Wyoming cowboy Matthew Quigley was looking for work. An Australian rancher advertised his need for a sharpshooter and Quigley answered the ad by delivering a copy of the advertisement as his resume. It had been perforated by several closely spaced bullets from a Sharps rifle, and written on it were four words: “M. Quigley 900 yards”. He got the job.
When Tom Selleck starred in that 1990 film, “Quigley Down Under,” he had no idea what impact the movie and his inanimate co-star would have on the shooting world.
Al Lee and Earnie Cornett were fans of Selleck’s cowboy persona and happened to enjoy shooting those old buffalo rifles. Living in Forsyth, Montana, they had access to the local gun club’s range where they routinely shot across nearly 1,000 yards of open ranchland. In 1991, they put together the first “Quigley Match,” which pitted 29 shooters and their century-old rifles against a series of steel targets.
Since that first match, “The Quigley” has grown to be the largest annual match of its kind in the world. Shooters have come from 46 states and nine countries, with the match evolving into a 48-shot, two-day competition shooting at six metal targets set from 350 to 805 yards.
While talking to Scott Rose, of Arlington, who shares my interest in both old guns and history, it didn’t take long to start planning a trip to shoot the match. He chose his 1885 Browning and I grabbed my 1874 Shiloh Sharps, both chambered for the 45-70 Government.
We drove to Forsyth, just a bit north of Custer’s last fight, with enough time to get in a little practice. Using period-correct tang and globe sights, we searched for proper settings and a little confidence.
With help from local shooter and Montana lawman Spencer Anderson, we began to understand how open-range winds would affect the bullet’s travel and to properly interpret bullet misses through a spotting scope to help each other’s performance. Spencer’s assistance was an indicator of what has made this match so popular.
The Quigley’s cornerstone is its shooters: folks returning to visit old friends and new friends meeting for the first time. Stories, laughter, handshakes and hugs; I’ve shot in a lot of venues in my life, and none have been so helpful, none so cheerful, none so pleasant and none more knowledgeable.
These people overshadowed the very competition. If Spencer could have helped us win, he would have been as proud as if he’d pulled the trigger himself. His example was not the exception.
When the match started, 647 competitors were ready. There were Remington Rolling Blocks; 1874, 75 and 77 Sharps; 1885 Winchesters; Springfield Trapdoors; Stevens rifles; 1886 Winchester lever guns; Ballards and front-stuffing Civil War muskets all barking white smoke while the ringing of lead striking steel drifted on the breeze.
One of the shooters was Lora Davis from Rathdrum, Idaho. At 79 years young, she handled her 40-65-chambered Meacham 1885 with the expertise that would have made Bill Cody envious.
While talking to Lora, she commented that this was her 14th year attending with Larry, her husband, but only the fourth that she’d competed. “Why let the boys have all the fun?” she said. She beat a lot of those boys during the match and captured first place in the “Great Granny Cora” ladies division. Scott and I happened to be two of the boys she took to the woodshed.
While it’s normally not polite to comment on a person’s age, I did mention that she appeared to be in great shape. Lora said that she and Larry like to stay active through hiking, horses, hunting, fishing and flying their Cessna. She did lament that she’d recently given up downhill skiing because its “tough on the knees.” She also noted that she and Larry had celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary at last year’s Quigley.
I’m not sure if I feel younger or older since meeting her.
As mentioned, I’ve participated in a lot of different shooting events and so has my shooting partner. When the match was over, neither of us knew what our own scores were. We’d fought 35 mph crosswinds along with exaggerated bullet trajectories and still managed to occasionally hit something.
Regardless of what any scorecard reads, it was the experience, the scenery, the equipment and, most especially, the people that made this trip worthwhile. Hit or miss, we had already won more than either of us had expected.
For information, visit: www.quigleymatch.com.
“Winning is only half of it. Having fun is the other half.” — Bum Phillips
Along the way
The Division of Wildlife will be holding controlled waterfowl hunt drawings at the following locations:
Pipe Creek Wildlife Area waterfowl and East Sandusky Bay MetroPark waterfowl hunts: Drawing Aug. 17, at 6:30 p.m. Registration: 5 p.m. to 6:20 p.m. at Osborn Park, 3910 Perkins Ave., Huron.
Adults are required to present proof of purchasing their current Ohio Wetlands Habitat Stamp or current hunting license. Youth hunters must present proof of purchasing their current youth hunting license.
Beginning this year, the Magee Marsh Wildlife Area early waterfowl hunt drawing is being held through the computer lottery. Complete the application process online using Ohio’s Wildlife Licensing System at wildohio.gov through July 31.
Step outside
• Today: Steel Challenge pistol shoot, noon, HCCL, 13748 Jackson Township 168, Findlay.
• Tomorrow: 3-D mixed animal archery match: Registration opens 8 a.m., Field and Stream Bowhunters, 11400 Allen Township 109, Findlay.
• Tomorrow: Sporting clays, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., UCOA, 6943 Marion Township 243, Findlay.
• Thursday and Friday: Trap and skeet, open to the public, 5 p.m., UCOA, 6943 Marion Township 243, Findlay.
Abrams is a retired wildlife officer supervisor for the state Division of Wildlife in Findlay. He can be reached at P.O. Box 413, Mount Blanchard, OH 45867-0413 or via email at jimsfieldnotes@aol.com.