Shooters from across the country attend Side-by-Side Classic
A one-of-a-kind event for this part of the United States, the Great Northern Side-by-Side Classic, returned to the MRC Sportsman’s Club grounds this past weekend for its eighth annual gettogether.
Side-by-side shotgun enthusiasts from all across America made their way to the Medford area for their first large event of the year. According to organizer Mark Beasland of Mosinee, about 90 shooters were registered for the competition part of the weekend. That’s down from the usual maximum of 120 but he also considered it a pretty good turnout considering the unusual circumstances the country is facing this year with the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s a great event,” said Beasland, owner of Mark’s Born Again Birdguns, which specializes in the buying and selling of side-by-sides. “It’s the biggest one of its kind within 1,000 miles.”
In a typical year, similar events are also held mainly along the east coast, usually earlier in the year. But due to the pandemic, those were canceled. That made this weekend’s event a must for some side-by-side enthusiasts.
“We have shooters here from all over the country,” Beasland said. “Shooters come from Texas, Washington state, the East Coast. It’s more about the getting together than it is about the competition. We do keep score, but here, it’s more about our passion for side-by-sides, more about the social getting together. It’s about sharing hunting stories, sharing gun stories. Everyone has them.”
Beasland said another neat aspect of the weekend is that it involves people “from all walks of life.” Shooters vary from farmers to retired doctors and businessmen, staying in anything from popup campers to loaded RVs. But virtually all of them are bonded by their appreciation for side-by-sides, which are most often painstakingly hand built.
“These are guys that have a tendency to want to do things right, do them classicly.” Beasland said. “It’s not about the numbers.”
The MRC Sportsman Club began hosting the event in 2013, replacing the U.P. Side-by-Side Classic, which had been hosted for 12 years by the Sagola Township Sportsmen’s Club near Iron Mountain, Mich. The MRC Sportsman’s Club teams up with MEC Outdoors (Mayville Engineering Club) in hosting the Great Northern Side-by-Side Classic.
“Their club began aging out,” Beasland said of Michigan club. “It got to be more work and more responsibility and there were fewer people who could do it.”
When the first one was hosted by the MRC Sportsman’s Club at its 80-acre site located behind the Chelsea Conservation Club in 2013, the group had just over two months to prepare and pulled it off nicely. Beasland said he’s been thrilled to bring it back every year since.
“They decided to go for it and they hit the ground running,” he said. “They’ve done a fantastic job holding it. If we come up with an idea for something new they make it work. They do a really good job.”
The main competition event featured sporting clays and a hunters challenge, where shooters tried to hit two clays coming from varying directions from different positions.
“It provides a lot of different presentations,” Beasland said.
There was a traditional 25-target five stand, a grouse stand, a mallard stand and the unique super pigeon ring, where shooters received one point for hitting the clay and a second point for dropping a clay with a ribbon stuck in it inside a marked-off ring area. Additional prizes went to shooters who dropped that ribbon inside one of two kids swimming pools set up inside the ring.
Open shooting times outside the main event were also available to interested shooters. A few of the weekend participants even brought rare 8-gauge shotguns and had a little competition of their own on Friday.
“As far as we know, we’re the only ones who do that, so we call it the 8-gauge world championship,” Beasland said.
For those more interested in shopping than shooting, the vendor area featured side-by-sides and other guns ranging in prices from a few hundred to several thousand dollars.