Moffat County landscape provides challenge in national rifle event Mile High Shootout |

Moffat County landscape provides challenge in national rifle event Mile High Shootout

Nearly 120 competitors from across the country attended the Mile High Shootout Saturday and Sunday in Moffat County about 20 miles west of Craig.
Andy Bockelman |

Amid the dusty terrain strewn with sagebrush and cacti in rural Moffat County, dozens of top-notch firearms aficionados focused all their energy over the past weekend on a spot in the distance, squeezed the trigger and let the gun do the rest.

The Mile High Shootout attracted nearly 120 rifle shooters from across the country for a long-range competition in the epitome of the West.

The growing National Rifle League hosted the event along with High Country Precision.

The action took place about 20 miles west of Craig, in the vicinity of county communities Lay and Maybell. Perched on the ridge of canyons, shooters took aim at targets as close as 15 yards and as far as 1,400.

The Saturday and Sunday contest featured 15 stages each day as shooters took on different distances or positions, be they off a tripod, crouched, prone or otherwise.

Spread among the stations were volunteers to help shooters set up and compile the statistics.

“It’s not unlike on a golf course to make sure play goes smoothly,” said Jack Odor, of Fort Morgan.

Odor is a competitive rifle shooter himself, though he preferred to take the weekend off and assist.

“What impresses me is how many really, really good shooters there are out here,” he said.

Winning the overall weekend was Jake Vibbert, of Cheney, Washington. Following close behind was Jon Pynch, who lives near Salem, Oregon.

Pynch said he jumped at the chance to shoot in Northwest Colorado, having been in the region for hunting in prior years.

“Good people out here,” he said. “Fun stages, good shooting, I love it.”

Pynch said the layout of the area helped make the shooting more challenging.

“I don’t like square, flat ranges, having a lot of trees and stuff around makes it more fun,” he said.

Morgun King, of Kaysville, Utah, who placed ninth, concurred that the landscape can make or break a shooter in competition.

“Big open valleys are kind of nice because we sit on a knoll and wind travels like water, flows through, and the terrain can dictate the direction of the wind,” he said.

Members of Moffat County 4-H shooting sports teams were on hand throughout the weekend to provide concessions to competitors as a fundraiser for the local program’s upcoming trips to state shoots.

They weren’t the only locals at the site, with Ty Ott, Keith Carr and Wade Gerber among those shooting in their own backyard.

Gerber, a Moffat County 4-H shotgun coach, said he was convinced by an old Navy buddy to join the competition with high-caliber contestants.

“Hopefully they have some more of these out here, I’d love to see that,” Gerber said.