There are good shotgun shooters, and there are shotgun shooters good enough to win competitions.
And then there are shotgun shooters who win world championships.
Thanks to a victory at the recent 2017 World Skeet Championships, Plato resident Doug Kyle is now a member of the latter category.
Sanctioned by the National Skeet Shooting Association (NSSA), the World Skeet Championships is an open competition held annually at the National Shooting Complex in San Antonio (a 671-acre venue dedicated to shooting sports competition and activity). This year’s version took place from Sept. 29 to Oct. 7.
In his seventh trip to event, Kyle, 45, broke through big-time by topping the elite world-class field in the Wayne Mayes Championship class. In earning the title, he was one of seven shooters to break every target in 100 shots in regular competition (25 each with 12, 20, 28 and 410 gauge shells), but was the only one who didn’t miss in the ensuing “shoot-off.”
The seven finalists used 410 shells in the shoot-off. Kyle needed 14 shots to secure the win.
“At first I didn’t know how to feel,” he said. “It’s extremely tough to win a world title. I had a good day.”
The World Skeet Championships features shooters from around the world, and this year included more than 800 participants. The Wayne Mayes Championship competition was formerly called the Champ of Champs, but was renamed in 2016 in honor of legendary skeet shooter and frequent world title holder Wayne Mayes, who died from burns sustained in a gunpowder-related accident in 2013.
“It was an honor to win the Wayne Mayes event,” Kyle said, “because it was named after him. To have that as my first world title was very special because I knew him on a personal level and he meant so much to me and everyone else in skeet shooting.”
The shoot-off came down to Kyle and a long-time shooting buddy, California resident Dan Jones, who missed his first shot and hit the second.
“So all I had to do was hit the pair,” Kyle said. “I say that’s all, but it was quite the moment.”
During the moment, Kyle was in that classic “zone.”
“You don’t hear anything,” he said. “I didn’t hear the crowd or anyone else. All I heard was the machine release the target and all I saw was the target.
“When I hit the pair, then I could hear people cheering and I thought, ‘wow, this is all right.'”
Kyle’s gun of choice – and the firearm that carried him to a world title – is a Kolar Arms Gold Elite model. He uses Briley tubes to modify it for shells of varying sizes. Kyle likes to point out that both brands are made in the U.S., with Kolar guns built in Wisconsin and Briley gear manufactured in Texas.
As he progressed in the sport, Kyle basically wore out a Baretta shotgun, and ended up with a Kolar after a recommendation from Mayes.
“He helped me pick it out and I’ve been shooting it ever since,” Kyle said.
Having a gun that “fits” is crucial to becoming a champion, Kyle said.
“You can never shoot a gun to its best potential without it fitting you correctly,” he said.
Beyond that, it comes down to God-given talent.
“It’s all about hand-eye coordination,” Kyle said. “That’s why there are so many great young people in the sport; they grew up sitting around doing almost nothing but playing hand-eye coordination games. That’s probably the only positive thing about that.”
Kyle is only the second Missouri resident to win a world skeet title (the first won a 12-gauge title in 1970). This year, he also earned a silver medal and bronze medal for top-three finishes in a pair of 12-gauge disciplines, and garnered a gold medal for performance in his age group.
Conditions weren’t ideal when Kyle shot clean through the Wayne Mayes competition.
“It was pretty windy,” he said. “The targets weren’t easy; you had to be paying attention.”
A native of the Fair Grove area, Kyle is a reserve deputy with the Texas County Sheriff’s Department and works for Upton Township. He lives near Plato with his fiancee, Kelly Warner (who works with MFA in Mountain Grove), and also has experience as a deputy with Dallas County and other agencies.
Kyle began shooting a shotgun when he was about 8 years old.
“I had a beagle and a single-shot H&R 20-gauge,” he said. “I was able to go out on the farm by myself and hunt rabbits with my dog. I’ve shot a gun pretty much my whole life.”
Kyle began focusing on skeet shooting as a student at Missouri State University in the mid-2000s. He was older than most other students and was involved in professional fishing.
But a suggestion from an agriculture professor turned his life in a new direction.
“He said I was missing too much class because of fishing,'” Kyle said. “I told him I made up all my work, but he said, ‘you kind of need to be in school, too.’ He said ‘surely you hunt, too, so why don’t you come out and shoot some skeet and trap targets with us.’ “I did, and it changed everything.” As a member of the Bears’ shooting team, Kyle shot in all three shotgun disciplines – trap, skeet and sporting clays. His talent soon became apparent, and he achieved NCAA All-American status in 2005.
Kyle eventually fell in love with skeet, and was named to the NSSA all-rookie team in 2006.
REACHING THE PINNACLE
Kyle competes at about a dozen events each year, traveling from coast to coast to go against some of the best skeet shooters in the country. How did he become one of the top shooters in the world?
“Practice, practice and more practice,” he said. “When I was in college we practiced three to four times a week and were shooting 400 to 500 targets at every practice.”
Nowadays, Kyle is a member at the Big Piney Sportsman’s Club (near Houston) and shoots there every Thursday and whenever else he gets the chance. He sometimes offers tips to Texas County 4-H Shooting Sports members at the range.
“The problem a lot of young or new shooters face is everyone has advice – everyone can help you,” Kyle said. “You have to pick out one person to really take that advice from. Everybody else can give you advice and you can think about it – and even ask that one person about it – but it’s that one person you need to trust.”
Kyle’s “one person” was a man named Roxy DeCarlo, who was a regular at gun clubs during Kyle’s days of practicing with the MSU squad.
“He would stand on the field with me for hours,” Kyle said. “He would always tell me lots of things he noticed about what I was doing.” Kyle said the best thing about being a world class skeet shooter is the camaraderie that comes with hanging out with peers.
“They love the competition, but they want to see you do well,” he said. “It’s not, ‘I, I, I,’ it’s ‘let me help you.’ “That’s what it’s all about.” After the fall and winter “off-season,” Kyle expects to shoot in many competitions next year beginning in April. He definitely has his sights set on a return to the world event in San Antonio.
“And I don’t have to find a parking space now,” he said. “I have one dedicated just for me. You don’t want to give that up.”
Kyle said he’s gratified by finally seeing all his years of work pay off in such a big way, but he’s not about to become complacent.
“It makes you hungry for another one,” he said. “Now you’ve shown yourself you really can compete at this
A MAJOR SHOOTING VENUE
Facilities at the National Shooting Complex in San Antonio, Texas include:
• 45 skeet fields.
• 47 trap fields.
• 5 sporting clays courses.
• 2 NSCA 5-stand sporting fields.
• Lights for after dark clay target shooting.
• Lighted stadium accommodating 1,000 spectators.
• Large clubhouse.
• On-site catering.
• 180 RV electrical and water hook-ups.
• Meeting spaces.
• Large, 3/4-enclosed pavilion for meetings, banquets, parties and other events.
• Individual and group shooting lessons with certified instructors. For more information about the venue, log onto www.nsc.nssa-nsca.org.