Colorado Shaketails Cowboy Action Shooting

The Oldest Cowboy Action Shooting Society in the Colorado Territory

SASS Single Action Shooting Society

The Shaketails play an important role in the history of cowboy action shooting in the Colorado Territory.  Here is a brief history of how it all began.
By David Steele A.K.A. Shootin Hoosier SAS #64296 Life

In the Beginning

In 1989 Bill Blattler (March 21, 1943 - March 19, 2011)  began holding impromptu cowboy matches at the Ben Lomond Gun Club which was located on land leased from the town of Palmer Lake. As these impromptu matches gained attention and interest, the Board of Directors of the Ben Lomond Gun Club took notice and decided to encourage this new shooting sport on the range. Bill recalled that it came as a surprise to him when at the very end of a board of directors meeting a motion was made and quickly passed to make cowboy action shooting a discipline at Ben Lomond and to name Bill as the match director. The meeting was immediately adjourned and before he realized what had happened Bill found himself heading up a new cowboy action shooting discipline at the club.



Shaketails In The Early Days At Palmer Lake

Cathouse Bill


Whatís in a Name?

Bill needed an alias. At the time he and his wife Jan lived on the plains east of Colorado Springs.  A mountain lion became a regular visitor to their home, often sleeping on the roof and picking its claws on the window screens. Jan was not entirely comfortable with their frequent visitor but Bill would often take walks along the road with the mountain lion following behind him. Bill gained local notoriety as he was regularly seen walking with the big cat trailing behind. Since his home was such a frequent place for the big cat to visit and snooze, it became the cathouse and so Bill had an alias Ė Cathouse Bill (SASS #405). His wife Jan, always at his side helping to organize things, adopted an alias appropriate to living in a cathouse - Dirty Dove.   

Since the cowboy group was now a formal entity, a name had to be chosen. Cathouse Bill enjoyed reading the Saturday Evening Post, a venerable publication with roots that can be traced back to well before the cowboy era. The Saturday Evening Post often featured stories as an installment of a serial appearing in successive issues. Cathouse Bill recalled reading one such story that referred to rattlesnakes as shaketails and so the idea for the groupís name and mascot were born.

An Early Rough Spot

The Shaketails did not get to spend much time at the Palmer Lake range. By late 1990 anti-gunners had convinced the town council to not renew the lease so a new range had to be secured.  In 1991 the Ben Lomond Gun Club purchased a 560 acre ranch north of Ramah. Bill, now a lifetime member of Ben Lomond, played a role in closing the deal on the new ranch. Cathouse Bill recalled that a Shaketails shoot was the last event held at the Palmer Lake range before it was closed and the first event to be held at the new range after closing the deal for the purchase of the ranch.

As a result of the need to relocate, money was tight and slow in getting approved for funding the new discipline. Consequently Cathouse Billís commitment to the sport went beyond his time to include his money as he found it necessary to supply the targets. Many of those targets were still in use decades later.

A Shoot At Palmer Lake

Ranch House At Ramah Before The Shaketails Fixed It Up

The Shoots

The Shaketails have always been a hardy bunch, holding shoots year-round in all but an active snow storm.  Cathouse Bill recalled one January shoot when a group of them joined the "20 Below Club."

Under Cathouse Billís stewardship, the Shaketails matches gained a reputation as being unique. Cathouse Bill liked to make the stages challenging. Targets tended to be a little farther and a little smaller. Stages frequently had storylines that required a stopwatch to time because part of the action would occur after the last shot. He also enjoyed throwing in complex sequences to cause some confusion, what Cathouse Bill jokingly refered to as FTUís (translation left up to the reader). He was also proud of the fact that a big part of that reputation was that safety was always first and that there was an openness to help new shooters to the sport.      


The Sport Grows

It did not take long for cowboy action shooting to catch fire and become the fastest growing shooting sport in the world. The Shaketails certainly benefited from this enthusiasm for playing cowboy. Shooters from around the state participated in Shaketails shoots. Several other clubs were started by shooters that got their initiation and training for the sport from the Shaketails.

The Legacy Lives On

The Colorado Shaketails, the oldest cowboy action shooting society in the Colorado Territory, has moved on to Frontier Sportsmanís Club and has evolved over the years but much has carried forward. The match director still delights in making the stages a bit more challenging and the tradition of safety first and open arms welcoming new shooters remains.

First Saloon At Ranch

Shaketails After Moving To Ranch Near Ramah

Shaketail City

First Shaketail City Jail At Ranch

Shaketail Graveyard

Building The New Shaketail City