TERRE HAUTE —
Tom Mitchell from Burnett is an all-around outdoor enthusiast. His passions are motorcycles, cars, and most of all, shooting sports. When he sights in on metal target shooting with a hand gun or rifle you will hear a lot of “clang” noises, he can shoot very quiet also, because he is licensed to own suppressers.
When Dan Zuerner of Garmong offered to host a group of shooters to compete at the Old Barn Sporting Clay’s Shooting Range at Oakland, Ill., Tom jumped up and said pick me! He has never shot sporting clays, so after the second station of shooting, he said it was a blast and he was hooked!
Little did he know, the most knowledgeable and dedicated shooter — ranked No. 1 in Indiana — was standing at his side offering pointers on his shooting. That would be Zuerner.
Dan’s shooting buddy, Bovy, was only a step behind him on scores. Dan scored 136 out of a possible 150 and he thought he shot poorly.
Dan Zuerner is hard core. Anything he takes on is perfected. He shoots a shotgun with a release trigger not a standard pull type trigger. Your natural reflexes take the shock of the gun better with a relaxed mentality rather than a tense reflex of pulling a trigger. Dan builds his own triggers and sets up his sights, chokes, and gun stock design to fit himself.
Bovy asked me the cost of hunting animals in Africa and after hearing the prices, he said I like all of them, but he hates cow birds.
Dan shoots in about 35 tournaments a year, shooting around 10,000 targets and with practicing he will shoot around 25,000 times a year. Every night, while at home, he will put practice shells, with no powder or shot in his gun, to physically and mentally shoulder his gun and pull the triggers about 200 times for practice.
Dan says aiming a shotgun is more critical than a rifle, you have no rear sight, and your eyes are the rear sight. He relates the BB on the gun barrel to a 60-40 ratio.
With 40 percent of the BB should be hid by the target. Before Dan gives the command to “Pull”, he pauses for a few seconds, turning on his mind’s eye, then shoulders his gun to call for the bird. He says the gun stock placement on your shoulder is critical because every 1/8th inch the stock is off, it changes the impact at 16 yards by 1 inch. A clay bird that far off, going very fast, can mount up to several inches off.
Dan’s gun is a Guerini that is made in Italy. The stock is custom made by Wenig in Missouri. It took 45 minutes for the craftsman to fit the stock to Dan’s hand.
A light modified choke is Dan’s choice. The center core of your shot pattern is all basically the same — it’s the outer part of the shot pattern that changes from your different chokes.
Dan has scored a perfect score four times in tournaments and two times in fun shooting. It is done very few times a year in tournaments with over 22,000 registered shooters. It is quite an accomplishment to have ever done it one time in your life.
A few years ago Dan placed 16th in the US National Championships, in the 28 gauge class.
Folks, you should try out Old Barn Sporting Clays at Illinois Route 133, Oakland, Ill., 61943. Their day phone is (217) 346-2562 and cell is (217) 323-9611. Hours are Thursday-to-Sunday 8 a.m. to dark. Monday to Wednesday are by reservation.
Tom and I experienced a rare treat to shoot with Dan and Bovy. Lifetime memories were made that day with the Winner and Beginner!
• Hunter Education Course — Indiana Hunter Education Course will be held Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and April 14 from noon to 5 p.m. at Gander Mountain in Terre Haute.
You must be present both days to receive credit. Students must register online at www.passitonindiana.com
Kenny Bayless is a freelance outdoors writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org