The sport of skeet shooting consists of a shooter firing a shotgun at clay targets, or skeet, that are launched from houses, which are small, shed-like structures with openings from which the skeet emerge. Trap shooting is different then skeet shooting because the targets are launched away from the shooter whereas in skeet they are fired across the shooter.
The center itself is laid out across an area about three football fields long. There are seven skeet fields, four trap fields, and a five stand. The center is home to about 230 members while also being open to the general public. The center is very accommodating to beginners.
“Today was the first time I ever shot skeet,"said Justin Levine, a Towson resident. "I had some previous experience hunting, but really didn’t know much about this. I ended up on a field with two of the regulars here and shot with them for about an hour. It was basically like getting a private lesson.”
One of the regulars who helped Mr. Levine out was Mike Liebman, a longtime member of the center and a competitive shooter.
“I enjoy teaching the sport because most people are either intimidated by it or uneducated about it,” said Liebman. “It’s not a redneck sport. In fact, most of our members are professionals, attorneys, brokers, doctors.”
The regular shooters at the center range in age from their mid-30s to their late-70s. One of the oldest regulars, Jerry Katz, went blind in his shooting eye and had to relearn how to shoot using his left hand. The regulars all seem to share the same high level of passion and dedication to the sport.
The sport tends to attract an older crowd. Many of the regulars are retired, but according to Mr. Liebman, it’s a great sport for all ages. Liebman thinks it’s a great alternative to more popular kids’ sports such as soccer and baseball.
“Learning the sport at a young age is really beneficial. It’s an easy sport to pick up, but it takes a long time to build the skills and the confidence to be a great shooter,” said Liebman.
Jeff Schluederberg has recently become a member of the club. He was introduced to the sport by a friend at a business conference. “I had no previous gun experience in my life, but I just found it fun and exciting.” He started going to the center to learn more and now two years later he is a full-time member.
According to Liebman, the sport is great because it requires no special or above average physical ability. The only requirement is to be able to shoulder a shotgun. In fact, recently Liebman has been teaching the sport to wheelchair athletes from Baltimore Adaptive Recreational Sports.
While majority of the members are male, there are always women out on the fields shooting. Monica Powell is a competitive shooter who actively recruits women to pick up the sport.
“I’m not really sure why more women don’t come out to shoot," said Powell. I guess it has just traditionally been known as a masculine activity,” said . Powell became a Maryland State Women’s champion after only shooting trap for three years.
Powell and Liebman would recommend the sport to anyone. “It’s a true mind sport. It’s all about mental preparedness and knowing how to focus on your goal. Anyone can accomplish the physical act of shooting, but the mental aspect takes lots of practice to master,” said Powell.
According to Paul D’Amato, a longtime shooter, the best part about the sport is the camaraderie. “Many of my best friends are guys that are members of the center,” said D’Amato.
Ted Hasting came with a friend to a corporate outing at the center. “It was my first time firing a shotgun and it’s definitely very satisfying feeling to hit the target,” said Hasting.
The center values itself as a unique part of the Loch Raven Reservoir Watershed and it is environmentally aware of the importance of the surrounding area. Currently, 12 years of lead shot from the shells is being mined from the fields by a process in which the top inch of the soil is mined up and run through a huge tumbler to extract the lead.
The only thing you need to spend an afternoon at the center is a shotgun. Because of insurance reasons, the center no longer loans guns. If interested, Liebman recommends checking out the National Skeet Shooting Association’s website to locate the registered skeet shooting ranges in Maryland to make sure the membership isn’t required.
Liebman attributes his success and the success of many of the other competitive shooters that pratice at the center to continous pratice all year round, even during the winter months.
“The only thing that ever keeps us off the fields is lightning,” he said