Thursday, July 30, 2015

Skeet shooter recalls his glory days at local club

When it came to sharpshooting around these parts in the early 1960s, nobody was sharper than Lee Ulch.
The 94-year-old former International Falls resident became a legend of the local skeet shooting community during that time after winning four-straight titles hosted by the Fort Frances Sportsmen’s Club at its Frog Creek range.

It wasn’t just the number of titles that solidified Ulch’s greatness, though. It was the practically flawless manner in which he exerted his dominance.
“It was a nice bunch of guys and a nice place to shoot,” recalled Ulch, who now makes his home in Gladbrook, Iowa.
“It’s a great sport,” he added. “You’ve got to be awake when you’re doing it, that’s for sure.”
Ulch had never tried skeet shooting before he came to work at the Boise paper mill in the Falls in the late 1950s.
He was invited by friend and club member Roy Sapp to come out and try his hand at the sport.
“I didn’t have much spare time but I really got my start at the club tournament in 1959,” Ulch remembered.
“I asked my foreman at the mill to left me off for one-and-a-half hours to go and shoot.
“He told me just to not forget to punch out and punch back in.”
But it was the rest of the field who felt like they got punched in the gut after Ulch went out and nailed 23 out of 25 targets to win the event.
“I was surprised when they said I won,” admitted Ulch. “I didn’t think I had done very good.”
Ulch returned the following year and proved his victory was no fluke—proceeding to go perfect in all 25 shots to capture his second-straight crown.
The degree of difficulty increased in 1961, when shooters were asked for the first time to make 50 shot attempts.
Ulch didn’t even blink—nailing all 50 targets to make it a three-peat.
In fact, he enjoyed that experience so much, he didn’t want the day to end.
“There was enough light so I asked if I could shoot another 25 just for fun,” he said.
“And I got another 25 in a row, 75 straight for the day.”
The next year, Ulch claimed he was told if he won for a fourth time, he could keep the club trophy that displayed the tournament winners’ names.
The sniper from south of the border did his part as he was perfect once again to keep his stranglehold on the trophy—until it became time to collect his hardware.
“I was told they wanted to keep the trophy to put on display in the local sporting goods store for Dominion Day celebrations and then they would send it to me after,” recalled Ulch.
“A couple of days later, I got a call saying someone had broken into the store and took off with the trophy.
“They said they would get it back for me, but it never showed up,” he added.
Years after, Ulch said he discovered the real story.
“Apparently, Hiram Walker Brewery from Winnipeg, which originally donated the trophy, did so with the mandate that the trophy must never leave Canadian soil,” Ulch explained.
“There’s no hard feelings from me as far as that goes.”
Ulch made his own firearms for decades, only stopping four years ago when he turned 90.
He reportedly has built 65 muzzle-loading rifles and seven pistols, most of which he sold to interested buyers.
But there’s one weapon that won’t be leaving his possession anytime soon.
“I still have the Remington Model 31 pump 12-gauge that I used during my competitions up there,” Ulch said.
“That will always be my favourite gun.”
The Fort Frances Sportsmen’s Club still holds weekly shooting nights each Tuesday starting at 5 p.m. at the Frog Creek range.
All veteran and new shooters are welcome.

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