Ambush at Cavern Cove 2020

September 27, 2021

Before we had even put on Ambush at Cavern Cove2019, I was hard at work planning for the 2020 Alabama State Championship. Shootout at Cavern Cove was on my horizon and I still wasn't sure if I could pull off that first Regional.

In January, the range at Cavern Cove was sold. Cowboy Action Shooters Marshal TKD, Tullamore Dew, Scotch Before Noon and Sketchy Sue teamed up with another investor, Gary Dumas to purchase the facility. They immediately went to work making upgrades to the facilities in hopes of it being a like-new facility prior to Ambush, scheduled for April.

New electrical and water were run in the campground. New restroom and shower facilities built. Debris and brush were cleared away.

We were all in the throws of getting the match ready when....COVID.

With the legal and other mandates pressed upon us, that match was shelved with the planning to be pulled back out in 2021. Work, however, went towards planning for Ambush 2020, our second chance at hosting the Southeast Regional.

In 2019, the match incorporated several props. Match Director Marshal TKD liked using props, if for nothing more than a starting position. In some ways, it harkens back to matches from the beginning of Ambush's history. From a stage writer's perspective, it is a fun way to incorporate more starting positions than 'hands on hat' or 'SASS default.' With the uncertainty of transmission of COVID, any props were out in 2020.

That spring, several new faces dotted the NAR Board of directors with President–Buck D. Law, Vice President–Barkeep Casey, Secretary–Ironhead Smith, Treasurer–Drake Robey, Stage Marshal–Branchwater Jack, Range Marshal–Graywolf Tate, Awards Marshal–Toolman, and Territorial Governor–Reno Mustang leading the way.

Even with those changes, my basic recipe for the match was pretty much the same. You'll see that in the Shooter's Book. I was still tweaking bits here and there, but with the positive feedback from the 2019 match, I didn't want to take drastic changes over something that seemed to work. I started tweaking how they were written. After a year of running to try and figure out what I was supposed to do, I started to find my voice for writing stages.

At the last minute, our banquet facility cancelled out reservation. Luckily, we were able to come back from that one, too.

Even with all the commotion surrounding COVID, we were joined by just under 200 shooters.

And everyone comes for the awards. Three Gun Cole was the overall winner. Bucky Buckskin claimed the title of Southeast Regional Champion. Shamrock Sadie was the overall top cowgirl with Dodge City Dixie claiming the title of Southeast Regional Top Cowgirl honors.

There was something else that we added to the match as well. We took each state in the Southeast Region, grabbed their top 10 shooters, and added up their scores. The state with the lowest total time would be crowned as the fastest state in the best region in SASS. We shortened that up and simply now call Florida the Trail Drivers.

Honestly, it was an idea that I stole from somewhere else. It also reminded my of my years running cross country in high school and college. It was my hope that we could use that as a little rivalry and maybe even help boost attendance. While I don't know how much that one act has increased attendance, I can tell you that the number of Florida shooters signed up for the 2021 match far outpaces everyone else. And, in some cases, accumulates for more shooters than a couple other states combined!

So, to me, it looks like they are coming back with force to defend their title from 2020. Are you ready to step up to the plate to help your state claim the title of the 2021 Fastest State in the Best Region in SASS? If you haven't already, get your application in and we'll see you on The Firing Line.

Ambush at Cavern Cove 2019

September 20, 2021

Starting out as a small club annual match in 1997 and hosting it's first Alabama State Match a couple years later, Ambush 2019 was a coming of age story as Cavern Cove and The North Alabama Regulators played host to the Southeast Championship of Cowboy Action Shooting for the first time.

A lot had happened since the last year. For starters the match moved from the first weekend in September to the 4th weekend in October. It also moved from the traditional Friday-Sunday format to a Thursday-Saturday format.

But the change in championship level and dates would only be the start of what shooters would experience at Cavern Cove.

Several new faces dotted the herd leading The North Alabama Regulators with President–Marshal TKD, Vice President–Barkeep Casey, Territorial Governor–Buck D. Law, Range Marshal–Lickskillet Charlie, Awards Marshal–Toolman, Treasurer–Gray Wolf Tate, and Secretary–Drake Robey all lending their insight and years of experience to the match as it grew.

Just six months before the match, while the new Alabama State Championship, Shootout at Cavern Cove was going on, Stage Marshal Double Nickle decided that his cowboy shooting days were through and left The North Alabama Regulators without someone to lead the stage writing efforts.

Several folks on the board, lead by Territorial Governor Buck D. Law, came to me during the match wanting me to join their veteran crew on the board of directors.

While many folks might jump at the opportunity, I was very hesitant. While I had be a consummate professional helping my home club, the Wartrace Regulators, with their hosting of the Tennessee State Championship, I had never written and set steel for the first stage, let alone 10 stages that I thought would be 'good enough' to use at a regional championship match - in less than six months time.

When many folks read through shooter's book, they said that it sounded a lot like a match in Tennessee, and they were right. With only 6 months before the shoot, I didn't have time to find my voice as a stage writer, and I knew it. I didn't have time to try anything out, so I stuck with things that I knew worked. If imitation is the greatest form of flattery, the president and stage writer at Wartrace, Whiskey Hayes, should feel awful flattered. His influence on me and those ten stages should be pretty self evident, if you have shot at Wartrace in the past 10+ years. his influences stay with me today.

There were other changes to be seen around the range as well.

In my professional career, I tend to wait before making any major changes, especially because change can often be disruptive. However, I agreed to come aboard and write the stages for the match under a couple of conditions. These conditions were non-negotiable. I hated to do it that way, but I knew that they would be for the greater good, and I knew that I would not have enough time to talk about it later, or debate it in committee.

The first dealt with the shotgun targets at NAR. Starting around 2014, the club started investing in new shotgun targets. While the targets were a good addition the range, there was what you could call a flaw in their design. This flaw could, at times, prevent the plate from being knocked down. It at plagued me several times over the years. Several attempts were made over the years to fix it, but nothing seemed to work. Priority 1 for me was fixing those targets to get them to reset and fall reliably. I had a low tech idea that I thought would fix the problem. Graywolf Tate took my idea seed and found a way to make it a reality. So, we were able to go into that match knowing that shotgun targets were going to be the least of our worries.

The second was a construction project. We were able to reconfigure the Mercantile, Saloon, and Salon to add additional shooting locations on those stages. Previously, the shooting on those stages had been limited in option to pretty much Stand and Deliver.

The final was the one that I thought would be most controversial. Traditionally, at the jail, bars separated the right and left shooting positions. In order to move from the right to the left side, shooters had to turn 180 degrees, run uprange the 10 foot or so depth of the stage, go through the door, and then traverse back the 10 foot to where you were going to shoot. Trying to prevent a safety issue, your only options were to stage pistols or split your movement with long guns. In less than an hour, our work crew took out a couple screws, walked the bars out of the building, turned the setup around 180 degrees, walked the bars back into the building, and screwed it all back into place. It went so easily, I wondered why it had not been done before. We also opened up the right side shooting position and added a table there. This allowed for shorter folks and outlaws to safely engage targets from that location.

But folks usually don't care about the struggles of putting on the match. They want to know that they were going to have a good time. It was my hope that they did. That was my goal, at least.

Then the rain came.

I cannot tell you how bad I felt. All of us put so much work into that match, only to have our efforts dampened by mother nature. But, thankfully, nobody shot my cows!

218 cowboys and cowgirls joined us at the Cove that weekend, but it was Alabama's own Sidekick who lead the field and claimed overall and Regional Champion honors. Tennessee's Dodge City Dixie won overall cowgirl and Regional Champion cowgirl honors that night weekend.

As I sit here and type this out, it is hard for me to believe how far I have come, how far this match has come, and how much more we have continued to grow in such a short time. If you haven't yet, there is still time to sign up to shoot with us this year as we celebrate our 25th Annual Ambush at Cavern Cove. I really hope that you join us and give me a shout out on The Firing Line.

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