12th Annual Primitive Biathlon is Sunday


By Jay Braman Jr.
If someone who doesn’t already know what is going on walks into the upper Esopus Fish and Game Club lodge in Oliverea Sunday, it might take them a minute to figure out what century they are in. Expect to see men and women dressed in 18th century buckskin wilderness wear and other furs. Many will be carrying flintlock firearms, giving the impression of some type of Revolutionary War militia meeting.
But this group of frontiersmen is no militia, and the lodge no time machine. Both are expected to play parts in the intriguing 2009 primitive biathlon, the 12th of its kind since organizers started the event as many years ago.
Most know about the present day Olympic Biathlon, where marksmen on cross country skis, going from target to target, using lightweight rifles, try to best one another in speed, endurance and accuracy. Requiring much sturdier stock, this primitive biathlon calls for the use of wooden snowshoes for transportation through the two feet of snow in Oliverea and marksmanship is gauged on the success one has with cumbersome muzzle loading, black-powder rifles.
No one gets to just slide up to a shooting station and pull a trigger like in the Olympics. Trudging through the woods to the station on snowshoes, the marksman must load his rifle with black powder, using ramrod and ball ammunition wrapped in a cloth patch. The flintlock must also be primed, and the rifle must be cleaned before the mandatory second shot.
At previous events as many as 40 competitors, some from as far away as Massachusetts and Connecticut did this at four shooting stations along a mile course through the forest. While an average time is difficult to measure, some say it takes many about an hour or so to complete the course. Others can accomplish the tasks as little as 19 minutes.
The approximately one-mile course is wooded, mountainous terrain containing four shooting stations spaced along the course. Each shooting station has two targets at varying distances. Firearms must be carried unloaded between shooting stations. Primitive dress is desired but not required, but one minute will be deducted from overall time for full primitive dress. Entries in the biathlon are divided into four age groups; 12 to 16, 17 to 40, 41 to 59, 60 and over. There is also a ladies’ and smooth bore division. There will also be a new division for those who wish to shoot and snow shoe the course but don’t wish to be timed. A fee of $10 will apply. The winner will be determined by the most targets hit and a tiebreaker.
There will be target shooting and tomahawk competition to keep one busy when not running the biathlon. The entry fee for each event will be $2. You may enter each event a maximum of two times. The target shooting will be five shots at a black powder fun target, while the tomahawk competition will be five throws at a standard playing card. Prizes and or certificates will be awarded in each category.
Registration starts at 8:30 a.m. on Sunday Jan. 18 and costs $17. For additional information call Larry at 331-5201 or e-mail hughly669@aol.com.