Nice Article Today, Inland Waters
Thanks to Larry Evans for getting the media involved. This was in today's Rochester Demococrat & Chronicle:
Friendly, right on target
Inland Waters league, for one, mixes family and fine shots
(March 18, 2007) — MENDON — Members of the Inland Waters Trap League aren't difficult to gauge.
They have a passion for fellowship and turning orange clay pigeons into dust. It means that weather is never a question in whether they will shoot or not.
From September through May, through sunshine and rain, fog and clear skies, pleasant temperatures and barrel-frosting cold, you can count on many of the league's 213 members to gather on schedule at one of the 10 area gun clubs that host a monthly shoot.
Remember, we said "inland" league, not "indoor" league.
During league competition, friends and family break bread while they break clay. What's the mentality of shooting in any kind of weather?
"It's the same class as ice fishermen," says Bruce Vande, 68, a member of the Ontario Rod and Gun Club.
Say no more.
Thanks to this kind of commitment, the Inland Waters Trap League is celebrating its 60th anniversary, making it one of the oldest such organizations in the country. Started in 1946 by a group of World War II servicemen returning home, the league today includes families working on their third generation of shooters. It is about men and women, children and grandchildren.
It is about keeping strong America's shooting heritage.
At the league's banquet in June, plenty of trophies will be handed out, some named in honor of dedicated servants from the past such as Jack DeJonge and Betty Beikirch. Sam Monte was the last founder still competing until his passing in 2005.
"It's something that's been passed down," says past president Chuck Allen, 65, who belongs to several individual clubs. "The shooting sports have always been family-oriented. The problem today is that it's harder and harder to get the kids away from the computer."
But shooters won't stop trying.
Trap is one of the major shotgun sports, its cousins being skeet and sporting clays. In trap, clay birds are released at random degrees from just one house located 16 yards away. Shooters move through five stations, shooting five shots each time, for a total of 25 during a single round. A competition consists of two rounds, and the Inland league's top guns average 48 to 49 hits with the occasional perfect 50.
The sport brings together farmers and doctors, lawyers and construction workers. On this frigid blue-sky morning at Mendon Conservation League, one quickly discovers that someone's $100 single-shot 12-gauge handed down from Grandpa breaks clay pigeons just as well as a $15,000 elegantly engraved Ljutic, if you aim and squeeze just right.
"It's a very friendly sport," says Larry Evans, 67, the league's longtime secretary-treasurer and a member for 35 years. "You can go out and shoot at 25 targets and maybe only break two and nobody is going to laugh at you. They'll laugh if your average is 49 and you break three or four. I've been laughed at a few times."
But only a few times.
Among their Inland Waters peers, Evans, in 1986, and Tom Logue, in 1999, are icons, each having captured the Grand American Handicap Championship. The 108-year-old event, now held in Illinois after starting in Ohio, attracts thousands of contestants worldwide and is considered the Super Bowl of trap shooting.
Evans won his title from 22 yards back with a perfect score and has a Grand Champion's ring and belt buckle that's inscribed "100 for 100." But the buckle doesn't tell the whole story. Evans competed just seven months after his son, Roger, died in a motorcycle crash.
Wanting just to shoot well in his son's memory, Evans — who had never broken his first 50 targets in 14 previous seasons of handicap shooting — made 50, then 75, then 100 in a row to win outright in a sport in which shootoffs are commonplace.
He still owns the gun he used, a Remington Model 12 he bought new in 1973 for $385. He still wears his lucky Yankees cap. His wife, Marna, is still his biggest fan. And even after suffering a stroke a year ago, the ever-helpful Evans can still pulverize clay pigeons on cue.
"It's fun," he says. "It's boring to some people, but skeet is boring to me. You don't need a lot of money to start. Buy a cheap trap gun, earplugs and glasses, something to hold the shells in, that's all you need."
That and a little friendly instruction. Like golfers, shotgun shooters are eager to fire off advice. So make your mind a trap.
Evans is quick to note the many other fine shots in the Inland Waters league.
They include multiple state and national titleholder Chris Vendel and Carl Wagner, members of the Amateur Trap Association's All-American team; state champions Joe Strucker and Bob Stenglein; and Craig Parsons, a world skeet record holder.
Just as notable as good shooting is the league's record of good deeds and safety.
The Inland Waters Trap League raises money each year for the Ronald McDonald House and the Marines' Toys for Tots program, and it awards the $1,000 Curt Rumsey Memorial Scholarship. Meanwhile, Inland Waters has never had a shooting accident, a testament to the sport's traditions of safety and etiquette.
After a good shoot and a good lunch, Mendon president Stan Popen is speaking with pride about his sport and about his club nestled in a gorgeous hollow where targets fly in a natural amphitheater of earth.
"We try to make people understand what we do," he says. "It's just a pleasure to try and go out and break a bird. It's an accomplishment. There's a real discipline to the game."
The smell of gunpowder is in the air. It's a frigid blue-sky morning.