Precision rifle shooters head to Craig for Colorado’s largest competition
Growing up, Robert Quigley, had a family tradition with his dad and brother that involved traveling to the Eastern Plains of Colorado for a weekend long-range precision rifle shooting tournament. After the tournament was moved to the state of Washington, Quigley, who lives in Hayden, saw an opportunity.
“After that match moved out of state there wasn’t much in Colorado,” he said. “So I started one here and it is now one of the biggest in the state.”
As the match director, Quigley will oversee around 110 precision rifle marksmen and women in the high desert of Moffat County for the fourth-annual High Country Precision Mile High Shootout Friday through Sunday. The event is taking place on Rodney Culverwell’s RioRoMo property west of Lay.
During the match, sharpshooters will move through 22 positions and aim at 150 targets ranging from 200 yards to 1,500 yards. Competitors are coming to Moffat County from all over the country.
“It makes for a pretty good weekend for the hotels and restaurants,” Quigley said. “We will probably have around 200 people coming to the area.”
One other benefit to the local economy is that the event’s surroundings catch the attention of the competitors who like to hunt.
“We’ve pointed quite a few of these guys to outfitters who sell them hunts,” Quigley said. “There is a tendency to get people traveling back here outside of the competition.”
One traveler is Travis Ishida, the president and founder of the National Rifle League, which sanctions the match as a part of its season. Ishida drove out from the NRL headquarters in California to attend.
“We love the Craig and Moffat County area because of the challenges it presents and the people,” he said. “Robert always does a great job directing the event.”
The Craig Search and Rescue team will also benefit from the weekend by having a concession stand at the event, with proceeds going to the team.
Quigley said he has heard from competitors that the wind creates unique challenges for the shooters, and that they like the challenge.
Due to COVID-19 the RFL has had three matches cancelled and two others moved to a later date. Quigley said he was a little nervous in May that the match might get cancelled.
“I submitted a mitigation plan and had to wait it out,” he said. “I felt pretty confident about our chances because look around, this is the definition of social distancing.”
Ishida said that through the weekend they will be encouraging social distancing and “people to be responsible adults.”
During the competition small teams of up to six members will spread out through the course “like a golf’s shotgun start,” Quigley said. The teams will be made up of people from all walks of life.
“We have active duty military as well as retired military, professional precision shooters and law enforcement who come,” he said. ‘But some of our top competitors are a doctor and a dentist.”
The equipment will also vary. Quigley said that anybody with a rifle could compete but the sponsored competitors often have $10,000 to $15,000 in their weapon.
While the event is booked to capacity, Quigley said that it is open to spectators. The shooting starts bright and early at 7:30 a.m. on both days. If one was thinking to come out, Quigley offered them one piece of advice.
“Don’t climb over or open a locked fence,” he said. “If you do that, you could be walking right into a live shooting range. Look for opened fences and you’ll probably find us.”
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