Most shooters would agree that when ducks are settling into the decoys, it’s all about picking a target and letting instinct take over.
And most hunters also would agree that shooting in organized competitive events like trap, skeet or sporting clays is far different.
The calculated act of stepping up to the line or shooting station offers all kinds of opportunities for self-doubts and what-ifs to creep into an undisciplined shooters mind — a good case of the yips.
Having hunted everything from ducks to deer since he was five, Adam Burt certainly knows how to handle a shotgun in the field.
But as it turns out, the young man can give a pretty good accounting for himself in the high-energy, high tension environment of the shooting line, too.
In his first attempt ever at sporting clays, the 17-year-old East High School senior shot his way to top honors in the C Class 28 Gauge Competition recently during the National Sporting Clays Association’s U.S. Open Championship, hosted by the Caribou Gun Club near Le Sueur.
“He’d never shot competitively, never shot an over/under, never shot a 28 gauge before last Sunday,” said his father, Mike Burt.
In fact, his son had gone along with his dad to assist in the Brunton Optics vendor booth. “But when I saw all of those trophies lined up, I thought I’d really like to shoot,” Adam Burt said.
“Problem was, while I was signed up to shoot, he wasn’t,” Mike Burt said. “And to tell you the truth, I really didn’t have the $300 for the registration,”
“But then the vendor I was helping out said ‘well, why didn’t you say he wanted to shoot’,” he said. In no time, Adam was registered to shoot in the big event, courtesy of Brunton Optics.
The only catch was that the only category still available for registration was in the adult Class for 28-gauge shotguns, which presented challenges.
First of all, the 28-gauge is a relatively uncommon gun. Not too many shooters at any level own one. Burt certainly didn’t.
And second, hitting whizzing targets with a 12-gauge shotgun is tough; busting clay targets with the relatively petite 28-gauge with a far smaller payload is particularly challenging, even for experienced competitive shooters.
But the Browning Arms rep in the vendor booth next door happened to have a 28-gauge Grade 1 Citori in his display, which he offered to lend to Adam.
During his session on the course, he managed to break 73 out of 100 targets, not at all too shabby for rookie.
“I was looking at the score board for my name and didn’t see it,” Adam said, adding that he expected to be somewhere in the middle. Turns out, his expectations were too low. Way too low.
He should have been looking at the top of the board, where he was tied for first place with a veteran competitor.
Because of the tie, a shoot-off would be needed to determine the overall winner. But so late in the day, that presented yet another challenge since the borrowed Browning had been returned to the rep.
“By the time we figured out he needed to be in a shoot-off, the rep had left,” Burt said. With a shoot-off scheduled for 6 p.m., CZ Arms offered up one of their 28 gauge guns for Adam to use.
But that turned out not to be necessary.
Unaware that his score had been equaled and that a shoot-off loomed, the other shooter had put his firearms away for the day, put his feet up, and already had enjoyed a cold one.
In keeping with the understandably strict policy regarding alcohol and firearms, he was required automatically to forfeit the shoot-off to Adam.
“I still would have liked to have an opportunity to have won it out-right,” Adam Burt admitted.
Given what seems to be a natural talent, he is hoping to expand his opportunities to shoot in more events.
In the meantime, we’ve all heard that old saying about how the apple rarely falls too far from the tree.
The elder Burt, a veteran competitive shooter, also competed in the U.S. Open Championships.
“I finished someplace in the middle,” Mike Burt said.
John Cross is a Free Press staff writer. Contact him at 344-6376 or by e-mail at email@example.com.