By Pat McKnight —
It might not be the shootoutat the O.K. Corral, but there’s plenty of cowboy shooting action in the town of Sandbur during the Western Wisconsin Wild Bunch Fandango.
The shooting competition attracts adults and youngsters who want to relive the “days of yesteryear” by playing cowboy and being able to shoot real guns without someone shooting back.
“The attraction is—most of us grew up in the 1950s and 60s watching TV westerns,” said 2017 Fandango match director Mark Kunes, aka “Flyen Doc Koyote.” “Generally, we’re in our 50s and 60s, but we have a couple shooting with us this weekend that are in their 80s.”
Octogenarian cowboy shooters Charles “Colt Wesson” and Helen “Tootsie Pop” Buisse from Racine competed in the 2017 Fandango held at the Holmen Rod and Gun Club grounds north of Holmen.
“We saw cowboy shooting when we were in California, and my husband thought it would be fun,” said Helen. “I got into it because it was boring to just sit and watch.”
At the Fandango, a Spanish word meaning dance, cowboy shooters compete in various categories such as B-Western, Wrangler, Duelist, Baroness, Cattle Baron, 49er and Senior based on age, ability and type of firearm, such as rifle, handgun or black powder.
There are also side matches of who can shoot the fastest and still maintain accuracy. The shooting competitions are timed with winners earning bragging rights.
In keeping with the Wild West theme, the re-enactors dress in period costume and adopt an alias appropriate to the character he or she portrays. Characters range from gunslingers, ranchers, cattlemen and lawmen to cowboys. The character or profession portrayed can be from a historic figure from the late 19th century, a Hollywood western star or a character from a book.
More than a few participants seem to get as much or more enjoyment from the costuming as from the shooting competition. Authenticity is stressed, and characters can enter their Old West wear for judging.
Despite the competitive nature of the sport, Kunes says participants enjoy the friendships formed through the get-togethers. The sport’s attraction has even extended to family members. Kunes’ wife, who goes by “Misty Blue Montana,” and his three adult sons, known as “Vega Bond,” “DW McCall” and “Crazy K,” have also taken part in the activity.
The shootouts are held at various sites in the Old West mock-up town of Sandbur, such as the saloon, livery stable, hotel, general store, barber shop, cabin and even a church cemetery.
A plaque on the wall lists the Ten Commandments for Cowboys. Along with “Just one God and Nothing Before Him,” other commandments include “Get Yourself to Sunday Meetin’,” and “Don’t be Hanker’n’ for Yer Buddy’s Stuff.”
The WWWB has been holding shoots for 22 years and held its first Fandango in 1998. The 2017 Fandango was also the Wisconsin State Championship and had 129 participants with most of the shooters coming from Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, North and South Dakota and Iowa. Participants come from as far away as North Carolina and Arizona, as well as Michigan, Indiana and Ohio.
This year’s Fandango is set for Oct. 12-14 and preregistration is required. This year’s theme is “Gunfighters of the Old West.”
A sub-club of the Holmen Rod and Gun Club, the WWWB is a cowboy action shooting club affiliated with the Single Action Shooting Society, a worldwide organization.
With more than 100,000 members, SASS governs the sport of cowboy action shooting by requiring the use of firearms reminiscent of the era between the Civil War and the turn of the century in the western part of the country.
The WWWB holds matches the second Saturday of every month. Anyone interested in joining or learning more about the group is welcome to visit Sandbur to take in the action, contact Kunes at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the WWWB website at www.wwwildbunch.com.