Local cowboy action shooting group meets monthly

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CHILLICOTHE — If you don’t think the Wild West doesn’t exist, members of the Scioto Territory Desperados will tell you otherwise.


The group of about 60 members meets monthly in Huntington Township on Hartwood Road, where participants dress up in cowboy-era costumes and shoot at targets set up in what’s known as Desperadoville, a setting designed to reflect the Wild West.


The organization falls under the Single Action Shooting Society, an international group that was created to “preserve and promote the sport of Cowboy Action Shooting,” according to its website.


To take part, participants must have their own shooting alias designed to reflect a person or profession of the 19th century, a Hollywood Western star or another character from fiction, the website indicates.


Circleville resident Caleb Boone serves as vice president of the Scioto Territory Desperadoes and said there are a total of 16 clubs in Ohio similar to the one that gathered Sunday morning.


“Everyone has their own persona,” Boone said.


The local group has a mix of individuals — kids, doctors and lawyers, among others — and meets on the third Sunday of every month, when they compete in shooting at targets with pistols and shotguns, Boone said. However, he said, some scenarios result in shooting with both hands, but the competitive nature isn’t about who is better.


Instead, it’s all about having fun, Boone said.


“You wait to hear a bang, a ding on the targets,” he said.


On a given weekend, there will be 30 to 40 people who show up to shoot, though members often travel to surrounding states at similar organizations. Kids have also expressed an interest in the Scioto Territory Desperadoes — those ages 8 and up are known as Buckaroos, while teenagers are known as Young Guns — and safety is a top priority for everyone, Boone said.


“Safety is the number one thing and fun second,” he said. “I just enjoy the people. I get to be a cowboy and shoot guns.”


Members of the Scioto Territory Desperadoes are also willing to help one another when needed as Boone said “there are no secrets” between individuals.


“Here, everything is prety much out in the open,” he said.


Frank McConnell, who is known as Rippen Kid among the group, said everyone tries to be “authentic as you can” when they dress up and shoot. The Ripley, West Virginia, resident encouraged others to come check out the group for anyone interested in learning more.


“It’s not a sport to learn how to shoot,” McConnell said.


Tom Wildenauer is one member of the group that has gained world recognition for his ability to shoot as a cowboy, something he has done for the last 22 years. The New Lebanon resident been named a senior gunfighter and national gunfighter champion twice and didn’t shy away when asked what he enjoys most.


“Cowboy shooting keeps you young,” he said. “I’ve seen people in their 80s shoot. It’s something you can do your whole life.”


Brooke McDonald, 13, was among those divided among two posse groups and got involved after her father, Heath, was a Ross County sheriff’s deputy before moving away to Germantown. McDonald said she enjoys shooting and being able to spend time with her family.


Her mother, Julie, also said the group’s involvement has resulted in her daughter being more comfortable around guns, adding that there is “nothing to be scared of.”


“It’s a fun sport,” she said. “They have a great place here in Huntington Township. You come to these things and everyone’s very helpful and I encourage everyone to check it out.”


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