History of the Buckhorn Skinners - the Original Into The Woods as told by Barry “Buck” Connors
Buckhorn Skinners · Thursday, March 29, 2018
WE HAD SOME GOOD TIMES THAT WILL ALWAYS BE REMEMBERED ALONG WITH THE FRIENDS WE MADE, GOD BLESS THEM ALL. EVEN YOU, "UFDA" AND YOUR SIDE KICK "POWDER HAWK".
Some Early Buckhorn Skinner History If the Facts Be Known & the Truth Be Told:
While sitting on the front porch of my small homestead cabin in the summer of 1973, Trapper Tom & I decided to start a muzzleloading/buckskinner club, the "Buckhorn Skinners". Trapper had a few friends that were interested and I had mentioned the idea to some of the guys at Mountain Bell. All wanted a club.
We decided to get together and share ideas for the club. A meeting was scheduled on our property at the little homestead. My father & I had just put a new floor in the building and painted the inside, so it was ready for the gathering. The Saturday noon meeting day was overcast with possible rain, but “hey we’re mountain men, hell, we can handle that”. First thing to do was take a walk and tour the property. The small group packed lunches, drinks, and cameras and off we went. A lot of rude & crude remarks accompanied us to the top of the hill. At lunchtime Trapper commanded the bunch to "Sit, eat, relax and gather your thoughts about what you see". These guys didn't even get a bite of food before the discussion started about what we needed for a safe place to shoot and still be authentically primitive. Bob Williams brought pictures of shoots being held back East in the 1880's. Tho a little later than our 1820 - 1840 time frame, the pictures helped to get everyone on the same page. Those pictures saved many hours of research for the rest of us. We decided to build target frames out of lodgepole pine (looked more period) and clear out some brush at the different distances needed to place the target frames and also make an area for a "Mountain Man Run"-- clear enough to prevent tripping while running all out, yet still have a few rocks, a tree trunk to jump over, and a clearing with a rock fire pit for the "flint & steel fire building”. The run would look natural, be safe for runners, and satisfy the property owners. Next, we talked about what kind of targets we would shoot and at what distances would they be hung. We even talked about a toilet and its location. We decided we needed a lodgepole fort front as you enter the small canyon before climbing to the range. All this planning took a full day of picture-taking and note-taking of everything - a perfect day. In about five hours, we had formed a club and a Plan.
Before a meeting three weeks later at Trapper Tom's place, we were asked to "bring ideas for a club name and think of candidates for at least three officers’ positions.” Trapper, Dave Wolfely, Dennis Cox, Bob Williams & I couldn't wait three weeks, so we were at the range the next day. We figured out the Mountain Man run, locations of targets, hawk & knife throws, and fire pits; we marked where several shooting tables would be placed. We also cut brush and cleared out the places for each event – a good day’s work. The following weekend Trapper brought over a dozen old lodgepole pine tepee poles he had, Dave brought some old rough-cut lumber (really weathered that was perfect for table tops), we found right-sized rocks for the fire pits, and we killed 3 rattlesnakes while there.
We were the first club to set up an official Championship CSMLA Shooting Event outside of the State Championships in Leadville. We got that approved because our members were the officers running the CSMLA in the early years. (Whatever we wanted we got). The "CSMLA Squirrel Shoot" was born, tested in the fall of 1973, and then held in the spring of 1974, called the "First Annual”. Due to being involved in so many events, we were always in the local and Denver newspapers.
Media articles about the Buckhorn Skinners generated a lot of widespread interest. For example, one muzzleloading season a pair of doctors showed up with their new Walmart/Target TC's, having spent several hundred dollars apiece for needed supplies. They were going to Storm Mountain to look for elk. I looked at Steve Dunne and Ben, and then asked if they had ever shot a muzzleloader. We got a big "NO but we shoot 22's". Steve told them they had better go with him down over the hill to the lower pasture for some practice. I grabbed my coat and off we all went for a shooting experience. These poor guys didn't have a clue as to how to load or shoot (anything??). After a three-hour workout they felt pretty good about their learning experiences. They tried to pay us for our time which we turned down while Ben blessed them with his usual "off the wall" humor, and away they went. Ben remarked, “Those two will get an elk, you can bet on that". We all agreed and got a good laugh about what these two were in for as new hunters.
At around 2AM the next morning someone knocked on my door. I awoke, figuring someone ran out of gas again. !@#$%^ I hiked into my pants with a Colt 1911 stuck in my back pocket and answered the door. Damn, it was the doctors -- all excited and covered in blood. My first thought was "CRAP, one of them cut himself or got shot". No, nothing like that. They got an elk (!!!!!) and wanted to share their success as they came back down the canyon. Holy Crap, these crazy guys had loaded a very nice 5-point bull into a high dollar custom Ford van! There's blood everywhere inside and outside of their van. They were so excited -- hugging me and talking a mile a minute. it was really fun to see these guys (professional business men) so cranked. This lasted a good half hour. Wide awake now, I took them to the store so they could wash up. I made coffee, as they really looked cold. I told the one doctor that they needed to clean up before going home, or their spouses would think they had been in an accident. That night/morning was the beginning of new friendships that have lasted over 40 years. Thank you, guys, for a "Hoot" that early morning in the Buckhorn Canyon. I’ll always remember it.Having now become a bit famous and interesting to the outside media, the Club responded to almost all event suggestions with “Let’s DO it!” With such a positive attitude, we ended up involved in several movies: "Centennial" at Estes Park, "The Mountain Men" at Jackson Hole, "Duchess & the Dirt Water Fox" at Central City, "The Frisco Kid" at Durango/Silverton, and a few more whose titles now escape me. Most of the club worked with all the actors and extras, and we also got involved in a half dozen local historical shoots for different societies. "Trapper Tom" Thompson, "Quill" Smith and I still do several still sets for local artists, showing "makin' sign", trapping in ice water up to our waists, setting traps, and general camp life of the Rocky Mountain Fur Trapper. Jerry Crandall and I set up a little group for our background actors – the "Professional Background Actors Guild" -- had hats and emblems made, and sold the crap out of them to our Club and other guys involved in those days. We split the profit, and I bought prizes for the next year’s "Small Bore Championships", what Ron Long called the “Squirrel Shoot”.
Over the years the club members have had a number of different lodgings. Probably the best were the tipis of Trappers & Quills. We did have some "fine times" in those camps at night. Summer or Winter, it didn't matter; we were all game for the outings or just being together.
1ST WIN: The Buckhorn Skinners was the first muzzle-loading Association ~ Organization ~ Group or Club to win the NRA Shooting Club of the Year Award -- a big deal as only modern shooting clubs had won this honor started in 1933.
2ND WIN: We won the NRA Shooting Club of the Year Award a second time the following year. ANOTHER FIRST: No Association ~ Organization ~ Group or Club had ever had back to back wins.
WOW! We were a big deal Nationally per NRA President and the NRA. While at the NRA Raton Whittington Center after winning the second time, the Director at a meeting called us "the baddest shooting club in the land". I told Trapper, "Look what we started! We're famous NATIONWIDE, Bud". We got so much buckskinning fever that we sometimes met twice a month, not once!
Museum of the Fur Trade, Chadron NE
As time went on in developing our new club, we got serious about our research and started making treks to a museum in Chadron NE. The owner Charles E. Hanson, Jr. felt like one of us from the start. What a great friend he turned out to be. Little did we know how many 8-hour drives we would make to visit our old friend over the years. Every trip was an adventure and one we will always remember. God Bless Charles E. Hanson, Jr.
“The Buckhorn Skinners Muzzleloading Club of Masonville CO. is to be a 100% NRA [National Rifle Association] and a 100% CSMLA [Colorado State Muzzleloading Association] Club”, one of the first rules put in place when setting up in 1973. Only traditional weapons & period clothing will be used on either the range or at club events/functions. NO MODERN CLOTHING OR IN-LINES ALLOWED. If you don't want to join the NRA or the CSMLA, then you can't join this group, PERIOD. This is stated in the original By-Laws of 1973. The club is still holding shoots on the same location as we originally planned. Nothing has changed other than me getting divorced and moving away. My ex-wife agreed to leave the club as is with members helping her when needed in burning irrigation ditches or fixing fences on the property. This has been going on now for over 42 years. Who would have thought a small club of less than 35 members would be still going at it every month since 1973!
These By-Laws were Incorporated & Copyrighted in 1973 by the "Sitting Fox Agency" and are currently in effect in this year of 2019 and need to be followed.
THE ORIGINAL MAIN MEMBER CORE IS DOWN TO ONLY A FEW EXISTING MEMBERS FROM THE EARLY YEARS. MANY HAVE PASSED ON TO BETTER WATER AND PASTURES WE HOPE .
I have asked several of the original members and friends to give their input to this History by writing what they could recall about their time spent in the Club. I will share their comments of the good, bad and ugly as they remembered their experiences.
HISTORY: When we started a Buckhorn Skinners/Muzzleloader Club - the "Buckhorn Skinners" – in the summer of 1973, we agreed that we wanted to be a 100% NRA and 100% CSMLA group. Prospective club members sometimes would question the 100% NRA requirement and if they thereby didn't want to join, they didn't. The club held monthly shoots, Mountain Man runs, encampments and anything that was historically 1800-1840 vintage. (The NRA told us in 1973 that we were the first sanctioned club to hold a "Small Bore Muzzleloading Shoot".)
Good old Mountain Bell provided the club with a backhoe, a line truck and a Bobcat on the weekends. Bob Williams was a supervisor along with Steve Elliegood. They would have construction guys (several of whom were members) drop the equipment off on Friday evening and pick it up Monday morning. We built paths, set poles for the "Running Buffalo" target, punched in roads for easier access, built a parking area, etc. If equipment was needed, we had a source. We shot primitive targets including a "Running Buffalo" that was released off a 75-100 foot cliff that ran at a 30 degree angle across the shooting range back stop (cliff).
PRIMITIVE: The club would have invitational contests with other Buckskinner clubs in North Colorado and Wyoming. As many members drove for several hours to our events, we set up overnight camps. Boy, after some long nights, heads would be splitting the next morning with some damn drink called "Tacos Lightning"... The club was the 1st NRA Muzzleloading Club to receive the "NRA Award For Outstanding Performance" in their history since starting in 1937. This NRA Group has over 5,000 entries each year trying to win the title. Get this, I sent in the paperwork the second year and we won again - the 1st Shooting Club to ever win the Award back to back. Folks, we were standing in tall cotton!
MOVIES: One day my wife called me at work telling me to get home NOW. I figured someone must have gotten hurt, so I closed up the Mountain Bell Vehicle Maintenance shop and headed home, a 20-minute drive. Reaching home, I saw vehicles in the drive with CA plates? Bounding up the steps into the house, I ran smackdab into Robert Conrad (and damn near fell down the steps backwards). He laughed at my reaction and then I saw Richard Chamberlain and Director Virgil Vogel. I was informed that they were working on James Michener's movie "Centennial" and would like to lease the property across the street and ours also. They ended up leasing the Carter place, Pullman's, and ours for the early scenes of stealing horses by Lame Beaver to the killing of Pasquinel. One day Trapper Tom and I went up Brook's Canyon on Pullman's place next door to watch the filming. We’re in skins. Noticing us, the director asks Jerry Crandle (Historical Advisor & Western Artist) if we worked for them. He replied "NO". Virgil Vogel, the director, said, "They do now". We end up getting the whole club involved in the rendezvous scene of the movie Centennial. I'm sure any of the old timers still in the club can fill in the rest of the story. The Mountain Bell garage was empty for a week as all of their many Buckskinner employees had gone to the movies. (That wouldn’t fly today.) This happened again the following year with the movie “The Mountain Men”, filmed in Jackson Hole WY. Jerry Crandle contacted "Trapper" and we went again, along with about a hundred others.