On May 18-20, championship skeet returned to southeastern North Carolina for the first time since 2014, and man, was it exciting.
The most exciting part was the number of Junior shooters making the trek to the John Scott Skeet and Trap Fields at Buccaneer Gun Club, no doubt at a financial sacrifice to many of the Junior shooters’ families traveling to and from skeet tournaments.
With a grant from Friends of the NRA and a generous donation from Sportsman’s Warehouse manager Bill Colvard, the Port City Open provided Junior shooters free ammo for all four events, 12 gauge through .410, helping to promote the sport to these young people who are the future of our sport.
The festivities began with Doubles on Friday afternoon. Doubles shooters gave chase to White Flyers most of the afternoon, with Scott Graham winning with a fine score of 96. Intermittent showers tried to interfere with the Doubles event, but these folks are used to it.
Foul and ugly weather greeted shooters Saturday morning. Heavy rains plagued 12- and 20- gauge shooters all day. Even with a brief stoppage for lightning, the shooters persevered, and Scott Graham again showed his mettle with a smooth 100 in the rain to take the 12-gauge event after a shoot-off with Chip Simmons and Jay Bunting, neither a stranger to Doubles at 3, 4 and 5 after 100 straights.
Justin Haddle, with his first 100 ever, was not alone in 20-gauge straights. Larson Harkins had his first 20-gauge straight, and Mark Smith’s perfect score landed him in the shoot-off with Justin and Larson. Mark outlasted these sharp shooters to become 20-gauge gun champ. Any 100 straight is impressive, but Justin Haddle accomplished something special; he was on station 8 of his last box when the lightning horn blew. After an hour wait, he stepped back on station 8 and calmly finished his 100 straight.
The 20-gauge Special Handicap event Saturday afternoon sparked a lot of interest. Junior shooter Larson Harkins walked away with a little extra shotshell money. Young eyes and young reflexes told the tale here.
Saturday night’s dinner was steak, baked potato, and green beans prepared cowboy-style by True Grits Chuck Wagon. Everything was cooked on open grills and in Dutch ovens. The peach cobbler slow-cooked in a Dutch oven did not last very long. Chuck Wagon Bill’s profits and donations support the “Easy Does It Ranch,” a free summer camp for recovering teens.
After this palate-pleasing dinner, the shooters were still not ready to kennel the Kolars and Krieghoffs. A friendly game of Scrap under the lights broke out. For the uninitiated, Scrap uses the trap machine overlay to throw targets to be shot at from the skeet stations. Needless to say, the choke wrenches were busy. When the smoke and the “pull, bang, dammits” cleared, Justin Haddle and Kevin Hostinsky eased away with a little more jingle in their pockets.
We all went to bed with visions of broken targets dancing in our heads.
Sunday’s weather found the 28-gauge and .410 shooters apprehensive about the weather forecast: more showers. Nevertheless, 28-gauge scores were mighty impressive, with Marquis Williams besting Noah Dove in a shoot-off for 28-gauge gun champ honors. Marquis’ 100 was his first in 28 gauge.
All in all, there were eight 100 straights in our skeet-o-rama.
Someone opened a box of .410’s Sunday afternoon. As soon as it was opened, the typical breeze kicked in. Jay Bunting out-maneuvered the wind and pulled past the field with a smooth 99 to take .410 gun champ honors.
Jay Bunting was also the tournament HOA with a cool 396. Riley Dellinger was Junior HOA with a 392. Corrie Cloninger was Ladies champ, carding a 379. Trace Davis finished the tournament as Sub-Junior winner with a nice score of 377.
The Port City Open HOA shooter, Jay Bunting, was presented a tailgate quilt constructed of Sportsman’s Warehouse canvas shot bags. Riley Dellinger, Junior HOA with a smooth 392, was also presented a tailgate quilt. Bill Colvard, manager of Sportsman’s Warehouse, furnished the shot bags, and Jane Hassell did the quilting. This is a fine way to protect a quality shotgun while it rests on the tailgate of a pickup or SUV.
Thanks to all the referees who controlled the event and turned in a weekend of masterful scorekeeping and refereeing. Special thanks go to Patty Walton and Jane Hassell for keeping everything running smoothly. Thanks to all the shooters and their families who enthusiastically complimented our targets, staff, food and shoot presentation.
Thanks to this year’s Tournament Committee: Tom Smith, Hart Stuehmer, Jeff DeSantis, Peter Ruffin, Cosby Thomas, David Ruehle and Frank Hassell. Thanks to our officers, Dave Ernst – president; Jim Caison – treasurer; and Ray Campbell – past president, for your input and dedication to the Port City Open.
David Ruehle and his ground crew did a masterful job of keeping the machines full, water coolers full, trash removed, empty hulls picked up and targets flying smoothly all three days. Special thanks go to the Buccaneer Gun Club members who came early and stayed late days and weeks before the tournament, working together to make the Port City Open a rousing success.
A very special thank-you goes to our sponsors: Bill Colvard and John Clark of Sportsman’s Warehouse, Cox Industries, Michael Davis and Party Suppliers of Wilmington, and Jim Davis.
Join us for our next event, the Fall “No Frills” Open, on November 16-18.
– Contributed by Frank Hassell