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Hunting, Fishing Heritage a Plus for U.S. Olympic Shooters

Connie Smotek (NOTE: Hover over each photo for USA Shooting Team member names.)

Every four years, the U.S. fields an Olympic shooting team known worldwide for achieving success in a most un-contemporary way—a rich and distinctly American background in traditional field sports.

Coaches say hunting and fishing, still the primary funding mechanisms for conservation in our country, also help boost America’s competitiveness on the international stage.

Corey Cogdell

In recognition, the entire USA Shooting Team is serving as honorary chair of National Hunting and Fishing Day 2010, set for Sept. 25. Congress established the annual commemoration to recognize hunters and anglers for their leading role in fish, wildlife and habitat conservation. Sporting licenses and special taxes on certain gear generate $100,000 every 30 minutes, totaling more than $1.75 billion per year, for programs that benefit all who love the outdoors.       

Denise Wagner of Wonders of Wildlife, the official home of NHF Day in Springfield, Mo., said, “American hunters and anglers are not only world-class conservationists, they have skills that help make world-class athletes.”                        

National Shotgun Coach Bret Erickson agrees.

“Most members of our shooting team grew up hunting and fishing,” said Erickson, himself a four-time Olympian and lifelong hunter and angler from Bennington, Neb. “Nobody starts hunting because they want to go to the Olympics, but it helps. The skills learned in hunting and, to a lesser degree, fishing—safety and comfort with firearms, basic shooting mechanics, patience, controlling emotions, concentration, ability to focus for long periods, persistence—can translate directly to competitive shooting.”

This deep and unrivaled connection to outdoor traditions helps make the U.S. a surprisingly fierce contender in all three shooting disciplines: shotgun, rifle and pistol.

Erickson explained, “In many countries, Italy for example, shotgun shooting is a premier sport. Everyone shoots. And they shoot the international-style games that are relatively uncommon here in America. So before a match even begins we know we’re outnumbered and outmanned. Our athletes typically haven’t had as much time in their sport. Our training budgets are often smaller. And yet, in shotgun events, the U.S. remains among the top one or two countries in the world.”

He added, “Most nations don’t enjoy the broad freedoms to hunt like we do in the U.S., and that unique tradition and BJ Blanchardrural lifestyle produce much of our talent. Hunters have always been a reservoir of natural shooting abilities that America has relied on and successfully developed for Olympic competition.”

Shooters are among the most decorated athletes in U.S. Olympic history. With 103 medals for shotgun, rifle and pistol marksmanship, only track and field, swimming, diving, wrestling and boxing have been more prolific medal producers for Americans. In fact, shooting ranks ahead of gymnastics, figure skating, volleyball and more than 30 other Olympic sports.

Buddy DuVall of USA Shooting, the national governing body for Olympic shooting sports, said, “Our team is thrilled to serve for National Hunting and Fishing Day.Rachael Heiden It’s a great honor to recognize our roots in hunting and fishing, raise awareness of conservation and build appreciation for the sportsmen and women of America.”

Notes and Quotes
A sample of USA Shooting Team members, listed by home state, on hunting, fishing and conservation:

Alaska
Corey Cogdell, 23, Eagle River—Olympic bronze medalist, 2008. Shotgun: trap. First U.S. woman ever to win a medal in her event. Avid hunter with moose, caribou, bear, deer, ducks and upland birds to her credit. Quotable: “Hunting brought me into the shooting sports. I grew up hunting and fishing with my dad. I can remember him teaching me to shoot at a very young age, and I grew up realizing that shooting, hunting, fishing and conservation are all intertwined.”

Dan Jordan, 31, Fairbanks—Paralympic silver medalist, 2004. Rifle: 3 position. Former world record holder in his event. Lifelong sportsman who pursues both big and small game as well as fishDan Jordan in both freshwater and saltwater. Quotable: “The fundamentals of shooting, whether for targets or game, are the same. The same attributes that make you a good hunter can also make you a good shooter—with enough practice.”

Matt Wallace, 26, Fairbanks—Olympic hopeful, 2012. Rifle: various events. Began fishing at age 7, hunting small game at age 8 and big game at age 14. Quotable: “Hunting was the reason why I learned to shoot. Being successful in hunting and fishing, just like in competitive shooting, require the patience to work hard, the ability to focus on what you can control, and the attitude to enjoy the experience along the way.”

California
Jeff Holguin, 31, Yorba Linda—Olympian, 2008; World Championships silver medalist, 2009; World Cup bronze medalist, 2009. Shotgun: double trap. Passionate waterfowler. Quotable: “If it weren’t for bird hunting, I would have never been introduced to clay target shooting. I still love to hunt anything with feathers. When sports fans find out that I hunt, they always ask, ‘Do you eat what you shoot?’ When I describe the sportsmanship and ethics behind hunting they almost never have a problem with me being a hunter.”

Kim Rhode, 30, El Monte—Olympic gold medalist, 1996, 2004; Olympic silver medalist, 2008; Olympic bronze medalist, 2000. Shotgun: double trap, skeet. Most decorated shooter in American history, and among the most enduring and successful Olympic athletes in all of sports. Lifelong angler. As a hunter, collected her first limit of doves at age 7. Since then has taken numerous big game species from several continents. Quotable: “When I won my first Olympic gold medal (age 16, in the Atlanta Games) they rushed me off to be interviewed by the media. The first question I was asked, by a New York Times reporter, was, Kim Rhode, photo by Matt Martin TV Productions‘Which is bigger—the 300-pound bear that you just shot in northern California or the Olympic gold medal around your neck?’ The reporter went on to write a great article and people accepted me as a hunter, angler and outdoor woman.”

Colorado
Lance Bade, 38, Colorado Springs—Olympic bronze medalist, 1996; Olympian 2000, 2004. Shotgun: trap. Since the age of 9, a devoted hunter and angler who now guides big game, waterfowl and upland bird hunts. Quotable: “My accomplishments in shooting and guiding have allowed me to work with all kinds of conservation groups. Conservation not only preserves land for future generations but also assures healthy game populations. All true outdoorsmen are stewards of the land.”

Amber English, 20, Colorado Springs—Junior Olympic gold medalist, 2009. Shotgun: skeet. Enjoys fishing and hunting, especially with her father and other family members. Quotable: “I was taught at a young age about what conservation means and what we as hunters do for wildlife and Teresa Meyerhabitat. I take lots of pride in this. If people don’t take the initiative to help conserve our outdoors, future generations will not get to share the same experiences as we did with hunting, fishing and shooting.”

Iowa
Haley Dunn, 25, Eddyville—National Championships silver medalist, 2009. Shotgun: skeet. Lifelong hunter and angler who enjoys pursuing big game (including an African safari), turkey, upland birds and all kinds of sportfish. Quotable: “Two major traits that hunting has taught me are dedication and patience. I get the same adrenalin rush when a monster whitetail comes by my stand as I get when I am competing for the gold. The patience it takes to sit in a treestand waiting for that one opportunity is the same patience it takes on the skeet field.”

MichiganMatt Emmons
Rachael Heiden, 18, Clinton—World Cup bronze medalist, 2009; Junior Olympic gold medalist, 2009. Shotgun: trap. Enjoys fishing as well as hunting for deer, quail and waterfowl. Quotable: “My parents taught me early on that hunting, fishing and conservation went together. However, since I started shooting competitively, it has brought a whole new realization about how our sport can increase that awareness for other people.”

Teresa Meyer, 24, Dearborn—National Championships silver medalist, 2009; collegiate national champion, 2008. Sport pistol; air pistol. As a young child caught her first fish, a 1 lb.-1 oz. bluegill which is mounted at her parents' home. She also enjoys hunting and has taken seven whitetails. Quotable: “I was a shooter first, but hunting taught the absolute importance of safety. Knowing that I can kill something with a gun made me more aware of why the rules on the range are so important. Hunting also sparked my interest in rifles and I competed nationally for several years with high-powered rifles.”

Collin Wietfeldt, 18, Hemlock—U.S. Junior Olympic gold medalist, 2009; World Championships junior team silver medalist, 2009. Shotgun: trap. Avid hunter, angler and trapper. Quotable: “My life revolves around the shooting sports and the outdoors. I wish more Americans would see how important the great outdoors, the right to bear arms, hunting, fishing and shooting are to not just me, but to all of America and the world.”

Minnesota
Matt Emmons, 28, Grand Rapids—Olympic gold medalist, 2004; Olympic silver medalist, 2008. Rifle: men’s prone, Frank Thompson3x40; air rifle. Multi-record holder in rifle shooting in both NCAA and world levels of rifle competition. Lifelong angler. Grew up hunting deer and rabbits in New Jersey. Since then has gone on to collect numerous big game species across North America as well as Europe and Africa. Quotable: “Hunting got me interested in shooting. Simple as that. No one in my family was a shooter—we didn’t even know it was a serious sport. I've learned that taxes from firearm and ammunition sales go toward conservation efforts. I'm happy that everyone involved in these activities is helping to improve hunting and fishing opportunities now and in the future.”

Missouri
Shawn Dulohery, 44, Lee’s Summit—Olympic team member, 2004; World Championships gold medalist, 2001. Shotgun: trap, skeet. Enthusiastic waterfowler since the age of four. Quotable: “Hunting has allowed me to develop the most incredible friendships in the world. Every hunting season has a special place on my calendar—something I always look forward to! It’s a privilege that people from many countries are not allowed to enjoy.”
 
Nebraska
Frank Thompson, 21, Alliance—Junior Olympic gold medalist, 2008, 2007. Shotgun: skeet. Enjoys bass and trout fishing, pursuing deer with rifle and bow, and hunting for birds and predators. Quotable: “Knowing that shooting sports generate funding for conservation makes me very proud. The idea of conservation came to me at a very early age—growing up ranching with my family, the land had to be healthy to support us, and I realized the land was also used by wildlife. When you have healthy land, you also have a healthy wildlife population.”Brian Beaman
 
North Carolina
Mike Anti, 46, Winterville—Olympic silver medalist, 2004; Olympian 2008, 2000, 1996. Grew up fishing and later began shooting as preparation for hunting. Quotable: “Most hunters practice conservation and have a deep respect for the outdoors and nature. My hunting and fishing activities are increasing now that my boys are old enough to enjoy them with me. Some of my most memorable hunting and fishing experiences have been when my boys have taken a nice deer or caught a big fish. The time we spend together in the field, on the range or in a boat is priceless.”
 
South Dakota
Brian Beaman, 25, Selby—Olympian, 2008. Pistol: various events. Loves to hunt pheasants but also enjoys big game hunting. Quotable: “I have been hunting for as long as I have been able to walk. When I was a kid my dad would break apart one of his over-and-under shotguns and let me carry the back half in the field. My hunting and fishing skills later transferred to competition. If you want to have a successful hunt you need to practice, have a plan for success, be patient and stay focused—all true in sports, too.”

Texas
B.J. Banchard, 19, Vidor—Olympic hopeful, 2012. Shotgun: skeet. Has been hunting as long as he can remember and is especially fond of bird hunting. Quotable: “Hunting is what got me started in shooting. Every time I go out hunting it seems to help my skills in skeet shooting.”

Glenn Eller, 28, Katy—Olympic gold medalist, 2008. Shotgun: double trap. Fervent bass angler and deer hunter. Quotable: “The first time I passed up a deer that most people dream of shooting because I would rather have it in the gene pool than on my wall, I really made the connection between conservation and hunting. Without hunters, there would be far less pristine land left in the world.”Shawn Dulohery

Sean McClelland, 24, Harlingen—Olympian, 2008. Shotgun: skeet. Grew up fishing the saltwater flats of the Texas gulf coast, chasing redfish and speckled trout. Also an avid bird and big game hunter. Quotable: “Hunting at a very early age proved to be the foundation for my interest in the shooting sports. This passion eventually opened the doors for my Olympic dreams. It was through hunting, also, that I learned how hunting license and tag fees go back into conservation efforts for all kinds of wildlife.”

Connie Smotek, 45, Bryan—Olympian, 2004, 1992; World Cup bronze medalist, 2009. Shotgun: skeet. Longtime dove hunter, deer hunter and angler. Quotable: “Hunting and fishing require staying calm, being patient and paying attention to detail, which for me has translated to better focus in competition.”

WashingtonHaley Dunn
John Mullins, 22, Port Orchard—National Championships gold medalist, 2009. Shotgun: trap. An avid elk and deer hunter who started out hunting ducks and geese, as well as fishing offshore for salmon and halibut. Quotable: “When I represent our sport, I’m not only representing the shooting world but also one of America’s longest passions—the outdoors.”

Jacob Turner, 20, Richland—World Championships silver medalist, 2009; Junior Olympics silver medalist, 2009; National Championships silver medalist, 2009. Shotgun: trap. Devoted duck and goose hunter who also enjoys big game hunting and salmon and bass fishing. Quotable: “I remember when I was younger, my dad explained the Wildlife and Sportfish Restoration Acts. Basically it means that when you buy supplies for hunting, shooting and fishing, a portion of the revenue supports and improves wildlife and habitat for all to enjoy.”

The USA Shooting Team joins a long list of sports personalities who have served as honorary chair of NHF Day. Baseball stars have included Ron Guidry, Tom Seaver, George Brett and Wade Boggs. Football pros Bert Jones, Terry Bradshaw, John Riggins and Jay Novacek, along with golfers Tom Weiskopf, Johnny Miller, Arnold Palmer and Tom Lehman have also served. Basketball legend John Havlicek, NASCAR’s Ward Burton and tennis champion Roscoe Tanner round out the sports heroes who have helped spread the word about hunting, angling and conservation.

Collin Wietfeldt

Since launching in 1972, NHF Day has been formally proclaimed by every U.S. President.

The growing list of sponsors for NHF Day 2010 includes Wonders of Wildlife, National Shooting Sports Foundation, Bass Pro Shops, Smith & Wesson, Sportsman Channel, Realtree, Cabela’s, GunBroker.com, Yamaha, and Pope and Young Club.

 

 

 

Sean McLelland Mike Anti Glenn Eller Amber English
John Mullins Jeff Holguin Matt Wallace Lance Bade