Muzzleloaders gather for weekend of competition |

Muzzleloaders gather for weekend of competition

Karl Horeis
BRAD HORN/Nevada Appeal Rex Norman shoots at a target Sunday during the Eagle Valley Muzzleloaders rendezvous.

Muzzleloaders get their “handles,” or camp names, when they make a mistake.

“You usually get your name when you do something stupid,” said Gordon “Plenty Fingers” Nutter of Reno. He got his after catching his hand in an animal trap.

“After I got it taken care of, someone said, ‘Well, you all right? You got plenty of fingers left.’ And that became my name.”

He was one of almost 100 folks who attended the Eagle Valley Muzzleloaders rendezvous over the weekend in the hills west of Carson City. Good weather brought out more campers than years past.

“A lot of times, we’ve waken up with an inch of snow on the ground -probably five times in the last 10 years,” said Ben “Kryer” Merrell, club president. He got his name because of his loud, booming voice.

“When people need something announced in camp, they come to me,” he said.

“Buckskin” Lin Argall was also happy with the weather. The group’s blackpowder range – just west of Greenhouse Garden Center – gets pretty windy, she said.

“When it’s too windy, it tears up tents, you can’t shoot, and you can’t light fires,” she said. Smoke drifted from her rock-ringed cooking station. A blacksmith made the “fire irons” she cooks on. A beaver pelt to kneel on lay nearby.

“Plus the ‘skeeters aren’t out yet!” she said, grinning under a wide-brimmed straw hat.

Muzzleloaders came from Tonopah, Reno, Fallon and California. There were 12 primitive camps – with canvas tents and period equipment – and two “tin teepees,” or modern camps, up near the cars.

“This is the biggest primitive camp I’ve seen up here in a long time,” Kryer said.

On the hill south of camp is the shooting range. “Gongs” made of empty torch fuel tanks are strung up at 100, 130 and 200 yards. They ring when you hit them.

“To shoot 200 yards, you have to use a little Kentucky windage and some lobbage,” Kryer explained, referring to aiming high so the lead ball bullet will arch into the target, not fall short.

“It’s kinda like shooting a mortar.”

The muzzleloaders do more than shoot rifles, however. They compete in tomahawk throwing, fire starting with flint and steel and pistol shooting. And they enjoy each other’s company relaxing in camp.

“Black powder shootin’ is like family,” said Plenty Fingers.

“Yeah, everybody helps each other out,” said John “Grey Beard” Moeller, president of Reno’s Lakes Crossing Muzzleloaders.

“You could come out to one of these things without an ounce of food. If people find out you’re hungry, they’ll just be shoving food at you.”

He looked at Plenty Fingers and winked.

“Except good coffee,” he said.

Contact Karl Horeis at or 881-1219.