Woods and Waters An outdoor blog by John McCoy

Clarksburg shooter takes national honors

Bryan Layfield

The honors just keep rolling in for Clarksburg’s Bryan Layfield.

The 20-year-old was crowned Collegiate Champion and Junior Champion in the National Pistol Championships held July 12-16 at Camp Perry, Ohi0.

Layfield fired an aggregate 2,565 of a possible 2,700 in three required matches and finished nine points ahead of runner-up Joseph Totts of Magadore, Ohio.

Along the way, Layfield fired an 854 to capture High Collegiate and High Junior honors in the .22-caliber championship, and followed that with an 856 to claim similar honors in the center-fire championship. Totts narrowly edged Layfield out for the .45-caliber championship, 858-855.

Layfield has dominated the junior pistol rankings since he started competing in 2008. He currently holds a Master rating in pistol from the National Rifle Association.

Skeet ace turns lead into Olympic gold

Kim Rhode (AP photo)

How do you get to the 2012 London Olympics? Same way as you get to Carnegie Hall — practice, practice, practice.

That’s the credo of four-time Olympian and defending world skeet champ Kim Rhode. The Associated Press recently did a fascinating feature on her, and here it is:

NEWHALL, Calif. (AP) — Kim Rhode slips two shells into her 12-gauge shotgun, yells “Pull!” and takes dead-aim on the first target, then a second one whizzing through the air. She hits both cleanly, leaving orange clouds of chalk hanging in the cool air.
She reloads and does it repeatedly, with father and coach Richard Rhode pushing the buttons that remotely launch the targets on the skeet field named for the four-time Olympic medalist.
Rhode has already become the first U.S. athlete nominated to the team for next year’s London Olympics. But she’s not taking it easy while others train, wait and worry about making the Summer Games.
“I choose to shoot every day because I want to push myself through the highs and the lows that come with anything,” she said during a break at Oaktree Gun Club off Interstate 5 north of Los Angeles.
“It’s a lot of hard work and drilling and repetition. That mental side of the game really plays in. There’s so many little things that go into it.”
Training means shooting 500 to 1,000 rounds per day, usually seven days a week.
Rhode spends a lot of money on lead going for more gold. She goes through four cases of shells at $100 a box and $300 worth of targets, costing her about $700 every day of training. Her custom-made, 9-pound Italian shotgun is worth about $20,000.
The 31-year-old from El Monte, Calif., has sponsors who help pay for her training and travel to competitions. She earns money through endorsements, coaching, giving speeches and signing autographs.
The longest break from training she’s taken was a two-week honeymoon to the South Pacific two years ago after marrying Mike Harryman, who works in heating and air conditioning.
Rhode (pronounced Roady) got into the sport as a youngster accompanying her parents to the shooting range. Her mother, Sharon, was shooting when she was eight months pregnant with her only daughter.
“Some people bowl, we went and shot skeet,” Richard said. “It was very obvious at a very young age that she had the capability of shooting really good scores.”
Rhode first competed in skeet as a 10-year-old.
“It’s something that I really gravitated towards because of the challenge,” she said, noting she’s 5-foot-4. “It’s one of the few games that doesn’t matter how big or how small you are, you really are on an equal playing field. Everybody is equal when you step out on that line.”
Her father added, “It’s not strength. It’s eye-hand coordination, the ability to slow everything down and shoot.”
Rhode won her first Olympic medal in double trap at the 1996 Atlanta Games, becoming at 17 the youngest female shooting champion in the games’ history. She added a bronze medal in 2000 and another gold in 2004.
After women’s double trap was dropped from the Olympics, Rhode changed to skeet and won a silver at the 2008 Beijing Games. She proudly shows visitors her medals and the well-worn ribbons they hang on.
In London, Rhode has a chance to become the first American athlete to medal in five consecutive Olympics in an individual sport.
“Definitely, I don’t think London will be my last (Olympics), I don’t think 2016 will be my last,” she said. “If I can continue to perform at that level, then you’ll definitely see me. It’s something you can do for years and years.”
At the same time, the down-to-earth defending world skeet champion with the long ponytail, French manicure and diamond stud earrings is realistic.
“There are some really fantastic shooters, especially some of the people that I’m coaching and training, they very easily could overtake me at any point,” she said.
Rhode has overcome her shotgun being stolen after the Beijing Olympics (she got it back), an injury to her shoulder in a skiing accident, and most recently, surgery to remove a 2-inch cyst in her breast that was non-cancerous.
Her shoulder area is still sore, so she has yet to return to full strength as she prepares for a competition in Colorado Springs, Colo., that will decide the team for the Pan American Games this fall.
When Rhode isn’t training, she’s studying to finish three more classes to earn a college degree in food marketing and agribusiness, collecting rare children’s books and antiques, and tending to her classic car collection that includes a Cobra she built from a kit.
If prodded, Rhode will show off some of her Annie Oakley-like skills, including tossing a dime in the air and shooting it to smithereens.
“I love this with a passion,” she said. “I do it for a lot of fun, but at the same time it’s just a game.”

Virginia wildlife officials got a boost today in the form of a $75,000 grant from the National Shooting Sports Foundation. Its purpose? to try to determine why apprentice hunters decide to purchase licenses for the first time. The results could eventually help state wildlife agencies recruit more hunters.

From the PR Newswire:

NEWTOWN, Conn., May 24, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries has been awarded a grant for $75,000 from the National Shooting Sports Foundation to expand opportunities for hunters.
The state is one of nine to receive funding from NSSF through its Hunting Heritage Partnership program. NSSF, the trade association for the firearms, ammunition, hunting and shooting-sports industry, has provided more than $4.3 million in grants to 38 state agencies over the past nine years to support programs that promote hunting and target shooting.
The agency will take the lead on a multi-state research project that will determine the motivations of apprentice-hunting license holders for obtaining a first-time license; their expectations related to hunting; and their satisfaction with their hunting experiences. Research from Virginia, Alabama, Kentucky, Georgia and South Carolina will be part of the project. Such information can be used by state agencies to help encourage apprentice license holders to become active hunters.
“The apprentice hunting license is a great tool to recruit new hunters, and Virginia is very pleased to have the opportunity to enhance the value of this popular program,” said Bob Duncan, executive director of VDGIF. “We look forward to working with our partner states and Mark Duda with Responsive Management to focus on the challenges of removing barriers to hunting and identifying ways to secure the future of our rich hunting heritage.”
Responsive Management is a Harrisonburg-based outdoor recreation research firm.
NSSF developed the Hunting Heritage Partnership grant program to assist state agencies nationwide in their attempts to help hunters locate land on which to hunt and easily access state hunting information plus encourage newcomers to start and then continue hunting.
“NSSF grants to state agencies are making a difference,” said Chris Dolnack, senior vice president and chief marketing officer of NSSF. “Programs are being launched to benefit hunting and target shooting that otherwise might never have gotten off the ground in these challenging economic times.”
The grant program is helping NSSF fulfill its goal of increasing participation in hunting and target shooting by 20 percent by 2014.

Ban on lead ammo and fishing tackle isn’t dead yet

I suppose it was inevitable.

The coalition of environmental activists has resumed its quest to seek a ban on lead ammunition and lead fishing tackle.

The activists couldn’t get Congress to act, so they petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection agency to enact the ban through administrative regulations. EPA officials read the law — which specifically exempts ammunition from any such bans — and denied the petition. Now the activists are back at it. They’re suing, hoping to find a friendly court to do what lawmakers and administrators refused to do.

The story is here, in the Press of Atlantic City.

Scares about government gun bans are often just that — mere scares.

But a recent petition made to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has the potential to become much more than a scare. It wouldn’t do away with guns, but it’d do away with a lot of ammunition.

Environmental advocacy groups have petitioned EPA chief Lisa Jackson to ban the use of lead bullets, lead shot and lead fishing sinkers on the grounds that the continued use of lead violates the 1976  Toxic Substance Control Act.

The petition (available for review in PDF format at the EPA website) argues that lead shot and lead bullet fragments routinely poison scavengers, songbirds, predatory birds, waterfowl and some mammals. It cites valid scientific studies and makes a pretty fair case for the EPA to mandate non-toxic ammunition.

But to grant the petition and enact a lead ban, the EPA would literally have to ignore the very law the petitioners cite as the rationale for the ban. When Congress passed the Toxic Substance Control Act back in 1976, they specifically exempted lead ammunition.

No problem, say the petitioners. They argue, in essence, that the law refers to cartridges and shells, and not specifically to bullets or shot. They further argue that since bullets and shot are sold individually as ammunition components, they therefore fall under the Toxic Substance Control Act and can be banned by EPA regulation.

It is a sign of the times, I suppose, when perfectly clear legal language can be parsed into something completely contradictory to its original intent.

The EPA has until Nov. 1 to rule on the petition.

Update: Late today, with more than two months left in the petition’s comment period, EPA officials abruptly and unexpectedly rejected the petition. Story is here, from U.S. News and World Report.

A rose by any other name…

The misunderstood AR-15

Marketing gurus call it “re-branding” — taking a product the public isn’t really sure about and renaming it in a way that renews or generates interest.

Take, for instance, the venerable AR-15 rifle.

Last year, people in the shooting-sports industry tried to re-brand it by calling it the “modern sporting rifle.” The label didn’t stick.

Another year, another label — this time it’s the “sport utility rifle.”

Let’s get something straight here. I have absolutely nothing against the AR-15. While I don’t personally own one, I believe the AR is a highly accurate and pretty darned versatile firearm that can be used for everything from target shooting to hunting light-skinned game. I also believe the model would be much more widely used were it not for two things — the “AR” prefix and the gun’s military-like appearance.

People see the letters “AR” and assume they stand for “assault rifle.” Not so.  The AR prefix refers to Armalite, the company that developed the semi-automatic AR and its fully automatic mil-spec lookalike, the M-16.

Re-branding the AR-15 might someday help overcome the “black rifle” stigma some purists have associated with it. I suspect, however, that changes in public perception — if or when they occur — will take place slowly.

That’s a shame. As noted before, the AR is a fine firearm that has never deserved the raps it’s received.

Students tweak shooting sports gear

Bob Gisch, Tyler Hendrickson and Simon Dezelski with their inventions
Bob Gisch, Tyler Hendrickson and Simon Dezelski with their inventions

Time will tell whether their innovations are commercially viable, but three Michigan Tech students have reinvented two of the most important components of the shotgun sports — clay birds and portable traps.

The students’ re-eingineered birds are made of corn products and are biodegradable. They say their portable trap is so ruggedly built, it could be dunked in a lake for a year and would still work after being fished out.

The Michigan Tech News has the youngsters’ complete story.

No NCAA title this year for WVU’s rifle squad

wvurifleUnexpected things always seems to happen at the NCAA Rifle Championships.

No one, for instance, figured this year’s Texas Christian squad had a chance to upset top-ranked West Virginia, No. 2 Alaska-Fairbanks or No. 3 Kentucky and win a national title.

The Horned Frogs did, though, by shooting an aggregate score of 4,675. Alaska-Fairbanks claimed the runner-up slot with a 4,653. WVU finished third at 4,641.

MSN Sports has the full story.

WVU’s shooters, though disappointed after carrying a No. 1 ranking almost all year, were philosophical about the loss. Literally anything can happen in a rifle competition. The Mountaineers, for example, once won a title when an Alaska-Fairbanks shooter accidentally tapped his rifle’s trigger and sent an air-rifle round into the wall. His zero score on that shot gave WVU a 3-point margin in the final aggregate score.

Such are the vicissitudes of the shooting sports…

Gun auction nets $175k for USA Shooting

auctiongun.jpgIf nothing else, hunters are a generous bunch.

At last week’s Wild Sheep Foundation convention, a gold-plated and engraved Winchester Model 1885 (pictured) raised $175,000 at auction for the U.S. Shooting Team.

The cool thing is that the rifle was auctioned off five separate times! The first winning bidder (who paid $60,000) donated the gun to be auctioned off again. The second winning bidder did the same — and the third, and the fourth.

The Outdoor Wire has the full story.

WVU rifle team reclaims top spot

wvurifle.jpgWell, that didn’t last long!

West Virginia University’s rifle team, ranked No. 1 heading into the current season, dropped to the No. 2 spot a few weeks back because the University of Alaska-Fairbanks had posted some really good scores.

That was before the Mountaineers beat the Nanooks, 4,697-4,670, in a Jan. 21 match, posting the highest aggregate score ever compiled by a collegiate rifle team.

WVU is back in the top spot now with a match average 0f 4,690. Alaska-Fairbanks is second with 4,681. Kentucky is third at 4,671.