The hills of Whites Valley, Utah were alive with the sound of large caliber rifles taking aim at over 30 life size silhouette's of big game targets this past Saturday, as competitors from across the region competed in the first ever Vortex Extreme Invitational. Unlike a traditional game of Rifle Golf where shooters travel from station to station riding in Polaris Ranger Crew, for this "extreme" event, the only form of transportation were your feet, and the iron will to hike the grueling 6.5 miles trail.
Vortex Optics, a Wisconsin based optic manufacture sponsored the tournament. "We were looking for an event that pushed the limits of the shooters, we liked what Spirit Ridge offered. The trail was rugged, the targets were incredibly challenging, all in all it made for a great event,” said Paul Kendall spokesman for Vortex Optics.
The Vortex Extreme challenged both endurance and accuracy of the teams. The teams consisted of two teammates. The first leg of the race was a stretch up the Hogs Back, a steep and rocky 2.5 mile hike to the top summit of the mountain. From there the teams picked up the pace to the first shooting station where they had to find the targets, range the targets, steady the aim and fire. A hit on the first shot earned the marksmen an eagle, second shot birdie, fail to hit the shot and you would earn a heavy double bogie. Shooters had the option to play the hole safe by taking a safe par shot which a closer target.
The night before the event Vortex hosted a reception dinner at the Hampton Inn, located in Tremonton Utah. Participants were given a chance to mix and mingle, eat, and develop a game plan. Once morning arrived the gun golfers rose bright and early to begin their hike across Whites Valley.
There were plenty of pre tournament jitters. Starting at the bottom of the mountain, teams waited for the competition to begin by warming up their muscles through stretches and jumping jacks. A shot heard round the mountain began the race. Teams made their way to the beginning station without the help of motorized utilities continuing across the mountain from station to station; a 6.5 mile hike from top to bottom.
Don and Dave, team Wilderness Athlete, flew in from Arizona to participate in the event. After completing the course they commented on the challenge of the hike, "Endurance wise we felt strong, but training at 1,500 feet is a lot different than hiking at 6,000, we were sucking air."
Stations consisted of two holes with hard, easy, and unique shots. Both members of the team were required to shoot either hard or easy shots without prior knowledge of a set distance. They had to determine this distance for themselves.
Along with the required shot each member had to shoot the unique shot in a standing, sitting, or kneeling position depending on which station they were at.
Teams were also given a choice as to whether they wanted to participate in a bonus shot. The bonus shot came in the form of a bell, provided and sponsored by Tremonton local artist, Doug Adams, that when hit, could be heard across the valley. If hit teams would have three points deducted from their final score, but if missed an additional three points were added.
Kevin Orton commented on the difficulty of the course, "It’s a tough course with some tough shots; I saw some of the best riflemen out here miss shots I thought for sure they would hit."
The event tested abilities of participants, not only did they have to hike and hold a steady aim, at each station they were challenged to assemble gear and take down targets in under 12 minutes providing a lifelike hunting experience.
After completing the course Brandon Barney, Outdoor Outfitted said, "It was a humbling experience. It's nothing I've ever done before and was an incredible set up. It’s something I’ll definitely train a little harder for next year."
As teams started to cross the finish line each had a story to tell. All were in awe of the realistic experience even after having heard what Spirit Ridge is all about.
Mark Boardman from Vortex said, “we are blown away, it exceeded any expectations we had."
From beginning to end, marksmen held strong. After 6 miles and 7 hours in the sun they were asking for more. They wanted to shoot another round of rifle golf, which Spirit Ridge was happy to provide.
Vortex Extreme Invitational Scores:
First Place: Wasatch Arms
300 Remington ultra mag
7 mm Remington short mag
Second Place: G7
7 M Remington mag
Third Place: Christensen Arms #2
- Cross Canyon Arms- Time: 135 min, Score: 94
- Sargent Sniper- Time: 109 min, Score: 83
- Double Tap 1- Time: 107 min, Score: 103
- Christensen's Arms 2: Time: 79 min, Score: 62
- Mark #1 (single)- Time: 86 min, Score: 37
- Outdoor Outfitted- Time: 100 min, Score: 77
- Vortex #2- Time: 143 min, Score: 81
- Double Tap 2- Time: 95 min, Score: 71
- Wilderness Athlete- Time: 97 min, Score: 70
- Mark #2- Time: 115 min, Score: 83
- Sportsman's News- Time: 117 min, Score: 88
- Spirit Ridge Rifle Golf- Time: 117 min, Score: 81
- Wasatch Arms- Time: 99 min, Score: 39
- Impulse Targets- Time: 80 min, Score: 71
- Christensen's Arms #1- Time: 65 min, Score: 68
- Vortex #1- Time: 87 min, Score: 78
- Times up- Time: 100 min, Score: 82
- G7- Time: 68 min, Score: 55