Paintball participation hasn't peaked in the Vermillion area Growing number like to take a shot at having fun Collin Prosser takes aim at an opponent during a Vermillion Paint Club skirmish at the Vicki and Bob Denhner residence March 17. by David Lias It's not unusual for a fight to break out at the Vicki and Bob Dehner residence on Sunday afternoons.
These battles are nothing to be concerned about, however. The Dehner home, located on Highway 50 in the shadow of the DakotaDome in Vermillion, is a place of domestic tranquility.
The Vermillion Paintball Club is drawn weekly, however, to the wooded shelterbelt located on the Dehners' acreage.
With its thick stand of trees, its high grass and brush, and a few man-made places to take cover, the club members find the shelterbelt the perfect place to take a shot at having fun.
Although there are many different game formats, typically a group of players will divide into two teams to play "capture the flag."
The object of the game is to go out and capture the other team's flag while protecting your own.
"Our favorite games are either capture the flag, or team elimination," said Eric Dehner, the son of Vicki and Bob and a senior at Vermillion High School. "Team elimination is where the team with the last man standing wins."
It may sound violent, but paintball shares many of the same playful characteristics of a good game of tag or a snowball fight.
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The difference is the technology involved, which makes the sport highly competitive and sophisticated.
Dehner said the sport is growing more and more popular in Vermillion among young women and men.
It's not unusual for a mix of high school kids and USD students to don camouflage and safety gear and visit the Dehner residence on a Sunday afternoon to join the fun.
"If it's a nice day, we like to start around 2 p.m.," Dehner said during a break in the paintball action at his home March 17.
No paintball player can step foot on the Dehner residence without the proper safety gear. That includes specially designed headgear and eye protection, and at least one thick layer of clothing.
Such protection renders the paintballs harmless. And it keeps the competition fun.
"It's kind of like Extreme Tag," Mitch Bierle, a member of the paintball club, said.
The facemasks and goggles are required for good reason.
A paintball gun � which technically is more like an air hammer than a weapon � uses CO2 to propel its "ammunition" at 300 feet per second.
"If you want good accuracy, you have a range about 80 yards," Dehner said. "The maximum range is about 130 yards."
The paintballs are round, thin-skinned gelatin capsules with colored liquid inside them. Paintballs are similar to large round vitamin capsules or bath oil beads.
The fill inside paintballs is non-toxic, non-caustic, water-soluble and biodegradable. It rinses out of clothing and off skin with mild soap and water.
Paintballs come in a rainbow of bright colors: blue, pink, white, orange, yellow and more. When a paintball tags a player, the thin gelatin skin splits open, and the liquid inside leaves a bright "paint" mark. A player who is marked is eliminated from the game.
"Victims" of the paintball battles at the Dehner place trot from the windbreak into a nearby garage, where a radio is blaring rock music. They make good use of a roll of paper towels. The paint marks on their clothing simply wipe off when they are still wet.
The garage serves as a staging area for the team members. It's a place where they can load their guns (a typical gun used by club members holds from 55 to 200 paintballs), check their CO2, and relive the adventures they've just experienced.
Paintball's popularity isn't limited just to Vermillion. The sport is booming across the nation, among boys and girls, teenagers and men and women.
"We had 12 players out here today (March 17)," Dehner said, "but we have 25 people in our paintball club. We've been playing since 1998, and, just as of late, it's getting really big in Vermillion."
The young men in many ways resemble a rag-tag militia, dressed in camouflaged clothing and protective gear.
But the only war-like aspect of the activity is the strategy involved.
Paintball is a sport played by people from all professions and lifestyles. It is a sport where women and men compete equally, and where age is not dominated by youth.
Like a game of chess, being able to think quickly and decisively are required. Intelligence and determination, not merely strength, speed or agility, are keys to success.
"In a lot of ways," Dehner said, "it's the closest thing to war you can experience without getting hurt or hurting anyone else."
Dehner hopes the sport becomes even more popular in Vermillion, with a wide range of participants.
"People who are interested in coming out on a Sunday to play can just give me a call," he said. "One of the things our club hopes to do someday is to host some tournaments out here, too."