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Lewiston Morning Tribune
P.O. Box 957
Lewiston, ID 83501
Phone: (208) 743-9411
Advertising Fax:
(208) 746-7341
Newsroom Fax:
(208) 746-1185

Tribune/Steve Hanks
Dozens of participants in the fifth annual Palouse Practical Boomer Shoot take their best shots at half-pint milk cartons filled with explosive charges. The shooters were testing their marksmanship skills Friday at Cavendish.

At this shoot, the targets talk back; Long-range marksmen gather at Cavendish to take part in an unusual type of rifle shooting


CAVENDISH -- Instant gratification. That's what participants in the Palouse Practical Boomer were after Friday.

The 40 or so shooters spent the better part of the day hunched over rifles or lying prone on the ground while peering through scopes and squeezing triggers.

The sporadic pop, pop, pop of gunfire rolled over the lush, green farmland. Less sporadically, a dust devil of smoke and water vapor rose from the ground, followed by a low thumping boom.

The explosion signals a hit on one of the half-pint milk cartons containing an explosive mixture of ammonium nitrate, potassium chlorate and various types of fuel.

The shock of that boom and the lingering poof of smoke is an uncommon reward for target shooters accustomed to the more mundane reward of piercing paper targets. It is also the instant gratification they seek.

"It's a world of difference from shooting a hole in a piece of paper," said Richard Frailey of Spokane

The shooters were reaching out between 200 and 700 yards to hit the targets. At that distance shooting often becomes a team sport.


"You are just over it," said Bill England of Lewiston, while staring through a spotting scope. "Your windage is good, though."

England was helping another shooter determine how close his shot came to hitting a target by reading wisps of dust kicked up by his bullets.

Successful shots are tough to come by at that range. Throw in a gusty wind, and even experienced shooters with finely tuned rifles have a tough time.

"It's humbling. You think you are pretty good and then ...," said Ry Jones of Moscow, who was helping run the shoot. "It is exceedingly long range. Most people miss at the gimme range -- 200 yards."

As an organizer of the event, Jones has had plenty of opportunities to shoot and hit the exploding targets. He helped Joe Huffman of Moscow put on the event and experiment with different explosive mixtures. Through the course of experimenting, he took advantage of the chance to touch hundreds of the targets.

"I still enjoy connecting," he said. "There is a real sense of accomplishment when you hit one of those guys that is out there mocking you."

About 95 shooters will participate in the two-day event, which wraps up Sunday. A nonexplosive long-range shooting clinic is being held today.

Huffman defined the shoot as an example of the psychology of fun. Psychologists, he said, describe fun as meeting a challenge that is mildly stressful. The challenge of hitting small targets hundreds of yards away acts as a mild form of stress, he said. The stress is relieved when the target is hit and that feeling of relief is what most people call fun, according to Huffman.

"When they get a hit, they get the thrill of accomplishing that little task," he said.

In this case, there is a bonus bit of fun when the target explodes.

"Putting a hole in a piece of paper is not nearly as rewarding as hearing the ground shake," said Huffman.

Lee Ellyn Frailey of Spokane loves firing shotguns in trap and skeet events, but normally doesn't get a thrill from shooting rifles. But this event is different, she says.

"It's a kick."

Her husband, Richard, heard about the shoot via an e-mail from a friend who sent a link from Huffman's boomer shoot Web site.

"Inside of five seconds from getting on the Web page I said 'I need, I really, really need to do this.' "

Lee Ellyn hopes to pick up some shooting tips at today's clinic. Her husband has given her some pointers but he says there are some things best taught by someone else.

"If you are married, you understand, nonspousal instruction is far superior," he said.


Barker may be contacted at ebarker@lmtribune.com

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2003 Tribune Publishing Co. Inc.