Steven Jones squints. Sweat is beading on his forehead, blurring his vision.
He raises his gun and breathes deeply. Suddenly, he yells “Pull!”
A bright orange target flies from his right, set against a clear blue sky.
A second later, the target has disappeared, reduced to a cloud of orange debris.
Without so much as cracking a smile, the Harrisonville 18-year-old silently removes the empty shell from his gun and moves to the next station.
Scenes like this will be common in Columbia this week. Columbia is hosting the 2005 National 4-H Shooting Sports Invitational for the second-straight year.
The competition began Wednesday, and events will continue through Friday at various locations in Columbia.
The Missouri 4-H Shotgun team is participating. Along with Jones, the team also includes Richmond’s Erick Bersano, 18; Hamilton’s John Silvey, 19; and Laclede’s Brian Ehrich, 17.
Wednesday featured skeet shooting, an event in which a shooter moves between stations to shoot at targets launched from the right and left, at the Cedar Creek Rod and Gun Club. There are four rounds in the event, and each round includes 25 targets.
The team saw career days from Jones, Bersano and Silvey. Each posted a perfect round, firsts for Jones and Bersano in competitive play.
Tradition at Cedar Creek demands that when shooters complete their first perfect round, they must throw the hat they are wearing into the air and let the competitors shoot it down.
“We’re going to have go out tonight and buy some new hats,” Bersano said.
“If I’d had a hat, I’d have shot it,” Jones said. “I don’t wear a hat shooting skeet.”
Jones said he was surprised at his success because he only recently began shooting skeet. He led the team with a score of 93 for the first day.
“This is my first year shooting skeet,” Jones said. “I don’t shoot skeet often, usually I shoot trap. There’s a big difference. There are eight stations for skeet, and five for trap. Skeet just seems faster, so you have to give them a lot more leeway than in trap because you can shoot dead-on in trap.
“When I was finished, I thought ‘Wow, how did I do that?’”
Ehrich said he appreciated the chance to come out and compete, but thought he could have done better.
“It’s a new experience, and it’s good to get out and meet new people,” said Ehrich, who finished the day with an 88. “I usually score in the low- to mid-90s, so I’m a little disappointed. My goal is to finish in the top five overall.”