Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Remembering Eric Weikum

The 5th Annual Eric Weikum Memorial Shoot will be held on Saturday, April 24th, at the Downers Grove Sportsmen's Club in Morris, IL.

I attended this shoot for the first time last year, and it was such a great event. For those of you who knew Eric, it's really a great way to honor his memory.

I became friends with Eric when he and I were both competing at the Midwestern Grand American in April of 1995. My father, Jerry, knew Eric's father, George, and they introduced us. The Midwestern Grand (which would later become the Southwest Grand) was held in El Reno, Oklahoma. If you've ever been anywhere near Oklahoma in April, you'll understand why it eventually got moved to San Antonio, Texas.

Being a 14 year old kid from Wisconsin, I figured Oklahoma was in the South, therefore I packed mostly summer/spring clothing. No jacket. The day Dad and I arrived at the shoot it was 60 degrees, sunny, and mostly still. This weather was apparently a fluke. The next day, the high was around 30 degrees, and the wind was blowing around 20 mph. Unfortunately, Oklahoma doesn't have many forests, or even trees for that matter. The only thing slowing the wind down was the barbed wire fence running along the far edge of the shot fall zone.

Fortunately, my father realized that I had no jacket the day before, so he made a deal with me that he would buy me a shooting jacket, and I wouldn't have to pay him back if I won a trophy at this shoot. Unfortunately, Mother Nature decided that she didn't want me to win a trophy, so the next day she hit us with 40 mph winds and a pleasant combination of rain, freezing rain, and sleet. It was so nasty, the big dogs were walking off the line after shooting only 25 targets, packing up their RVs, and breaking out of Oklahoma as fast as possible.

At the time, I was a Sub Junior standing on the 19 yard line, and I shot a rousing 68. I would later find out that the high score of the day was somewhere in the low 80s and that 68 would have hit second lewis, had I played the options. I knew my odds of winning a trophy and earning my brand new shooting jacket were slim, but they were even more slim because I knew that Eric was there. What I didn't know was that Eric's birthday was either immediately before or during the shoot, and that he was now a Junior.

I would eventually find this out when my dad and I would join Eric and his father (along with a few other people from Northern Illinois) for dinner that night. We ate a restaurant called Applewoods, which was in Oklahoma City (it's no longer in business, but the feature of this place was that they provided you with an endless supply of mini apple fritters). A place like this was a perfect escape from the nasty weather. The adults consumed adult beverages and talked smart, and Eric and I consumed kiddie cocktails and traded trapshooting experiences and stories of being freshmen/sophomores in high school.

The next day (the final day of the shoot), the rain and sleet subsided, the wind settled down to about 20 mph again, and the sun even started to peek through the clouds. I shot a 92 in the Budweiser Handicap, which was good enough for 3rd place in the event and my first ever earned yardage punch (a 1/2 yard to the 19.5 yard line). Also, because Eric had recently become a Junior, it allowed me to win the Sub Junior All-Around trophy (Eric won the Junior All-Around). I was the only Sub-Junior to complete the All-Around, and I felt a little ashamed. Eric was the first one to tell me that a trophy is a trophy, and it doesn't matter how you won it. Little did I know, his advice for how to feel about backing into a trophy would be something I would reflect back on many times in my life. I have unexpectedly backed into a bunch of trophies since then!

Eric was wise beyond his years and he always lived life to the fullest. With all he endured following his diagnosis of cancer at age 19, he was always positive and upbeat about life. I truly believe that when his life was cut short at the age of 24, he had no regrets about the way he spent his time on earth. He has been, and continues to be, a role model for me throughout my life. I often wonder what he would think of the way I choose to live. I regularly find myself checking to make sure that I'm making the most out of this life that I've been blessed to continue living, because there are far too many wonderful people like Eric who don't get the opportunity to stick around as long.

On top of being a phenomenal human being, Eric was also, in my mind, one of the best trapshooters of all time. If he were around today, he'd be the person from my era that would be contending with Harlan, Ricky, and Leo. I always felt that way, even before he was gone.

Please consider attending the Eric Weikum Memorial Shoot on April 24th. Details can be found at the ATA website, or you can contact Eric's sister Ondrea (630-878-9403 or or Frankie Bentley (815-693-3141 or You can also visit the Downers Grove Sportsmen's Club website. Proceeds from this shoot benefit the Eric Weikum Trapshooting Hall of Fame Scholarship and the University of Chicago - Comer Children's Hospital.

If you have memories of Eric that you'd like to share, feel free to add them in the form of a comment on this post (click the Comments link immediately below this posting), or send it to me in an e-mail at I will post your story here, unless you request otherwise.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Factory Shells @ The Grand

It only took a few years for the powers that be to reneg (or at least seriously consider renegging) on their promise to keep costs down at the Grand. I'm sure I'm not the first person to tell you that the ATA Executive Committee wants the 2010 Grand American to once again require participants to use brand spankin' new factory shells.

The word is that it's not official yet...there may be a vote by the Delegates. Some people are claiming that this change is in response to the substantial prize available in the $100,000 donation by the'll supposedly make it more difficult for the cheaters to win it.

I haven't validated any of the rumors floating around. There's too many. But I know one thing for sure...the ones who stand to benefit from this are the shell companies.

You could argue that the ATA will benefit, and they might actually turn a profit on the Grand this year if they enforce this. But, they're not in the business of making money (at least not publicly). When the Grand moved from Vandalia to Sparta, the EC thought that allowing people to use whatever shells they choose would help stimulate attendance. It may have had an impact on attendance, but it had a more noticeable impact on the big three shell companies (Remington, Federal, and Winchester). The Grand was guaranteed profit for them.

I'll probably still shoot the Grand, but I will most likely scale back on the number of events I participate in because of this. I'm interested to hear how others are going to be impacted by this. Leave a comment by clicking the comments link immediately below this post.

Sent from my BlackBerry®

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Details about the $100,000 shoot off at the Grand

I should have checked before I posted about this shoot off.  It now sounds like it's going to be a shoot off between the 9 winners of the various handicaps throughout the week.  You would most likely shoot from your present yardage, so if you won a handicap at the 22 yard line and got a punch to the 24.5, you would compete in the shoot off from the 24.5 yard line.

As I said before, this shoot off has been made possible by Bill and Lee Ann Martin.  I believe it's the same Bill Martin from the Vernal Gun Club in Utah.  This is such a generous donation, I think every member of the ATA should personally thank them.  Luckily, has setup an easy way for shooters to do just that.  Just visit this link, and use the form to send them your thanks.

A couple shooting related blogs

I've been scouring the web and so far have only found a couple shooting related blogs:
  • The Lost Target
    •  Posts news of interest for gun enthusiasts.  The poster claims to be a registered skeet, trap, and sporting clays shooter.
  • Bad Ass Girls Club
    • A group of women who are gun and outdoor enthusiasts.
I haven't spent much time on these blogs, but I'll follow them and let you know if there's anything interesting.

If you know of any shooting blogs, let me know.

The weather is breaking...I'm thinking about shooting

In Wisconsin, we really only get about three months of good trapshooting weather.  Once those are over, I essentially go into hibernation.  I don't mind shooting in cold weather, but it just feels like so much more work to get myself put together and haul all of my stuff to the club to shoot.

Money probably has something to do with it as well.  I don't need to tell you that trapshooting can be expensive.  For me right now, I look at it as an expense more than a hobby.  That's probably because I'm carrying a good amount of debt from college still, and my fiancee (Melissa) and I just bought a new house that really tests the limits of our current salaries.  Plus we're saving for the wedding...  I'm sure everyone has their own financial reasons for not shooting as much as they'd like.

Eventually, I'll be at a place in life where I can devote more time to shooting.  I'd love to get back out on the circuit and make the All-American team again.  Maybe travel to some baby Grands and state shoots.  I ultimately want to be a factor again...I know I have the ability, I just need to make the time.  For now, I'll just shoot a few shoots here and there, and make my normal appearances at the state shoot and the Grand.

Speaking of the Grand, I just read my "Post One" e-mail from the ATA and saw that Bill and Lee Ann Martin have donated $100,000 to be awarded in a shoot off this year.  Wow!  That's life changing money for most people.  Even after taxes, you're still looking at a large amount.  It sounds like one person will be chosen from each handicap event held throughout the tournament (there are nine) and they will all shoot off for the money on August 14th.  I wonder how they're going to pick the nine individuals.  From the description at the ATA website, it sounds kind of random.

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