Born 100 years too late: Mountain Men relive history

On the first Saturday of each month, a small group of black powder enthusiasts gathers near Delta to practice shooting skills. The Montrose Mountain Men—a close-knit group whose mission is to enjoy shooting the way it was during the fur trapping era of the 1800s—includes participants from Delta, Olathe, Grand Junction, Glade Park, Cedaredge and Fruita.

Harry Percival has been a member for more than 25 years, and was attracted to the group because of his unique hunting style.

“I always hunted using a muzzleloader, and it’s a nice opportunity to shoot on a regular basis with others who enjoy it,” he said.

When Percival joined, three active groups in Paonia, Montrose and Grand Junction had similar interests.

“There were over 50 members in our group alone,” he said.

Over the years, two of the groups folded. Only the Montrose group remains active.

Mountain Men President Jon Day has been a member of the group for more than 20 years.

Learning to shoot

Jon Day, president of the Mountain Men, and his wife, Jennie, have been members for more than 20 years.

“We used to have the members to put on our own rendezvous, but people retire and move away or die. Or find other things to do on a Saturday,” Jon said.

Nevertheless, the regulars who have stuck around find the monthly shoots to be non-competitive, fun,
social events.

“We welcome new participants—experienced or not—because this is the place to get all the advice in the world that someone would want,” said Jon. “We can help others learn.”

It’s also an opportunity for hunters to break out their guns, make sure they’re in good working order, and get in some shooting practice prior to hunting season.

First Saturday gatherings of the Montrose Mountain Men provide shooting practice using muzzleloader rifles and pistols. Every other month, the group adds knife and tomahawk throwing. Members meet at a rural property near Delta, and hone shooting skills by rotating through a diverse, challenging set of targets.

“We always shoot in the mornings to avoid the hot weather in the summer, and end the day with a picnic under the trees,” Percival said.

The organization is family-oriented—as youngsters come of age, they learn to respect firearms and use them safely. Jon recalled that Jennie went to every shoot when she was expecting their daughter. Once she was born and old enough to hold a gun, she learned to shoot.

“There is nothing negative about this hobby,” he said. “Kids learn discipline, marksmanship and a lot about history.”

The Days’ daughter is still a club member—as is her husband.

Harry and Maude Percival and Sally Lippoldt at the Jim Harmon Memorial Black Powder Shoot in Meeker.


Each fall, the Mountain Men host a special, rendezvous-like event. Participants dress in period clothing—a fun, historical aspect of the gathering.

“You can’t just go to the market and get what you need,” Jon said. “You have to fabricate the clothing you wear. There’s a pride in creating your own, and that’s as period perfect as it can get.”

After the shoot, the group enjoys a potluck that often features Dutch oven cooking.

“You don’t have to dress up or even own a muzzleloader to join. We even have guns we can loan to people… who want to learn to shoot,” Jon said.

Jennie is the group’s resident historian, having served as curator of the Uncompahgre Interpretive Center for several years. She enjoys sharing her knowledge of geology, indigenous populations, fur trapping and frontier history. She plays a key role in the group. The history is an important part of the whole experience, said Jon.

“Lots of young men came west to make their fortune in the fur trade; some made it and some didn’t. Many found it was a lifestyle they couldn’t give up,” he said. “By participating in these experiences, you get an idea of the amazing struggles our forefathers went through to get to where we are today—to improve America.”

Shooters who really want to experience a little frontier life attend annual regional mountain man gatherings. Last summer, Percival and his wife attended the Rocky Mountain National Rendezvous near Montpelier, Idaho.

“Usually, you’ll find between 200 and 300 camps,” he said. “The camp lasts over several days, and pilgrims are allowed to come the first weekend to see how things are set up, then the rest of the time, the camp has to exist as a period camp.”

This particular rendezvous moves every year. In 2018, it will be held near Creede. The following year, it will be held between Montrose and Gunnison. You can bet the Montrose Mountain Men will be there.

Interested in muzzleloading and mountain men?

The Montrose Mountain Men’s monthly shoots are held in Delta, the first Saturday of the month. For more information, contact Jon Day at 856-6329.

Area muzzleloading events

Fort Bridger Rendezvous
Fort Bridger, Wyoming
Labor Day weekend

Fort Buenaventura Easter Rendezvous
Ogden, Utah
Easter weekend

Rocky Mountain National Rendezvous
Various locations
Early July

Jim Harmon Memorial Black Powder Shoot
Meeker, Colorado

Diana Barnett

Diana Barnett

A former educator, Diana Barnett recently retired from Colorado Mesa University, runs a career consulting business and published a career guide for college students. Her writing career began as a stringer for the Western News in Libby, Montana, where she once interviewed John McIntire and Jeanette Nolan of Wagon Train fame. As a fairly recent transplant to the Grand Valley, she enjoys meeting new people and sharing their stories. She and her artist-husband, Brad, live at Little Park Ranch with their Great Pyrenees, Lucy, and three cats. She enjoys playing with her four grandsons, cross-country skiing, hiking, gardening and reading.
Diana Barnett

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