoot over Labor Day Weekend and a primitive-only invitational rendezvous in October. Drinking water and firewood are provided for all events, but there is no electricity or hook-ups.
Primitive attire is encouraged, but not required for campers or day shooters and visitors at the two holiday shoots. Only those in primitive attire are permitted in the camping area during the two special events.
For information on club events and membership, call recording secretary Nancy Newton at 570-429-1188 during business hours, 570-628-0376 evenings or access the club Web site at www.mysite.verizon.net/blueridgerifles.