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Buckeye Vintage Skeet Championships: A Step Back In Time
by Larry S. Moore
Vintage is used to describe many things including wine, art, automobiles and firearms. For the Buckeye Vintage Skeet Championship, vintage is a step back in time for skeet shooters. Vintage skeet pays tribute to the heritage of skeet shooting and the fine shotguns of an earlier period. Vintage may define the best and most typical of an age. I like that definition for the sport of vintage skeet shooting because of the fine shotguns and the warm gentlemanly nature of the shooters I met at the championships.
Skeet is a shooting sport that was invented in the U.S. in the 1920's in New England as a way to keep shotgun skills sharp during the off season for the upland game hunters. The original shoots were held in a 360-degree circle but the shot falling all around was certainly a problem for spectators. It was soon changed to the semi-circle arc used today. The shooting sports in the 1920's and 1930's drew large spectator crowds. Many movie stars and celebrities participated in major shooting events. Ohio has long been a center of the shooting sports. The word skeet comes from the Scandinavian meaning shoot.
Hal Hare, who led the organizational efforts for vintage skeet, is President of Buckeye Vintagers. Hare is heavily involved with the National Skeet Shooting Association (NSSA) serving as Chairman of the International Committee and the Vintage Skeet Committee. He explained, "Skeet is shot on a field from eight different shooting positions. Targets from the left are thrown from the high house and targets from the right are thrown from the low house. American skeet started using the low gun position which is off the shoulder and held the way a hunter would approach game when hunting over a bird dog. Sometime in the 1950's American skeet migrated to a precision sport with the gun mounted at the shoulder like trap shooting. International skeet is shot from the low gun position."
Hare continues, "I felt American skeet had migrated away from the sport's hunting heritage. Vintage skeet utilizes the low gun position and a delay in the release of the target following the shooter's call of 'pull.' Participation is limited to guns of the original 1920's and 1930's period. The guns will either be a side-by-side shotgun or a pump action shotgun. The guns may be original period pieces or new manufacture so long as they are the proper configuration. Many competitors use the older period guns in competition. It is a unique sport completely different than modern American skeet."
The championship was shot over four days at the host Clinton County Farmers and Sportsmen's Association outside Wilmington, Ohio. The club was founded shortly after World War II. They have been a leader in the shooting sports in southwest Ohio. The shotgun ranges include three skeet fields which also can double as a trap range and five-stand sporting clays. The third skeet field is configured for international skeet. The clubhouse provides plenty of room for shooters and the kitchen provided the needed refreshments and food for the events. For more information on shooting at Clinton County Farmers and Sportsmen's, see http://www.ccfsa.com/.
The championship program included events for the standard skeet gauges of 12, 20, 28 and .410 bore shotguns. Some events are open to any of the shotgun gauges while other events are for a specific gauge. Additionally vintage skeet includes the 16 gauge shotgun. The championships were shot in all the gauge events. Special side matches included side-by-side trap and a five stands sporting clays event. The vintage shooter was challenged with a variety of targets throughout the four days of shooting. Perhaps the most challenging award is the High-Above-All Skeet Championships. This is a combination of all the various championships which include the 12, 16, 20, 28 and 410 events over 250 targets. This combination of events and use of different shotguns is certainly a test of all around skill.
My hat is certainly off to all the shooters. Rick Staples from Kansas City was shooting a Remington Model 870 pump shotgun. Pump guns are rarely seen on the modern skeet field but were once a mainstay of shooters. I watched in amazement as Staples shot a round of doubles with his quick pumping that never pulled his head, eye or gun off the fleeting targets.
Staples explained his love of vintage skeet: "I really like the tradition of vintage skeet the way it was started. My father introduced me to skeet when I was about 12 years old. I was fortunate enough to see the great exhibition shooter Herb Parsons shoot in Kansas City. I was very young and sitting on the hood of Dad's 1946 Buick. It got me hooked on the sport. From the very first skeet shooting, I was taught to have the gun down in low gun position. If Dad ever saw me shoot a round of skeet with the gun mounted at my shoulder to start I think he'd come back to haunt me!"
Hare concludes: "We had over 100 entries in the four days of shooting. Of course we have lots of Ohio shooters but shooters came from out of state also, including West Virginia and Kansas City. All our shooters are here to have a good time. We all like to shoot well but we don't get too hung up about the scores. The perfect scores in vintage skeet are rare unlike in American skeet. We shoot events for all the gauges including special 16-gauge events."
New shooters are welcomed and encouraged to try skeet. I took the invitation and shot the 12 gauge skeet event using an LC Smith Skeet Special manufactured in 1938. When the smoke had cleared and broken, orange targets littered the skeet field, far too many of the unbroken targets belonged to this writer. My success certainly wasn't measured in my humbling score but in the warm welcome and friendship offered by the shooters. It didn't matter that a couple of us had never shot competitive skeet. The experienced shooters were happy to show us the target presentation and help our shooting. The spirit of a good time to be had by all certainly took the foreground over the scores of the day. There was good-natured joking both taken and given by the shooters but everyone was congratulated on the good shots.
Outdoor writer and hunter education instructor Larry S. Moore is a long-time volunteer leader for Buckeye Firearms Foundation and winner of the 2005 USSA Patriot Award, the 2007 League of Ohio Sportsmen/Ohio Wildlife Federation Hunter Educator of the Year and the 2010 National Wild Turkey Federation/ Women in the Outdoors Hunter Education Instructor of the Year.