LARAMIE, Wyo. - At 1,000 yards, a 10-inch target is a tiny blur of black, and hitting it with a high-powered rifle is no easy feat.
About 20 shooters from Wyoming and neighboring states tested their long-range prowess recently at the Laramie Rifle Range during the Wyoming State Long Range Championships.
Shooters set up on a ridge northeast of the range headquarters, shooting at a series of targets set back in a canyon. Beneath a slightly overcast sky, the flags indicating wind speed and direction up in the canyon hung limply.
"Right now it's super. Excellent conditions," Roy Bane, who directed the competition, said.
Shooters had 20 minutes to take 30 shots during a match, with the winner having the highest score over five matches. They competed in either F-Class or NRA Long Range classifications, with the Long Range shooters aiming for an official state title.
F-Class shooters lie prone and use a rest to support the front end of the rifle, while the NRA Long Range shooters were in the prone position without a rest, instead support the rifle with their hand.
Bane said learning to shoot without a rest takes a lot longer than it does with a rest.
"The sport has grown in F-Class. It doesn't take years of prep to compete. We see our biggest gains in that area," he said.
As the match commenced, shooters loaded their rifles and took aim, each one shooting at a different numbered target. They lay on their stomachs with one knee bent forward, the rifle braced against the shoulder.
The booms from the high-powered rifles echoed against the foothills, and through a scope one could see puffs of dirt where bullets hit the hillside behind the targets.
"Without a scope, it's like watching paint dry," Bane said.
Tracy Frye, from Riverton, said he's been shooting competitively in the F-Class for about three years.
"I was here last year. I try to go out every weekend," he said.
Accounting for wind is the most critical element, he said, as it can move a bullet several feet during its split-second journey.
"Watch the wind flags," he said.
Frye ended the weekend with an aggregate score of 929 out of 1,000 with 12 hits on the center of the target, or Xs. He was the second-place finisher and the top Wyoming finisher.
Kenny Lankford, shooting in the NRA Long Range division, was the top Wyoming shooter in his division with a score of 949 and 29 Xs.
Lankford, who has been shooting for decades and was one of the founders of the Laramie Rifle Range, said he also has to account for bullet drop when setting up his shot.
"The bullet drops about 30-40 feet," he said.
On Aug. 10-11, the F-Class state champion will be decided at another competition at the Laramie Rifle Range.
Information from: Laramie (Wyo.) Daily Boomerang, http://www.laramieboomerang.com