Ken Barnes and I have been hunting partners for nearly 40 years, chasing ducks, geese, doves and other game birds across Canada and the US. Now, I'm a fairly decent shot with a shotgun; not nearly as good as he is, you understand, but still good enough that the two of us don't often miss an easy set-up, in, say, a duck or goose blind.

We have a ton of fun shooting together, but, believe it or not, I can easily count the shots he's missed over the years on my 10 fingers. On the other hand, I would never try to document my misses. Let's just say I buy boxes of shells while he buys but one carton at a time. That's a high percentage of hits for him, folks, and one has to wonder how he got to be so good with a scatter-gun.

I used to jokingly accuse him of being the world's luckiest shot, but when one realizes what the man has done while shooting skeet professionally, that theory goes right out the window.

His resume of shooting reads like that of the hall of fame champion that he is, holding many world skeet shooting records. For instance, Barnes has: eight world championships; a still-standing 27 individual California state championships; 12-time Sports Afield All- American team selection, twice as captain; first shooter in history to break a perfect 400x400 at a single tournament; first shooter in history to carry a 99 percent all-around average for the year ... The list goes on.

Oh, and did I mention he did most of his incredible "damage" with tradition-defying pump guns, rather than semi-automatics or two barrel guns?

In 1972, Barnes was elected to the Bob Elias Kern County Sports Hall of Fame, and in 1979 the National Skeet Shooting Hall of Fame. Today through Sunday, Barnes joins shooters from as far away as New Jersey, Minnesota and Texas, along with a host of former world record holders and hopefuls, when his namesake's "Ken Barnes Open Skeet Championships" begins breaking clay targets at the Kern County Gun Club. Vying for recognition, money and other awards, the shooters will face off in one of the largest, most popular shoots in the United States.

The general public is invited to attend the event, beginning with the .12-gauge doubles this afternoon, .12- and 28-gauge events on Saturday and 20-gauge and .410-caliber shoots on Sunday. The Kern County Gun Club adjoins the Buena Vista Aquatic Recreation Area off of Enos Lane and Interstate 5.

Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation banquet and fundraiser

The "Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation" dinner banquet and fundraiser is Saturday evening at the Kern County Fairgrounds. With conservation, habitat development and wildlife recovery high on their list of accomplishments, the RMEF remains the single most important big game group in the nation. There are still a few tickets available, and since no tickets will be sold at the door, be sure to call Cindy Krug (661) 835-7065 as soon as possible. Doors open at 4:30 p.m.

The RMEF has already conserved more than 6,000,000 acres of prime and critical elk habitat across the U.S. and Canada. An incredible and unheard of 90 cents of every dollar earned by the foundation goes directly back to conserving and enhancing important elk and other wildlife habitat. Only 2 percent of the group's entire gross goes toward fundraising, and 8 percent toward administration. The rest goes directly to benefit not only elk populations, but all other wildlife.

Permanently protecting crucial elk wintering and summer ranges, migration corridors, calving grounds and other vital environmental areas, the RMEF goes 100 percent toward attaining these goals.

Games and raffles, a live and silent auction will highlight the action for exotic trips, international and domestic hunts, guns, outdoor-related artwork, hunting dogs, saddles, scopes and binoculars. The event also showcases for future generations youth prizes and games, where every youngster younger than will receive a quality prize.

Isabella Trout Derby approaching

Anticipating a huge turnout for the 24th annual Isabella Lake Trout Derby to be held April 20-22, the Kern River Valley Chamber of Commerce continues to feed over 12,000 trout weighing over a pound apiece at the pens located at the French Gulch marina, all ready to be stocked just prior to the event. An additional 989 tagged fish will be valued at $50-$1,000 each, with nine more worth $10,000 each. One special trout will be worth as high as $40,000. Over $250,000 in tagged fish will be released to supplement what's been called the world's largest trout derby.