The Great Doubles Shootoff

I’m sure many have heard the saying that intense competitive shooting is 90% mental, and 10% physical. The most interesting example I’ve seen of this happened many, many years ago at the Grand American World Championship Trap Shoot in Vandalia, Ohio.

The great shooters, Leo Harrison and Frank Little, had tied for the world Trap Doubles Championship with the top score of 100 straight each, out of a field of several thousand shooters in the event. Both men were perennial All-American shooters and were very well known throughout the trap shooting world, so it was a highly-anticipated shoot off.

As the shooters were called to check in for their shoot-off in front of a packed grandstand of several thousand spectators, I saw Frank Little check in and proceed to the designated shoot-off field. I knew Frank and Leo well, so I walked out to chat with Frank as he nervously prepared. As we were chatting, the announcer blared: SECOND CALL—Leo Harrison, please report for your shoot off. Frank was getting more and more nervous and Leo had not yet appeared. THIRD CALL, said the announcer. Leo Harrison, you have five minutes to check in for your shoot off or forfeit the Championship. 

With less than one minute to go, Leo came walking through a gap in the bleachers DRAGGING two Remington 1100’s behind him as the shotgun stocks bumped along the ground. He checked in and approached Frank and I ray pieceat the shoot off field. Leo had somewhat of an intimidating physical presence, as he stood around 6’6” tall, and weighed well in excess of 300 lbs. As he got to the gun rack where Frank and I were standing, he simply stepped out from under a full flat of shotshells he was carrying on his shoulder---letting them slam to the ground with shells popping out of the broken box tops. That was certainly a bit alarming, but he then apologized to Frank, saying he was playing cards in the beer tent and had not heard the call. Frank’s eyes were getting bigger by the moment. Frank was repeatedly checking his expensive, tailored shooting vest to be sure he had everything he needed, but Leo simply grabbed a box of ammo from the ground, opened the top flap of the box and inserted it into the front of his pants. Leo didn’t bother with fancy shooting vests.

With that, they stepped to the line with Leo on Post 2 and Frank on Post 4. Back then it was permissible to fire test rounds in the air to ensure the guns were functioning properly. Leo told Frank he was going to fire a few test rounds, and at Frank’s nervous nod, Leo shot two rounds into the ground directly in front of the shooting station, which created a cloud of dirt that wafted over Frank. Frank then said he was going to fire test rounds as well, as he, somewhat hesitantly, shot two shots over the trap---which was the proper etiquette. 

The shooters were shown two pair of “sight” targets before it was time to begin. Leo then looked down at Frank and said, “Are you ready for this Frank”? As Frank nervously nodded his head, Leo called for his first pair, which he completely obliterated in a nano-second. Frank mounted his gun about three times, and finally managed to call for his first pair of targets-----the second of which he missed by a wide margin. Before Frank had even brought his gun down, Leo called for his second pair, obliterating both again in less than the blink of an eye. Frank hesitantly called for his second pair---breaking the first, and again missing the second target. 

And so it went through the first (and only) round of the shoot off. Leo smoked all 20 of his shoot off targets, and Frank managed to chip his way through 18 X 20. The shoot off was OVER!!  Leo casually obliged a few people taking pictures of his great victory---shook a few hands, and proceeded to “drag” his two 1100’s back to his card game at the beer tent. 

It was one of the greatest “psych” jobs I had ever seen, and it was talked about throughout trap shooting circles for years. Leo was a great shooter, a great person, and a true champion, but it was never a good idea to get into a shoot-off with the master of “psych”. ~ Ray Oeltjen