A brief, early skeet history in Fort Frances

By Ted Brockie
Special to the Times

In 1958, Fort Frances Sportsmen’s Club erected two bare bones wooden skeet houses to specs with now antique throwers that had to be cocked by a person within each house. Hiram Walker Distillery donated a trophy with the year’s Labour Day Shoot-off winner having the honour of a plaque and getting to keep the trophy for bragging rights, until the next shoot-off.

John Miller, a CO with the then “Land and Forests” was the winner in ’58, followed by plumbing contractor Les Busby, my next door neighbour, in 1959. He ultimately let my father and me try a round with his gun and shells. In those days, a significant crowd gathered, including the Fort Frances Times with photos and write-up the following day. This was pre-causeway, so locals had few boats and cabins, so watching skeet was an OK Tuesday evening entertainment. We had great support from International Falls shooters; many were crack shots.

Preceding top shooters like R.J. (Bob) Kennedy, Les Noonan, Kerry Flinders, Don Murray, etc, we had some top drawer skeet shooters in the 60’s.

Lee Ulch if International Falls won the skeet championship four times. His supervisor would let him punch out for an hour or two. He’d hurry over the bridge, and usually beat us, before hurrying back to punch in! One night he broke 25/25 and got a congratulatory letter from Canadian Industries Limited. The letter is currently on display in the clubhouse.

Perfect scores were rare, and a local hardware store owned by Dick Leatherdale donated a free box of C.I.L. shells to a perfect shooter the next day. While I did win three times in the 1960’s, I never got a 25. But, another American, Ray Sapp, did get both 25s and won the top honour several times.

As the international flavour and competition heightened, a Labour Day Shoot-off evolved, with shooting trap stateside, and returning to Canada to finish off on skeet, although this developed after “the old days.”

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