Keeping a muzzleloader tradition alive
BOWMANSTOWN - Never mind the Weather Channel, the forecast is for cloudy skies Sunday in the Bowmanstown area.
In fact, during most of the year, that is the forecast for the area the second Sunday of the month.
More specifically, the clouds are seen above Bowmanstown Rod and Gun Club, where the First Frontier Militia Muzzleloader Club produces those white, billowy clouds with the smoke from their muzzleloader firearms.
Since 1978, from March through December, traditional muzzleloader shoots are held for rifles and smoothbores - and sometimes pistols - flintlock and percussion firearms.
With some sections of the firing line under cover, shooters can find protection from both the summer sun and rain.
Shooting gets underway at 9 a.m., and with the majority of the matches, which are shot at 25 and 50 yards, being five-shot reentry events, usually ends between 3:30 and 4 p.m.
Two of the most popular events are the over-the-log match, which is shot from the prone position, and the 12-shot primitive match - which is one and done - at novelty targets placed at unknown distances between 20 to 100 yards.
Overseeing - and also competing - at these events is Roger Fisher, who exchanges the business attire appropriate for his insurance agency in Lehighton for garb that was typically worn in Colonial America.
He helped organize First Frontier Militia in 1976, when matches were held at Palmerton Rod and Gun Club, when the celebration of America's Bicentennial helped renew the interest in shooting and hunting with muzzleloader firearms.
Not surprisingly, Pennsylvania - the home of the rifle builders who produced the Pennsylvania Rifles that helped protect and feed those who settled the continent - was at the forefront of the new interest in muzzleloaders.
This led to the formation of the Pennsylvania Federation of Black Powder Shooters, an organization of muzzleloader clubs, which currently counts First Frontier Militia among its 30 members.
"I didn't begin shooting muzzleloaders until we started the club, but I've been shooting them since then," Fisher said.
"Right now, we have 31 members in the club, and we average about 25 shooters for a monthly day shoot, and usually four or five dress in primitive attire.
"Since the very beginning, we've been holding our shoots the second Sunday of the month, so that's been cut in stone. Most shoot the 25- and 50-yard matches, but the chunk (over-the-log) match and primitive range are both popular.
"Most of the regulars usually bring their lunch, but we usually have something available for those who need. We mostly try to keep everything informal and give it the feeling of what shooting matches were like in Colonial times."
Located on Gun Club Road between the Parryville and Bowmanstown exits of Route 248, newcomers are directed to the club by shoot signs along the way. All shoots are open to both members and nonmembers of Bowmanstown Rod and Gun Club and the First Frontier Militia.
In addition to Sunday's match, other Sunday matches scheduled this year at First Frontier Militia are August 14, September 11, October 9, November 13 and December 11.
For information about future events, call Roger Fisher at 610-377-2812.