Old-timey Olympics

Shandaken Primitive Biathlon returns to Oliverea this Sunday

by Ann Hutton
January 13, 2011 12:25 PM | 0 0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Previous Biathlon winner in the overall 17-40 YEAR-old category Timothy Byron
Previous Biathlon winner in the overall 17-40 YEAR-old category Timothy Byron
Sharpen your knives and clean your muzzle-loaders! The 14th annual Shandaken Primitive Biathlon – second-oldest biathlon of its kind in the country – is scheduled for this Sunday, January 16 at the Upper Esopus Fish and Game Club in Oliverea. The competition opens with registration at 8 a.m., and the varied starts begin at 9:30 a.m.

Participants are encouraged to come dressed in primitive attire to really set the stage where target-shooting with black-powder muzzle-loaders, sharpshooting and tomahawk- and knife-throwing skills will be tested. Like a scene pulled right out of the 18th century, competence in shooting for both game-hunting and self-protection might mean the difference between surviving or perishing. With just a little imagination, Biathlon competitors can conjure up the dire necessity of displaying their aptitude and doing their best.

The mile-and-a-half course up and down Panther Mountain will be set with four shooting stations, where competitors will shoot at two targets of varying distances with a patched round ball and their percussion cap rifles. They have to move fast and aim accurately to come in with the best time for the grand prize. Only the most physically fit can even finish the course that requires running the distance, carrying their flintlocks and powder, stopping and loading (firearms must be carried unloaded between shooting stations), aiming and shooting along the way.

Some say that, of all the biathlons held in the Northeast, this one has the toughest terrain. And some diehards claim that these muzzle-loaders are more accurate than guns manufactured today. However the Shandaken event holds up next to others, local participants have some serious fun romping through the woods and showing off their talents.

In keeping with the Primitive theme, prizewinners can take home plaques and certificates, handmade quilts, crocheted blankets, camo blankets, canvas buckets and other overnight equipment and accoutrements to be awarded to the best shots. Tomahawk- and knife-throwing competitions will keep participants busy when not running the Biathlon with an entry fee of $2 for each; and a new division for folks who want to snowshoe the course and shoot without being timed will cost $10. Preregistration for the full Biathlon is $12, and registration on the day of the event is $17.

The Upper Esopus Fish and Game Club is located on Little Peck Hollow Road in Oliverea. For further information call Vincent Bernstein at (845) 688-5560 or Larry Hughson at (845) 331-5201, or visit This year’s Biathlon is dedicated to Don Searles, a longtime committee member and participant who passed on this year.

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