by Richard Froese
You could say Gary Couch of High Prairie has the fastest gun in the west.
He is actually the sharpest shooter in the country as the Canadian men’s high points champion with the Cowboy Mounted Shooters Association for 2015.
“It’s a huge adrenalin rush running your horse as fast as you can and shooting 10 targets,” says Couch, 50, who started in the sport in 2010 when he was inspired by a personal friend from Slave Lake.
“With 62 possible patterns to run, my fastest run is about 8.9 seconds.”
As a result of winning the men’s level 4 division, he qualifies for the world championships in Amarillo, Texas in October 2016 and given free entries to major competitions in Arizona, Las Vegas, South Dakota, and Mississippi.
Couch picked up plenty of championship buckles at the awards banquet Nov. 7 in Edmonton, including Canadian M4 high points, Canadian high points in rifle, Canadian high points in shotgun, and Canadian Overall Cowboy.
“I’ve done it before, but now it’s recognized more as a sport in Canada,” says Couch, manager of environmental services for the M.D. of Greenview based in Valleyview.
He also won top points for all competitive shooters in Alberta.
The Cowboy Mounted Shooters Association is growing and becoming the hot equestrian sport.
Mounted Shooters use two .45 caliber single-action revolvers loaded with five rounds each of special black powder blanks, a fast-action-timed event.
Mounted Shooting requires the riding of a horse to negotiate a shooting pattern where balloon targets are shot with black powder blank ammunition that is certified to break a target balloon within 20 feet.
“You have to cock the hammer each time,” Couch says.
“It’s pretty amazing to go out and shoot 10 targets and finish under 10 seconds.”
Now in his fifth year of competing, he has become well-rounded in his skill as he shoots to reach the top M6 class.
“It becomes more natural with practice and muscle movement,” Couch says.
“It almost becomes instinctual, you don’t have to think about it; and you use two guns and shoot.”
Moving up has been no small feat.
“You have to beat at least four other competitors in your class five times to move up a level,” Couch says.
He accumulated those points over a long season.
“It’s a combination of all shoots in Canada,” Couch says.
“I went to about 26-28 shoots.”
A typical event requires two single- action revolvers loaded with five blank-cartridges, with 10 targets arranged in a horseback riding arena.
When all 10 targets are shot, the rider returns across the timer line and the score is determined and recorded.
With that experience, and to help grow the sport, Couch has taught at clinics in the High Prairie and Slave Lake areas, with a passion for more.
Riding on his horse Jack, he has grown with ranching life in his blood.
The 22-year-old Grade Appendix has also lived a long life with trail riding, roping, team penning, gymkhana, grand entry and endurance events.