- Associated Press - Saturday, December 9, 2017

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - The stampede came out of nowhere.

A whole herd of bison, headed toward a wagon train stopped to pick up supplies.

But the cowboys were ready.

Armed with pistols, rifles and shotguns, they moved with a marksman’s grace, dropping a few of the charging bison and scaring off the rest.

No, it’s not a scene out of a John Wayne movie. It’s another re-enacted scenario at the “Shootout at Salt Creek” at the Nebraska Game and Parks Department education center.

Old West enthusiasts from around Nebraska meet at the range on the first Sunday of the month from October to April to shoot historical weapons in a friendly marksmanship competition, the Lincoln Journal Star reported.

The nearly 20 men who recently showed up played the part of an Old West gunslinger well.

Only guns designed before the year 1900 are allowed - Colt single-action pistols, Winchester rifles, double-barreled shotguns.

No sneakers either - everyone has to wear cowboy boots to match their wide-brimmed hats.

“I played cowboy when I was a little kid and I’m still doing that,” said Lincoln resident Terry Lane Fitzgerald, who helps run the monthly competitions. “Only now I’m using real guns and real ammunition.”

Each of the shooters, who meet in the morning and stay until “high noon,” goes by an alias that reflects their real-life background.

There’s Platte Valley Kid, from Omaha, and Vino Maker, a winery owner from Raymond. Fitzgerald’s alias was a little easier to select - his mother named him Terry Lane after a Texas ranger from a Zane Grey novel.

“Many say it’s in an effort to avoid the authorities,” joked Fitzgerald about the aliases.

Glen Bredthauer, who goes by Mesquite Ranger, comes in from Hastings for the monthly shootouts.

“We all grew up watching cowboys in the movies and on TV,” Bredthauer said. “They were our heroes … it brings everyone together.”

Cowboy action shooting is one the fastest-growing shooting competitions in the world, according to Fitzgerald. In the United States, there are nearly 130,000 participants who meet at local clubs to shoot.

Players score points for how well they perform in the shooting scenarios, but the competition is usually just for bragging rights.

However, there are serious cowboy action shooting competitions on the regional, national and even worldwide level.

During the summer, participants in Nebraska will also meet at places around the state to shoot Old West guns.

But in the cold winter months, they drive to Lincoln to share their passion and stay in touch with the friends they’ve made.

“It’s all about the fun and camaraderie in the end,” said Bredthauer.

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Information from: Daily Nebraskan, http://www.dailyneb.com

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