The Curry Coastal Pilot

The Del Norte Rod and Gun Club was once again the place to be for the top trapshooters in the West as the local club hosted its annual Crab Buckle Shoot Jan. 10-12 in Smith River. This year's turnout was one of the best ever, with more than 90 shooters from multiple states and two countries in attendance, including competitors from the Curry County, who make up approximately 50-percent of the gun club's membership.

The top shooter in 2015 was Brian Fooks of Fort St. John, British Columbia, Canada, with an overall score of 474 (out of 500). Although Fooks, who has made the 25-hour drive south with several of his trapshooting brethren from British Columbia for seven years now, has won crab buckles in the past, this was his first time winning the big one.

Before Fooks was named the high overall champion, he also won the Del Norte Rod and Gun Club's Magnum award for hitting all 25 targets on traps one and three in the handicap shoot. Coming into the day, the Magnum hadn't been claimed in five years, but by the time Fooks shot his perfect 50, he was the second person of the day to accomplish the feat. The first was Del Norte Rod and Gun Club member Buck Rosendahl of Gold Beach, who hit his Magnum on the second and fourth traps.

"My goal was to come down and win the Magnum," said Rosendahl. "I don't compete against other shooters; I compete against myself, which is the hardest competition that there is. Every shoot I try to better myself. There are a lot of great shooters out here from all over. When you shoot with good shooters, you shoot better."

For hitting the Magnum, both Fooks and Rosendahl received about $900 apiece.

"It is always nice to win trophies, but it's always fun to win money," Fooks said.

While Fooks is a grizzled veteran of the trapshooting circuit, Rosendahl is relatively new to the sport.

"I have been shooting for two-and-a-half years and I have worked by way up to Double A," he said. "I used to shoot competition pistols. A friend of mine asked me to come out to the trap range one day. I came out and I hit about 10 targets. I said, 'I can do better than that,' and I just started working on it. It is a great sport and once you get in it, you're stuck."

Fooks travels around to competitions throughout the West and, seven years ago, he and some friends from British Columbia decided to try out Del Norte.

"It has always had a reputation for being a good shoot, and we want to get out of the cold weather up north so we come down here," Fooks said. "It has turned into an annual trip for between three to five of us. I have come every year."

When the Canadians arrived, they were not disappointed with the competition at the Crab Buckle.

"It is as good of competition as anywhere," Fooks said on Saturday. "You have top shooters here every year, both local shooters and shooters that travel a lot. It is stiff competition. If you do well here you can do well anywhere."

Stories of the high level of competition also made their way east to Redding where they reached the ears of Allan Hunt Sr., his brother Bob Hunt, and his son Allan Hunt Jr. The Hunts said they started coming to the Crab Buckle Shoot because they heard that it was a difficult competition but they keep coming back because of the amazing hospitality.

"People at the crab shoot are always so nice," Allan Hunt Jr. said. "They are probably the nicest club and nicest people you will ever meet. They are there to greet you and talk to you when you come in and make you feel super welcome. They also run a really clean and organized show. Everything they do, from the shoot to the hospitality, is smooth. It isn't like that everywhere."

That hospitality is one of the main things that keeps the Hunts coming back year after year.

"We don't normally drive five hours for a buckle," Allan Hunt Sr. said. "We will drive five hours for a money shoot, but this is just such a great shoot."

"It is one of the most beautiful places you will ever shoot, too," Bob Hunt added.

Not only is it a great shoot, but those are also some pretty spiffy buckles.

"They are coveted in the P.I.T.A (Pacific International Trapshooting Association)," Fooks said. "Everybody has a Crab Buckle on their bucket list of things to do. They are nice buckles, and they are the only buckles with a crab that I know of. They are unique."

Photo and article by Michael Zogg/WesCom News Service.

Ryan Sparks/Curry Coastal Pilot contributed to this article.