Blackie Sleeva’s unique walkthrough “hunting competition” took place in September at the YO Ranch in the beautiful hill country of Texas. Sleeva is a past champion of the Buck Masters competition, another hunting oriented match, who conceived the idea of a Handgun Hunters International (HHI) competition.
The match consists of a 150 yard “woods walk” to find and shoot animal targets scattered anywhere from 25 to 165 yards away. The hunter can take no more than two steps from the trail and may utilize any safe shooting position, including natural rests. Only one shot per target is allowed, and Blackie accompanies each hunter to observe and score.
Sound simple? There are 62 total targets available to the shooter and a time limit of 30 minutes in which to take them all. Targets include black metal silhouettes that must be knocked over to score one point, realistic animal targets that must be hit in the kill zone to score three points, and a running deer worth six points if hit in the kill zone or three points if hit anywhere else. It seemed appropriate to introduce a touch of the Mad Hatter by including two white rabbits with the 60 other animals.
Absolutely no one located all 62 targets, and all targets were visible from somewhere on the trail. In some cases, one animal was located behind another, so if you failed to see the first animal, or missed your shot, you never got a chance at the second hidden critter.
I don’t consider myself a neophyte in the woods, but I never saw 19 of the targets, and many of those were the higher value animals with three point kill zones. I was pleased with my shooting on the 43 I did find, but good shooting wasn’t enough to put me anywhere near contention. Two of the metal targets I hit failed to fall despite well placed hits from a .357 Magnum. Other shooters lost targets that turned, but failed to hit the ground.
It was an incredibly challenging course, while being one of the most fun matches in which I’ve ever participated.
Randy Smith of Pennsylvania won the match. Everyone who shot the course had a great time. My advice to would-be competitors is to bring your Visa card and leave your ego at home.
Pulling off an affair like the HHI gathering takes considerable resources and a tremendous amount of work, made possible by the incredible efforts of the Sleeva family. Blackie had all the targets built in Ohio and personally transported them to Texas in a rental truck arriving several days before the participants. He and his entire family worked on site for a full week, installing targets, taking every competitor through the course, and finally tearing everything down for storage.
Blackie and his wife Rosetta didn’t get a chance to hunt until the Sunday everyone else was leaving. When I asked him why he busted his chops like this, he just quietly mumbled a few words about giving something back to a great sport like handgunning.
For info on the ’98 HHI hunt and match, you can reach Blackie Sleeva at (614) 968-4263 after 6:00 p.m. His address is 71501 Orchard Road. Flashing, OH 43977. But don’t let any grass grow before contacting him. There’s a limit as to how many can be accommodated at the YO, and it doesn’t look like any previous participants plan to drop out. Certainly not me!
Published: American Handgunner – March/April 1998