Rodeo Cowboys Shoot for the Stars at Canby Gun Club

The Clackamas County Fair and Canby Rodeo weren’t the only local annual events that came back with a bang this year.

The related, but much lesser-known, Cowboy Shoot returned to the Canby Rod and Gun Club Wednesday morning, pairing rodeo cowboys, stock contractors and other folks from the Canby Rodeo crew with club members for a friendly trapshooting competition that raises money for a local scholarship fund.

The Canby tradition, which celebrated its 10th year this week, appears to be a unique one on the national Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) circuit.

Photo courtesy Jackie Paolo.

“I rodeoed professionally myself for a number of years, and we were always doing golf tournaments, tennis tournaments, things like that,” explains longtime Canby Rodeo board member A.J. Swaim, who organizes the Cowboy Shoot with his wife, Deve. “They just took forever.

“When I retired, we were trying to find things to do for our annual scholarship fundraiser, and we had the idea of a trap shoot. For the cowboys, it’s a fun and entertaining day — something different than the daily grind — and for the members, it’s a chance to meet and participate with the rodeo industry.”

The event pairs 24 local members, who pay the $175 entrance fee, with an equal number from the Canby Rodeo orbit, including names most folks would recognize, from announcer Wayne Brooks and Keith Marrington, stock contractor for the famous Calgary Stampede Ranch, to the rodeo queen and court and rodeo clown J.J. Harrison.

Rodeo clown J.J. Harrison, far right, hams it up for the camera. Photo courtesy Jackie Paolo.

“He’s actually getting pretty good,” Swaim admits of Harrison, who has been a mainstay of the Canby Rodeo for years. “He gets better every year.”

While a competitive trap shoot, much like a golf tournament, normally demands silence from onlookers to allow for maximum concentration — those rules do not apply at the Cowboy Shoot.

“It’s cowboy rules,” Swaim says with a laugh. “No whining, no complaining — but you can talk and heckle all you want.”

Photo courtesy Jackie Paolo.

This year’s shoot offered more than the usual double-barreled excitement, ending in a thrilling shoot-off between the two top-performing teams, with rodeo pickup man Mitch Coleman, of Coleman Ranch in Molalla, and local nurseryman Lloyd Russell being named the winning duo.

The shoot is the Canby Rodeo Association’s largest fundraiser for the scholarship fund, which offers college and vocational scholarships of up to $2,500 to worthy local students, typically raising between $6,000 and $7,000, Swaim says.

The Canby Rod and Gun Club donates the birds, shells and the use of its facilities, while Canby Builders Supply provides lunch.

Photo courtesy Jackie Paolo.

And the event has become so popular with professional cowboys on the circuit that Swaim says other rodeos have called him to ask about how they might start something similar in their communities.

“It’s a fun afternoon, and it’s good for the community of Canby,” Swaim says. “The gun club loves doing it. Some folks even wanted to do it last year, without the cowboys, but that just wouldn’t have been the same.”

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