Willow Hole Cowboys – North Zulch, Texas

Willow Hole Cowboys Logo

 

Another Match / A New Club
I hadn’t planned on shooting another match so soon after a short but painful bought of food poisoning Thursday but by Saturday afternoon I was feeling better and decided to drive North Sunday morning to shoot with the Willow Hole Cowboys. The WHC is a SASS club located in North Zulch, Texas between Bryan and Madisonville. It’s a 2-1/2 hour drive on a quiet Sunday morning, through some of the most beautiful countryside in East Texas. The town of Zulch boasts a rich history dating back to the late 1830’s and the club takes its name from the original Willow Hole Church that existed up till the 1950’s.

I arrived at the Willow Hole Cowboys range early to see Fairplay John and his lovely wife Bristlecone Jan, whom I’d met earlier at the Thunder River Renegades in Magnolia. I was feeling very nervous about shooting at a new club and seeing these two friendly faces really helped calm the butterflies in my stomach. As I’ve said before, the people in this shooting sport are some of the most warm and friendly you could ever hope to meet. I got my cart all setup and walked up to pay and saw the familiar hat (and face) of Baba Looey, the gentleman I photographed at TRR during my first match two weeks ago.

Winchester 1897 Shotgun in Action

Winchester 97 Shotgun in Action – North Zulch, Texas
Copyright © 2012 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II set on aperture (Av) priority using an EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens hand held. The exposure was taken at 95mm, f/7.1 for 1/125th of a second at ISO 400. Post capture processing was done in Adobe’s Lightroom 3 and Photoshop CS5.
Click on the image above for a larger version.

 

Friendly Faces
I wandered around the range looking over the stages when Jan (seeing my nervousness) grabbed my arm and introduced me to the real “Willow Hole Cowboys”: Walter Durbin, DefWillie, Doc Bury’Em, Dealin’ Lead, Red River Mac, Lonesome Lefty, Rooster, Chato, Texican Slim, Yellertooth and One Shot Doc. I could tell that these were some serious shooters with years of experience. After a few minutes of introductions and small talk, Walter Durbin the “Range Master” went through the day’s schedule, rules and safety reminders including a story about a gun being dropped during Saturday’s match.

We proceeded to the first stage and I thought “Oh Lord, Please don’t let me screw up in front of these fine folks”. I swear I felt like a thousand butterflies were darting through my stomach until one shooter looked me square in the face and said, “I wonder how many times you’ve got to do this before the butterflies go away?”. Wow! That simple question coming from an experienced shooter did more to get me through that first stage than I ever thought possible and even though I missed almost every target (6 misses in my first twenty shots) I got through those “first stage jitters”. I must have looked like a frightened schoolboy on the first day of class and Jan graciously came over to me and said “Breathe”.

Intense Concentration

Intense Concentration – North Zulch, Texas
Copyright © 2012 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II set on aperture (Av) priority using an EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens hand held. The exposure was taken at 85mm, f/7.1 for 1/160th of a second at ISO 400. Post capture processing was done in Adobe’s Lightroom 3 and Photoshop CS5.
Click on the image above for a larger version.

 

Skill & Speed
The match progressed through the first few stages before I finally relaxed down enough to shoot straight and began to enjoy myself. I spent a lot of time watching the other shooters’ form and strategy and it was a real pleasure to see some great shooting with a variety of different firearms. Let me tell you, these folks can put an 1873 lever-action rifle through its paces faster and smoother than I’d ever thought possible.

I also saw some long distance (Cody-Dixon) rifle shooting that amazed me. It was awesome to see a vintage lever-action rifle hit a six inch steel target at 100 yards with nothing more than a semi-buckhorn sight. John Chisum or Lucas McCain would have been proud to hit such a mark!

Black Powder and Orange Smoke

Black Powder and Orange Smoke – North Zulch, Texas
Copyright © 2012 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II set on aperture (Av) priority using an EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens hand held. The exposure was taken at 85mm, f/7.1 for 1/160th of a second at ISO 400. Post capture processing was done in Adobe’s Lightroom 3 and Photoshop CS5.
Click on the image above for a larger version.

 

Great Action / Wonderful Color
The black powder pistols and rifles were especially interesting to watch. I’d never seen one up close before and FairPlay John’s matched set of percussion pistols were gorgeous. I got my camera out and came away with some wonderful action shots of this colorful sport as you can see here. Combining my passion for photography with such a great subject such as cowboy shooting is going to be a real challenge for me. I enjoy capturing this shooting sport and sharing my work with y’all but I “itch” to grab my own guns whenever I see one of these “old pros” step up to shoot a stage!

Many Thanks
I had a great time shooting with the Willow Hole Cowboys and truly appreciate their friendly advice and coaching of this newcomer. I look forward to seeing y’all again next month and around this part of Texas!