Rim Country Trapshooters Earn Honors

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When Doug Stevenson, Larry Martin, John Steve Cline and Ed Stevens get together with their rifles, the pigeons better watch out.

Clay pigeons that is.

The four men compete for the Payson Birders in local American Trapshooting Association competitions.

"On Saturday I came in second place in short yardage handicap," said Stevenson of the ATA's May 27 and 28 event held in Young.

Stevenson scored 93/100, taking first place in class B singles where pigeons are targeted from 16 yards away.

His was the third highest score of all shooters, right behind the Arizona state champion and the Texas state champion on Saturday.

Cline won the short yardage handicap on Saturday, shooting 88 out of 100 pigeons, starting at a position of 20 yards and progressing backward to 27 yards.

The next day, Cline shot 93 out of 100 in class B and 89 out of 100 in the handicap.

"Doug went home on Sunday and I was forced to take them both," Cline said with a big grin. "We shoot tit-for-tat; we're pretty close together."

The shooting is all in fun. They aren't trying to qualify for the ATA's Grand National competition in Ohio.

"We're just representing our club here locally at any matches that happen around here," Stevenson said. "We're just letting them know we're alive.

"But," he added, all in the spirit of friendly competition, "Next time I'm going to beat Steve in handicaps."

It takes sharp eyes and lots of practice with a rifle to follow a four-inch-diameter disc out of a box on the ground called a trap and shatter it with #7.5 round.

"You can't tell a person how to have their own style but you can tell them what not to do," said Martin, credited with coaching the other three men.

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Doug Stevenson, John Steve Cline and Ed Stevens, members of the Payson Bird Busters, recently brought home high honors from an American Trapshooting Association competition in Young. The trio's group has regular trapshooting events at Harrison Field in Rye.

"You've got to see the target come out and identify it -- that's with your soft vision. Then you lock onto and shoot it.

"You've got to stay into the gun and keep swinging. In other words, you don't stop your swing. If you stop, you are shooting where the target was and you'll miss.

"A lot of people try to lead a bird, get so many feet in front of it, and that doesn't work because you never know from one shot to another.

"You've got to be swinging the gun faster than the target," he finished.

The trap machine oscillates the pigeons to five different positions and shooters rotate themselves through five different stations, so it is theoretically impossible to know where in the sky a clay pigeon will fly.

But when you have shot nearly 4,000 rounds a week at clay pigeons for most of your life -- like Martin has -- you get a feel for where the target will come out next, he explained.

As an adult, Martin shot professionally for several years for arms companies like Remington and Winchester. His father gave him his first gun when he was only 6 -- that was in 1941.

The Payson Bird Busters shoot Wednesdays and Saturdays at Harrison Field in Rye. The range is named for one of the men instrumental in starting the club 11 years ago.

Audrie Harrison, a state champion in AA class, has been shooting trap for 30 years and skeet for 15.

"Being in a wheelchair doesn't stop me," Harrison said.

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Larry Martin is a veteran member of the Payson Bird Busters.

"We relatively new shooters are very appreciative of the help we receive from experienced members in our club, like Larry Martin and Audrie Harrison," Stevenson said.

Trapshooting is not just for men, of course.

Dorothy Dixon is an active member of the Payson Bird Busters. Now 82, she has taken several gold medals trapshooting in the Senior Olympics in Arizona.

Dixon is proudest of the medal she won about three years ago when she shot 72 out of 100 with her Browning Trap Gun.

When she's not busy practicing herself, keeping score for the other shooters or "spoiling them with homemade goodies," she is an avid seamstress.

She said Bob Wampler took the time to teach her how to shoot 10 years ago.

"I need to keep active," she said. "Trapshooting is a good, fun pastime."

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