August 15, 2012 - Normally, when you read news stories about kids and guns, it's never a good thing.
From accidental shootings to violent rampages, major media outlets often paint a negative picture that youth and firearms simply don't mix.
What many folks don't see are the positive stories about how firearms can teach youth respect, safety, responsibility and sportsmanship. This is one of those stories.
Four Oxford students – Nathan Eisenhart, Pat Paul, Camden Little and Keaton Little – recently competed and placed in state, national and world competitions involving skeet shooting and sporting clays.
Skeet shooting involves participants using shotguns to break clay disks automatically flung into the air from two fixed stations at high speed from a variety of angles.
Sporting clays is a form of clay pigeon shooting that's often described as 'golf with a shotgun' because a typical course includes anywhere from 10 to 15 different shooting stations laid out over natural terrain.
Unlike skeeting shooting, which involves repeatable target presentations, sporting clays simulates the unpredictable nature of live-game shooting by offering a variety of trajectories, angles, speeds, elevations, distances and target sizes.
Back in June, Keaton Little, Eisenhart and Paul competed in the state championships for the Scholastic Clay Target Program (SCTP) held in Brighton.
Keaton earned a third place finish in skeet and sporting clays with the intermediate entry squad.
Paul competed placed first in skeet with the intermediate entry squad, then placed first with the sporting clays squad. Paul was the High Over All (HOA) champion in skeet, a coveted title.
Eisenhart placed first in skeet with the intermediate advanced squad and second with the sporting clays squad.
The Oxford students then went on to compete in the National SCTP Shoot in Sparta, Illinois July 17-19.
Camden Little placed third overall in skeet as part of the intermediate advanced division, while her brother, Keaton Little, placed second in squad sporting clays and third in squad skeet, both in the intermediate entry division
Eisenhart placed second in skeet in the intermediate advanced division, while Paul took second place in squad sporting clays and third in squad skeet, both in the intermediate entry division. Paul was the HOA champion in sporting clays.
In addition to states and nationals, Eisenhart also competed in the Jr. World Shooting Competition in California. He took second place in his division for skeet.
Here's a brief profile of each shooter:
Eisenhart will enter the ninth grade this fall at Oxford High School (OHS). He's been shooting skeet for six months and sporting clays for two years.
"I've been around guns my entire life. My dad's a big hunter," he said. "A man named Dave Fischer brought me into shooting sporting clays and then a year after that, I starting shooting the game of skeet."
Fischer owns Hunter's Ridge Hunt Club, located at 3921 Barber Rd. in Oxford Township.
"I never would have guessed that I'd be where I am today," said Eisenhart, who enjoys being the "underdog" in these shooting competitions. "No one really knows me. To take second in the nation and first in the state is a really big thing."
When asked if he'd like to someday shoot competitively in the Olympic games, Eisenhart replied, "Hopefully, that's in my future."
Eisenhart indicated he practices once a week for sporting clays and three times a week for skeet.
"I go through about 300 to 500 (shotgun) shells a week," he said.
So, what's the secret to being a good shot?
"Keep your gun swinging – don't measure it – don't wait to shoot, just keep your eyes on the target and pull the trigger. Follow your instincts," he said.
Eisenhart shoots with a Perazzi Mirage 12-gauge over-and-under shotgun. He also uses Kolar choke tubes for it.
"You slide them in your barrel and you can shoot 20 (gauge), 28 (gauge) and .410 (bore) out of it," he explained.
When he's competing, Eisenhart prefers to shoot a 20 gauge.
"It has less kick and it holds only a couple hundred less BBs then a 12 gauge would," he explained.
Eisenhart believes shooting is a good sport for young folks to get involved in because it helps develop hand-eye coordination and it teaches them to "trust your instincts."
"And it's just a fun time," he added.
When he's not shooting competitively, Eisenhart enjoys hunting deer, squirrels and rabbits.
Eisenhart wished to thank the North Macomb Sportsmen's Club (Eagles), Hunter's Ridge Hunt Club, Dave Fischer, and his head coach, Ted Jacob, for all their support.
Paul was an eighth-grader at Oxford Middle School. He'll be entering his freshman year of high school at Oakland Christian School in the fall. He started shooting skeet and sporting clays last fall.
"My dad asked me if I wanted to do a winter skeet league at our North Macomb (Sportsmen's Club) and I said okay," he said. "I like the people that are involved and it's just fun to shoot."
During shooting season, he practices two days a week. He shoots with a Beretta A400 Xcel, a 12-gauge semiautomatic. He's "saving up" to buy a 12-gauge over/under.
Paul said he prefers the 12-gauge "because there's more BBs" in each shell and he can deal with the kick.
"The more BBs, the more possibility of hitting the targets," he said. "I'm kind of a big, strong guy, so I can handle the recoil."
The secret to being a good shot, according to Paul, is mentally "blocking everything else out . . . then going out there and doing what you're supposed to do." It's important to not feel pressured, keep things light and have fun, he said.
To Paul, competitive shooting teaches people "how to be a good sport" and "how to be a team player" along with firearm safety. He also enjoys the travel aspect of going from competition to competition, both in and out of state.
He definitely has some big dreams for himself and his trusty shotgun. "I'd like to go to the Olympics," he said.
Paul enjoys hunting deer, wolves and coyotes.
He's grateful for the help he's received from Nathan Eisenhart and Coach Ted Jacob, and for the friendship of Keaton and Camden Little.
Camden will enter her freshman year at OHS this fall. She's been shooting for about two years.
"I mostly do skeet," she said.
It was her brother, Keaton, that got her into the sport.
"It was something new to accomplish and it seemed fun," explained Camden, who noted she enjoys "the excitement and the adrenaline (rush) when you get to the first (shooting) station."
She also enjoys meeting new people and being part of a team.
During the season, she practices two to three days a week. She shoots with a Khan 20-gauge over-and-under.
"I've always shot with a 20-gauge – that's what I'm most comfortable with," she said.
Looking back at how she did in the national competition, Camden said she was "very excited and pretty proud of myself."
"I had my mind set on it because last year, I didn't do so well," she explained. "I felt like I really needed a comeback this year."
When asked if she would someday like to compete in the Olympic shooting sports, Camden replied, "I am happy with where I'm at right now and I hope to be a little farther in a couple years."
For those who wish to improve their shooting skills, Camden advised them to "calm down and take your time."
Shooting teaches people to "be more responsible," in her opinion.
Camden enjoys hunting from time to time. She's hunted deer, rabbits and other small game.
Keaton is heading into seventh grade at OMS. He's been shooting for two years. Although he does both skeet and sporting clays, his main focus is skeet.
He got involved in the sport thanks to a soccer buddy who took him to a shooting range.
"I thought this might be cool to try," said Keaton, who noted he likes the sport because it's "fun" and it gives him another chance to be "active" as opposed to just "sitting around and doing nothing."
Keaton indicated he practices anywhere from one to three days a week. He shoots with a Browning Citori 20-gauge over-and-under.
When asked what's the secret to being a good shot, Keaton replied, "I don't really have a secret, I just shoot. I just pull the trigger on a clay and follow the lead."
Like his fellow shooters, Keaton also enjoys hunting. He goes after deer, rabbits and squirrels.
"I might be going to a pheasant hunt this fall," he noted.
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.