For Brownstown Central High School junior Jackson Lahrman, clay bird shooting is a mental sport.
While he hasn’t mastered that side of competitive shooting, he’s making a name for himself in the sport.
He recently took third in the Gamaliel Cup Shoot B Class as a junior, earning him a spot on the 2018 DuPont Krieghoff All-Star Team for Indiana as the junior representative for the team.
Lahrman has won several shooting tournaments over the past year, earning him points to advance up classes moving him from D up to B.
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He hopes to soon bump up to A.
Lahrman said his ultimate personal goal is to get to master class, the top class before he moves out of the junior category at 21 years old.
To do that, Lahrman will have to earn more points as the competition grows ever more difficult in A than AA class.
“I haven’t hit my peak yet,” Lahrman said. “It’s going to get harder. I’ll slow down, but I still haven’t peaked.”
Despite this success, he said he still views shooting as a mental challenge more than a physical one.
“Elvis has left the building,” Lahrman said, describing the advice his father, Marc Lahrman, a former police officer and firearms instructor, always gives him to deal with the stress. “Even if you miss it, you aren’t getting it back. Elvis is gone, so focus on the next shot. You’d be amazed how easily one miss can turn into two.”
The 17-year-old competes in shooting clay discs, or birds, in a manner described by the National Clay Bird Association as “golf with a shotgun.”
Each individual starts with 100 rounds of ammunition and goes to various stations, the number of which can change at each shoot, and tries to shoot a series of two birds thrown by a machine.
The birds can be thrown as a true pair, one right after the other, or at many different intervals, the goal being to miss the least number of birds.
Unlike some other sports all-star teams, the DuPont Krieghoff All-Star Team team does not require Lahrman to attend any special competitions, but the position does earn him patches for his shooting vest and an acceptance letter.
“It gets your name out there in the shooting community, which can lead to more stuff along the line, like sponsorships,” Lahrman said. “It’s a real honor.”
Lahrman said he plans to continue shooting, as it’s something that he can do at any physical level, citing his great-uncle, Dick Hamilton, 92, is still shooting for fun with him.
Lahrman plans to shoot in college, preferably as part of a college team, and has talked to Purdue University’s team in addition to touring the campus.
“I’ve always liked (target) shooting, and I’ve been an athlete before,” Lahrman said. “Clay bird shooting is just the way that I can compete, like I do in athletics, at something I’m good at.”
His immediate goal, beyond earning master class, is to hopefully find a sponsor to help him and his father shoulder some of the burden of ammunition costs, travel expenses and shoot fees.
“They get their name on my bags and vest that I wear,” he said. “Usually, it’s a company. It could be an individual, but that’d be difficult for them. A lot of shooters have ammo sponsors who at least cover their ammo.”
For right now, Lahrman’s sole sponsor is his father, who often travels with Lahrman to weekend shoots.
“He supports me 100 percent,” he said. “We were pretty close because we farm together, but when you work, you can kind of just shut up and farm. You can’t do that when you’re driving six hours to a shoot.”
The people he meets and gets to spend time with are what make shooting important to Lahrman.
He said he has met some of the top shooters from across the world, from top-five national-level shooters to being paired with the world champion super senior class shooter.
“I watch them, and they watch me back, and we both learn from each other,” Lahrman said.
He said clay bird shooting can look expensive from the outside, but the key is to always have fun.
“Even if I didn’t have the gun I have, I’d still be out here competing with a cheap 12-gauge,” he said.