Liberty skeet shooter aims for Olympics

CorrespondentMay 8, 2013 

Dustan Taylor tahes the ready position during a round of international skeet. His goal is to qualify for US Olympic Skeet Shooting Team.

JIM LASLEY

Dustan Taylor, a 20-year-old college student from Liberty, is locked in concentration. He cuts off life, as we know it, like a spigot.

Taylor is in the zone, a place he has labored to reach, a place few others can call home. To get there you have to listen and learn and believe.

Taylor is reaching for a dream – to make the U.S. Olympic Skeet Shooting team. This dream dominates his life.

Taylor shoots 40 rounds or 1,000 shells per week of international skeet. He devotes the remainder of his time to his biology studies at UNC-Greensboro. He also helps his dad raise beagles and take care of 10 horses. In his spare time, he does 300 pushups and 150 situps per day and runs three miles every week.

“I have no social life,” he said. “If I’m not shooting or reloading shells, I’m studying or in class.”

Watch him on the skeet range at Durham County Wildlife Club, and you’ll see a lesson in mental concentration and focus.

“I turn off everything but shooting,” Taylor said. “I feel like I can’t miss; it feels like the gun is a part of me, on automatic, a reflex.”

That’s the zone. The result of four years of work.

“It’s taken me that long to learn the mental game of shooting. Without the zone I would never be more than an average shooter. Once you reach that state you never forget it. It comes with time and good teachers.”

Taylor’s abilities as a skeet shooter have earned him a long list of championships, including the title of world champion. He blasted 450 of 450 clay targets to become the youngest shooter to earn the world title with a perfect score.

The road to the Olympic dream started eight years ago, when Taylor shouldered a shotgun for the first time. His dad arranged a round of skeet under the tutelage of Craig Kirkman, also a world champion shooter from Liberty, about an hour west of Raleigh.

Later that year, Taylor shot at the U.S. Open at Fort Bragg and broke 99 of 100 targets. This landed him among the higher echelon of skeet shooters and the Olympic dream germinated.

He attributes his success to good coaches such as Kirkman and Mike Schmitt of Coleman, Ga., a former international shooter for Beretta.

But without the Durham County Wildlife Club, where he is a member, Taylor says he would not be shooting. The club provides a practice field, clay targets and reloading supplies.

In June the club plans an international skeet tournament with proceeds benefiting Taylor. Participants will be shooting international skeet, which differs from American skeet in several ways – faster and longer targets, more doubles, a random 0- to 3-second delay from when the shooter calls for the bird and the shooter cannot shoulder the gun until the target appears.

Taylor shoots exclusively international skeet with an over-and-under 12 gauge Krieghoff H-80, a German-made shotgun designed to handle thousands of rounds.

To reach his goal, the Olympic Training Committee must select Taylor to attend its school in Colorado Springs, Col. His room, board, training facility and professional development will be provided.

“You are chosen on your skill level and potential,” Taylor said. “You’re there as long as they don’t find somebody better. There are no guarantees.”

Taylor’s other option is to join the army, and after basic training, attempt to qualify for the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit.

So how does he rate his odds?

“I figure I’ve got an 80 percent chance for the 2016 team,” he said. “As for the 2020 team, I have no doubt I’ll be there.”

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service