As you might imagine, planning for the first issue of Clay Target Nation began many months ago, but no decision had our editorial team more stumped than the first cover. Of course, it had to be special and set the tone for the months and years to follow. But with coverage of both the World Skeet Championships and National Sporting Clays Championship planned for the inaugural issue, and an earnest desire to spread the wealth evenly between sporting clays and skeet topics, who would get the cover?
One of those head-scratching sessions yielded this statement from yours truly: “Let’s have both champions on the same cover.” Considering there’s a span of a few weeks between the two events, and we had no idea who either of those champions would be, well, let’s just say it was viewed as a very tentative plan.
As discussion continued, the idea began to grow legs: once the World Skeet HOA Champion was determined, we would ask him or her to travel back to San Antonio on Sunday, October 25, the final day of the National Sporting Clays Championship. At its conclusion, we would grab that champ for a photo shoot with our skeet champion — if all the stars aligned. If they didn’t, the back-up plan that we did not want to employ was two separate photo shoots and some Photoshop magic.
The World Shoot produced a first-time HOA, Mike Peterson, that I didn’t know. Sitting in the shoot-off stadium during awards, I was anxiously waiting to see the new champion step forward to accept one of the five medals he earned so I could identify him, snag him for a conversation, and persuade him to come back to San Antonio in a few weeks for a photo shoot. To my surprise, when his name was called, the young man sitting next to me rose to begin collecting his bounty. When he returned, I was ready to pounce. Hey, this might work!
Within a few minutes, I’d had a delightful conversation with the 25-year-old Peterson and made my pitch to have him return to San Antonio from his Wisconsin home for a photo shoot with our sporting clays champion. He graciously agreed, assuming he could be cleared to miss work on Monday while he traveled back home. Within a few more days, we were able to check that obstacle off our list as well.
By now, we all know about the visit of Hurricane Patricia during the National Sporting Clays Championship. Yes, we’re still going to do the photo shoot, I assured Mike Peterson, and he boarded the plane.
Mike arrived Sunday afternoon as sporting clays shooters were still competing, bringing along his shotgun and a fistful of medals. Now he, editor Hilary Dyer, and I only had to wait for the conclusion of Nationals to see who would grace the cover along with him.
We had enlisted the extraordinary Thaddius Bedford to photograph the champions. He pitched some ideas, and we were anxious to see his vision come to life. To save time, we scouted locations near the stadium field that weren’t overly muddy and acquired a ladder so Bedford could obtain the right perspective. After he explained one of his photo concepts to us, we laid out clay targets in a grid on top of a trap house, thankful that his artist’s eye could visualize how this was going to come together better than we could.
Competition continued, dragging later and later into the evening. Around midnight, the last shoot-off finally produced a winner, William Walton, and in the next moment he was being whisked away by Executive Director Michael Hampton to our photo shoot. “We’ll do this right in a few minutes,” he told Walton as he hung a medal around his neck and handed him a championship ring, “but now we have to do a photo shoot!”
Bedford started with a few shots of the champions displaying their rings at arms’ length. “Yes, we like those,” we said, looking at the camera’s viewer. Then he climbed the ladder and directed the champions to stand among the grid of targets on the trap house. He shot a few frames and showed us the result. “Money shot!” exclaimed Hilary, and we knew we had our cover.
In case you’re wondering, no, we don’t plan to go this route again. The 2016 World Shoot will be covered in the November issue of Clay Target Nation, and the National Sporting Clays Championship will be featured in December.