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Lee Wahlgren

Hassler is Grand America trap champ

Our lives are filled with pluses and minuses and last week was no exception. I have written before about a Princeton man who has a hobby of shooting trap. Wait a minute. It’s not a hobby, it’s a passion. His name is Wayne Hassler.

When he added the years up, he told me that he has been shooting for more than 30 years. That’s three decades. He has traveled all over central Illinois and Iowa, and Missouri plus some longer trips also. During his trips, he has won several of the events he was entered. He has recorded several 100s, and many 99s and 98s. That seems really good but he says 98s and 99s don’t win very often.

For most of us who know little about the art of trapshooting, there are five lanes behind the hut which slings out the clay birds for them to shoot. Five competitors shoot five birds and then rotate to the next lane. When 25 birds are done, the round is over. Most serious shooters don’t miss any. Three more rounds are shot and that concludes the event.

Two years ago, Eric Paull and I travelled to Sparta to watch Wayne shoot in the Grand American, the grand daddy of all trap shooting events. Several thousand trap shooters from around the United States and the world meet for this grand event. Wayne shot a 99 in the event we watched and he told us that was no good. Eight others had shot 100s.

Since this is the premier event for trapshooters, Wayne has participated for many years. He just couldn’t seem to get that 100.

He went to Sparta planning to shoot all 24 events and two finals. That would be 2,600 targets. The first several events found him shooting 97-99. Not good enough. The weather didn’t cooperate very well either. Two days had hard rains and two had high winds.

But on the 17th event, the doubles class championship, things changed. It was very windy and the flight of the targets were very erratic. Wayne got off to a good start breaking all of his birds in the first two rounds. The next round, he missed two, and in the final round, he missed one. Total: 97.

But due to the high winds, other great shooters were having their troubles also. In Wayne’s flight was Harlan Campbell Jr., who is recognized as the best trapshooter in the world. The wind bothered him also and he shot a 95. Wayne won the event. So after waiting many years of shooting the Grand, his dream finally came true. He was a champion at the Grand American sponsored by the Amateur Trapshooting Association.

Now you might think he might relax and savor the moment. No, he left early Tuesday morning for Ackley, Iowa, where he competed in a nine-day shoot. His goal was to shoot 300 targets each day through Saturday and then only 200.

Later in September, he will shoot at three more big events. Then when the events are over for 2014, he will use the winter months to reload shells in preparation for the 2015 season.

Congratulations, Wayne on a great career. Now Princeton can say it has a Grand American Champion.

• It is sad to note that Bureau County lost a good man and fine outdoorsman. I met George Wood more than 20 years ago when a friend who I was accompanying went to see George about a taxidermy mount. After talking to him for a while, I could see how much he enjoyed the wildlife in our county. I asked him if he would consider coming to PHS and giving a presentation to our Sportsman’s Club. He said that would be fine.

He came to PHS and brought several finished mounts with  him. He instructed our students on what had to be done to preserve wildlife specimens so they could be properly mounted, briefly told about the procedure, and told us how to enjoy our outdoor mounts.

Many people in Bureau County have used his expertise. Though we have lost a good man, his memory will last a long time in the homes of many customers. To his family and friends, we extend our deepest sympathy.

• School has started up again and I met some of the kids who went to Canada last June. They seemed to be ready to go again. That’s great. I hope to increase our numbers this year for that great adventure.

• Class of ‘94. It’s almost time for your 20th reunion. Get your reservations in now. Hope to see you there.

Lee Wahlgren is the BCR Outdoor Columnist. Contact him at pdub52@gmail.com.