CAMP PERRY, Ohio — It takes a steady hand, a focused eye and several thousand rounds of practice shooting to get anywhere near the winner’s stand here at Camp Perry, a place and a time each year when and where the world’s top shooters gather to squeeze triggers and share time with friends of like mind.
Each year, for more than 100 years, this relatively obscure military base, on the shores of Lake Erie, has welcomed the shooting world to the National Matches.
And some crowd it is. More than 5,000 shooters arrive each year, and most of those are folks who look forward to the matches like kids counting the days until Christmas. And if you thought the prize for determination should go to the mail carrier, you would think differently once you see and feel the enthusiasm and loyalty of this army of gun slingers.
They come from all 50 states and several countries. Some come to test their shooting skills with small arms, some with pistols, some with military rifles and some with collectibles, such as vintage sniper rifles.
The National Matches go on for five weeks, starting July 8 this year, with a quarter-mile long line of pistol shooters here for instruction and an opportunity to shoot a few rounds in official competition — a good way to get a feel of what may become a lifelong sport shooting affair.
This day, students are paired with military marksmen who mentor them on shooting techniques and offer hands-on tips as the first shots are fired. Firearms, ammo, and lots of instruction are on the menu this morning.
All events during the National Matches are open to the public.
So how does an event hosting 5,000 or 6,000 shooters handle the registration, target management, range safety and a million other things?
It’s easy, said NRA senior marketing coordinator Woody Arenas, when you have a couple hundred volunteers on hand. Arenas said one of the duties of the matches assigned to the NRA is managing the volunteers, whom he describes as “the heart of the matches.”
“Without our volunteers, we couldn’t come close to holding the National Matches as we do now,” he said, adding that aspiring volunteers must apply through his office and they may work for a day, a week or for the whole five week event.
“We have had volunteers who return year after year,” he said, adding the record was held by a gentleman who volunteered for 45 years.
Volunteers are given lodging, a meal each day and a per diem for additional meals. That and a sincere thank you for jobs well done.
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Anglers will be working the night shift and big catfish will be featured on the catch menu when the Trumbull County Sportmen’s Federation hold their annual catfish contest at Mosquito Creek reservoir, just north of Warren, Ohio.
Free registration will be held at the Route 88 launch ramp July 27 from 4-7 p.m., with weigh-in July 28 at 7 a.m.
Learn more online at www.trumbullsportsmen.com.or call 330-847-6259.