Inaugural cooking competition aims to bring hunting community together

Curtis Praud smokes a whole pig for the Northern Elite Firearms Pitmaster Smoking Competition on Sept. 21, 2019. (Jayda Noyes/Daily Herald)

Northern Elite Firearms owner hopes event will help break negativity surrounding guns

Melanie Markling is hoping a community event at her Prince Albert store promotes the importance of hunting and firearms.

Northern Elite Firearms hosted the Pitmaster Smoking Competition this past weekend.

The event, which Markling is hoping to put on annually, is meant to bring people together over good food and a shared appreciation for firearms.

“People who have not grown up with firearms or with a hunting kind of lifestyle, I feel like they’re missing out on a part of life that is really important,” she said.

“It’s eating together, it’s knowing where our food came from and a big part of that does have something to do with firearms and hunting.”

Markling said there’s been a lot of negativity in the media lately surrounding firearms, such as the Liberal government wanting to ban certain models of the AR-15 for safety.

“In the long run, firearms, they’ve been a part of our lives. They’re a part of our culture. They’re not going anywhere, so instead of treating firearms like Canada’s dirty little secret, let’s just get them out there; let’s build a community around it; let’s focus on trying to build safe communities,” she said.

That’s what Markling is wanting to do with the smoking competition.

On Saturday, Curtis Praud smoked a whole pig, which fed nearly 200 people who came for supper.

He said he’s always amazed at how smoking a pig can bring people together.

“I love when people come and ask questions and talk and visit and want to learn a little bit about me and I always want to learn a little bit about everybody that I’m serving food to,” he said.

“That’s just something else. I can’t explain it. There’s just something about when you’re putting your heart and your soul into cooking something this big…it’s just really neat to see the expressions on people’s faces.”

Smoking a whole pig is a three-day process, explained Praud.

With the help of friends and family, he scraped the pig’s hair off and gutted it, among other preparation steps, on Friday. The pig took 12 hours to cook on Saturday, with Sunday dedicated to cleaning up.

The pig he smoked had a dressed weight of 180 pounds.

“One thing (that’s) a little bit different when I do it is for me, I go pick the pig from start to finish, so that pig is walking when I start and when I’m done it’s being served on a plate.”

Praud said he gets the pigs from two brothers in the Paddockwood area.

He showcases his cooking on Facebook and Instagram, @cookinwithcurtis.

Riley Rombough is a professional knife thrower and certified thrown weapons instructor. He’s the president of Alberta Throwers and the Alberta representative for the International Knife Throwers Hall of Fame.

He was teaching the public how to throw knives and tomahawks at Northern Elite Firearms.

He said while axe throwing has become extremely popular, knife throwing continues to be an “underground” sport.

Many of the people Rombough was teaching, mainly children, couldn’t get the knives to stick in the wood target. When they succeeded, you could see the excitement on their faces.

“That’s what I do it for. I don’t get paid any money, I just come here to teach people and as soon as you have a kid that’s struggling to stick it and you keep working with them, they say ‘I can’t do it’ and you just say ‘You can do it,’” he explained.

“As soon as that kid hits it, then my job here is done. I’ve got goosebumps right now just thinking about it.”

The event continued on Sunday with a smoked chicken wings competition. Teams prepared their best chicken wings and the public voted on their favourite to determine the city’s best amateur pitmaster.

Northern Elite Firearms opened in December of last year and their gun range opened this past May. Markling said she’s passionate about teaching firearms safety to children.

Staff will teach you how to safely operate a firearm at the gun range.

The smoking competition also included gun demonstrations, question and answers, historical weapon sessions, thrown weapon demonstrations and Hug-A-Tree programs, which teach children how to survive in the woods if they get lost.