May 2010, the sun rose brightly that morning despite a little chill in the air. This is not an uncommon weather pattern for that time of year in NY. Coffee and a good breakfast…check. Gear that I had packed and reviewed the night before was reviewed again and organized in the truck. Did I over pack? Absolutely. Looking at my vehicle you would think I was going for a week rather than just a day. Someone once told me, “Better to pack it and not use it than to leave it home and be looking for it”. Thus began the morning of my first long range competition.
The ride to the range was an easy one, about two hours. I had been there on a snowy day in April for orientation and to check my 600 yard zero. I met a few shooters that trip, but really had no clue what I was about to experience. When I arrived I saw one man seated on the 800-yard firing line, on the side of his cart was written, Leo D’Amour, Canada.
I had always heard if you were a new shooter you should introduce yourself to other competitors and let them know that you were new to that range or discipline. I followed this process when competing in other formats and it had been helpful. So with gear unloaded and the truck parked I approached this gentleman and introduced myself. “My name is Jim Webster,” I said. He stood, shook my hand and said, “I am Leo, welcome to FORBES”.
We began speaking about how the competition was run. Leo explained how to move from shooting to scoring to resting during the day depending on what relay you were assigned. He offered guidance on safety regulations and even had words of advice about when to eat and hydrate.
I inquired about the wind conditions at the range and that is when Leo smiled the brightest. Anyone who has attempted a long range shot in competition or otherwise knows all too well what separates a shooter from the rest is their ability to read the conditions. Competition ranges are equipped with wind flags, and based on their movement a shooter can estimate the wind speed and direction. This isn’t the only indicator. There are trees, bushes, grass and mirage, all of which provide valuable information to the shooter. I recall vividly when Leo reminded me to use all the indicators I could, and if I was unsure of the condition then stop shooting and watch the others for a bit. “You’ll do fine”, he said, and I shook his hand again and got ready for the match to begin.
My relay assignment was number 4, which meant I was scoring for relay 1. Leo and I were not on the same target, but as fate would have it he shot in the lane next to mine. As memory serves he dropped only one point during his string and racked up a solid X-Count. It was amazing to watch this gentleman well into his 70’s simply tear up the target the way he did. I watched as competitor after competitor approached Leo after his relay to congratulate him on his shooting. He would humbly thank them and begin to move to his next task for the match. I thought at that moment there must be more to this man than just a welcoming handshake and a friendly smile.
Upon arriving home that evening feeling ecstatic that I stayed on target all day, I told my wife about meeting Leo, about his shooting and the conversations we had. I remember telling her how welcome he made me feel, and despite being nervous about competing, how a voice in my head said, “you’ll be fine”.
I logged into my computer that night and did some research on Leo. I discovered a competitive history that goes back to 1960. His accomplishments are many – Master Shooter in Canada, High Master Shooter in the United States, countless regional championships, Canadian National Team Member, F-Class World Champion and the list goes on. Imagine that? Just hours earlier I was speaking with a man who has literally “been there and done that” in competitive shooting and never once did he hint at his accomplishments. Leo’s only focus that day was to make a new shooter comfortable and continue to grow the sport. I stared at my computer truly humbled.
In June of 2013 I was at a match on the weekend of my daughter’s birthday. It was sad to be away, but Katie and I had talked and she said, “Dad I want you to go and I want you to win”! As usual I greeted Leo when I arrived at the range and he asked how my shooting had been. I explained that it had been going well, but one thing I had yet to do was shoot a clean run. I had been close many times, but had never been able to bring it home. Leo shared a couple of stories with me that morning and there were two quotes that I wrote down and now bring to every match.
1. “It is to be, it is up to me.”
2. “You can shoot one, so you can shoot two.”
In relay 1 that day I fired a clean 150-8x. On day two I fired second clean, a 150-11x, and was the overall winner for the weekend. Who was the first in line with a handshake…Leo was.
There have been many matches since then, and many morning greetings at the range. Leo is a man of tremendous knowledge and talent. He has been blessed with success and good fortune and is one of the great ambassadors of the shooting sports. When you see Leo, say hello and make some time getting to know him. Just as important, when you a see a new shooter on the range introduce yourself and make them feel welcome. You might make a friend for life.
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