© By Othmar Vohringer
(Originally published in the Merritt Herald, April 14, 2009)
Over the Easter weekend the Nicola Valley Charcoal Burners held their 15th annual April Fool’s Shoot at the Nicola Valley Fish & Game Club (NVFGC) range. In the 15 years of its existence this event has become one of the major gatherings for traditional muzzleloader and traditional archery enthusiasts from all over British Columbia. The April Fool’s Shoot celebrates an important part of the founding history of Canada when brave men and women ventured west in the pursuit of new territory, adventure and trade opportunities.
A big part of this event is to dress in traditional clothing and reenact the lifestyle of the settlers coming to this part of Canada in the mid1600’s to early 1800’s.
Right at the entrance to the event the “settlers” built a large canvas ridgepole tent camp, as the first settlers would have had. An 18-foot high teepee as a visual landmark was set up at the entrance. The tent village was abuzz with activity of people setting up one of the many “trading posts” that offered their goods and wares. Other “mountain men” and “colonials” arriving were greeted warmly like long lost friends or relatives and quickly started to exchange news and gossip from other parts of the country. I couldn’t help but think that this was how it must have happened in the “good old days” when settlers first arrived in this country. There was a good vibe and excitement all around in anticipation of trading, celebrating and the friendly muzzleloader shooting completion that would ensue over the next three days.
As an interesting side note, I got a few history lessons at the event. I learned that the mountain men and trappers of the time made their own clothing. Typically the footwear consisted of moccasins as worn by the Indigenous people, the leggings were made of buckskin and the coats, called “Capots” or “Capotes” were tailored from Hudson Bay Company blankets. Not only the clothing but most of what was needed for daily life such as tools, ridge pole tents, saddles and harnesses among an array of other items were handcrafted in those days and the re-enactors still do this today and proudly display their crafts at the event.
At one of British Columbia’s longest muzzleloader shooting trails over 200 men, women and youth pitted their shooting skills against each other with original and replica flintlock muzzleloader rifles and pistols. If that alone was not enough fun there was also a knife and tomahawk throwing and archery target trail. One of the highlights of the April Fool’s Shoot was the shooting demonstration of two replica Howitzer cannons as used in the protection and defense in many fortresses and frontier posts that were established in British Columbia during the colonial expansion.
Jim George, the organizer of the event for the Nicola Valley Fish & Game Club, told me, “When we started 15 years ago it was a one day event with about ten people attending. Today this is one of the largest muzzleloader shooting events in this province with over 250 people attending.” I thought it was kind of fitting having such an event here in a district that is partly named after David Thomson, one of the great explores of British Columbia that lived during the time reenacted by the Nicola Valley Charcoal Burners.
During our conversation Jim also told me that the Nicola Valley Charcoal Burners meet every first Sunday of the months at the NVFGC range for a friendly traditional muzzleloader shooting contest. “We welcome new members interested in the muzzleloader shooting sport.” Jim said, and from all the fun and friendship I have witnessed over the weekend I would encourage muzzleloader enthusiasts to join the Nicola Valley Charcoal Burners. For more information about the club or any of the many events and wildlife conservation programs of the Nicola Valley Fish & Game Club, visit their website at www.nvfishandgameclub.ca
Images Copyright by Othmar Vohringer Outdoors Stock Photography
Read what my wife has written about the Easter weekend.
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