Sporting Clays is a passion for Edmond resident
Arnie Little went from toting shotguns for his buddies to becoming a champion shooter.
The Edmond resident is a certified Level 2 shooting instructor by the National Sporting Clays Association. He is the most active and experienced shooting instructor in the state.
In his career, Little boasts numerous victories in sporting clay tournaments, most notably three Oklahoma state championships (two in Class AA and one in Class A) in five-stand competition and the prestigious Browning/Briley Sporting Clays Championship in Texas.
The Browning/Briley shoot annually draws more than 500 competitors from across the southwest.
He also shot a perfect score in the Conoco/Phillips Shoot for the Warriors sporting clays event in Houston three years ago, a tournament that attracted more than 600 shooters.
But at one time, he carried the shotguns for his co-workers who first invited him to tag along to the sporting clays range.
Little, who works in the oil services business, was living in Lafayette, La., more than 30 years ago when he was first introduced to the shooting sport that would become the passion in his life.
“Some of the guys I worked with there were good hunters, and of course, they shot the clays. These guys invited me out to go shoot. I am not a hunter, but I went. The joke was I was their gun-bearer. I carried the guns between stations.
“I shot a little bit. I think I broke 19 out of 50 the first time I shot.”
Little tagged along again a second time with his buddies to the sporting clays range and using a borrowed gun, he broke 29 out of 50 targets. Before his third trip back to the range, he bought himself a Browning over-and-under.
“I was pretty well hooked and started competing,” Little said.
There are seven classes of shooters in National Sporting Clays Association events: E (the lowest), D, C, B, A, AA and Masters.
Both Silverleaf Shotgun Sports in Guthrie and Quail Ridge Sporting Clays near McLoud often host NSCA-certified tournaments.
Sporting clays is often referred to as golf with a shotgun. Shooters will walk or ride along a course from station to station, shooting at clay targets that will fly from various angles, heights, distances and speeds. The size of the targets also can change.
Competitors start at the lowest levels and then basically shoot their way up the board to the higher classes based on tournament success.
“It took me about three years to shoot my way up to A class and four years into AA,” Little said.
At age 66, Little still competes, but doesn't empty as many shells as he once did.
“I don't compete near as much as I used to,” he said. “I don't practice like I used to. I win occasionally, but I don't win as often as I used to.”
Participation in sporting clays is at an all-time high, Little said. The local tournaments will typically draw from 30 to 100 shooters, while big benefit shoots will see from 300 to 400, he said.
“I think you are seeing a lot more people who have hung up their golf clubs in favor of a shotgun,” Little said. “If you play golf, that's all you can do with that golf club. If you learn to shoot a shotgun, you can shoot clays, go hunting, put food on the table.
“The relationships you build and the camaraderie and that type of thing is probably very similar to golf. You are probably out there with a group of people you want to be with. There are a lot of really nice people that shoot clays.”
For the past 15 years, Little has been a certified NSCA instructor, giving private lessons at Quail Ridge and Silverleaf. Little can be contacted through his website, e2mshotgunsports.com.
His customers range from those who don't know which end of the shotgun shell to load to wingshooters who are just looking to get a tune-up for the hunting seasons.
“Probably most of them are new to sporting clays,” Little said of his clients. “I teach a lot of kids who are 4-H or FFA shooters, and they compete at the scholastic level.
“I have a lot of beginning shooters who just want to know gun safety, how to hold a gun, make sure the gun fits.”
The more experienced shooters have a tougher time overcoming bad habits, he said.
“Some of them, because they have done something so long, change is something really hard to come by,” Little said.
“When you have shot a shotgun, or any gun for that matter, for a long period of time and have gotten used to a certain way to hold it, a certain way to stand, a certain way to look, and certain way to put your head, you don't want to make that change.”
After taking a shooting lesson, the most important thing to do is practice what you have learned, he said.
“It's kind of a muscle memory thing,” he said. “If you don't, you kind of forget about it.”