In the six years since Ray Taylor has been an on-air personality at K-HAY, Ventura County's largest country radio station, he's emceed concerts and outdoor celebrations, escorted contest winners in limos, survived monster-truck car-crushing demos and supported charitable events, including the station's annual Toys for Tots campaign.
And on weekdays he and sidekick Charlye Parker, along with newsman Doug Drigot and sportscaster Barry Turnbull, energize the early morning drive-time crowd with their jokes and quips. But Taylor is one deejay who can shoot off more than a clever retort.
Taylor is a crack marksman and a National Muzzle Loading Rifle Assn. national champion. So when he's not behind a microphone, chances are you will find him at the Ventura Shooting Range practicing for the 23rd annual Sespe Rendezvous, Oct. 12-16, sponsored by the Ojai Valley Gun Club at its Rose Valley range in the Los Padres National Forest.
This family oriented camping event celebrates the pre-1840 fur trade era and attracts more than 500 day visitors and another 500 campers and participants. It's a great hands-on living and learning experience for children because fans of authentic and re-created black-powder weapons also usually make their own costumes and accouterments.
No modern firearms are allowed in the area. People who shoot muzzleloaders are interested in the costume and culture of America from the French and Indian War to the close of the Civil War--not in brute firepower. And they shoot at paper targets, not animals.
"There's an old saying (on loading a muzzleloader)," said Taylor. " 'First the powder, then the ball, or the damn thing won't go at all.' "
He should know. Ever since friends in Arkansas triggered his interest 17 years ago, Taylor has been "building and shooting guns."
"I love the hands-on doing it--taking a piece of wood and turning it into a relief and carved gun stock with inlays. It's very satisfying and I do it in the old traditional way with just hand tools," he said.
The rifle he shoots is the first one that he built from scratch. He named it "Old Ten-Spitter" after the highest point value on the targets in national competition.
"It's won me two state championships (Arkansas and New Mexico) and a national title in February. I also finished second in the traditional offhand championships," said Taylor.
"Offhand" means standing with no support other than your body, explained Taylor. You can't use artificial rests.
Whether you want to compete, eat, dance or just laze about--there's something for everyone at the rendezvous.
Campers can check in on a first-come, first-served basis (no reservations taken) between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Oct. 12-15. The event continues through Oct. 16.
The Oct. 15 event starts at 8 a.m. with the popular pancake breakfast ($3). Then comes target-shooting competitions using flintlock and percussion rifles, pistols, revolvers and even cannons. At 1 p.m., look for the period dress contests in categories for men, women and children. But even spectators are encouraged to arrive in primitive attire.
Folks will also enjoy the traders' row--more than 45 booths and displays featuring unusual crafts, clothing and supplies from the era and demonstrations of handicrafts, bead work, spinning and scrimshaw.
The day ends with a barbecue at 6 p.m. and dancing to the Blue Tigers country-Western band from 7:30 p.m. to midnight. But the number of dinner tickets is limited--and at $6 they sell out fast.
* WHAT: 23rd annual Sespe Rendezvous.
* WHERE: Ojai Valley Gun Club, Rose Valley off California 33.
* WHEN: Oct. 12-16.
* COST: No charge for non-camping, non-participating day spectators; shooter's fees include camping cost: $20 per adult, $5 per junior-- age 15 and younger; camping cost for non-participants is $20 per tent or recreational vehicle.
* CALL: 485-8917 or 647-1976.
* GETTING THERE: From the Ventura Freeway, take California 33 north to the California 150 intersection near Ojai. Continue north on State 33, proceed about 14 miles to Rose Valley. Turn right on Rose Valley Road. Go four miles to lake and sheriff's work camp on left. Farther down the road, enter Ojai Valley Gun Club gate on left. Camping and event areas are marked.