Steamboat Springs A hit is all that’s required. Catch a clay pigeon with the periphery of a shotgun blast, maybe breaking it in half with a BB or two, and it counts. Clip it and break off a small section? That counts, too, making for just another X on the score sheet.
That’s not what drives 15-year-old Logan Bankard, however. Bankard is set to begin competition Monday in the 2012 National 4-H Shooting Sports Invitational Match in Grand Island, Neb.
When Bankard competes with his shotgun, it’s those perfect shots that turn the target into a cloud of dust that keep him going.
“Don’t rush it,” he said Monday, exuding his friendly, infectious confidence while mingling with friends after a practice round. “Don’t rush it. Crush it.”
Bankard’s dedication to a solid hit — to crushing it — goes well beyond the firing line. That concept seems to dominate his free time, which is dedicated almost entirely to sports.
He recently wrapped up his freshman year at Steamboat Springs High School and proved to be the rare three-sport prep athlete. He competed in football in the fall, ice hockey through the winter and lacrosse in the spring.
He proved skilled at all of those, especially hockey, where he made the varsity roster as a freshman.
Bankard took up the shotgun through 4-H five years ago after being intrigued by the big guns while he practiced archery. None of those long days of high school practice kept him from shooting two or three times per week.
He was a natural from the start, even when his gun barely fit on his shoulder.
“His first gun, I cut inches off the stock and kept adding them back on as he grew,” said Logan’s father, Dan Bankard, who adopted the sport himself at about the same time and now leads the 4-H contingent.
“It’s Logan’s passion,” he said.
Logan has qualified to be on Routt County’s state competition 4-H team the past four seasons. Nationals, however, is something new. A shooter can qualify only once, and he didn’t think this would be the year.
It all worked out, however. He managed top-10 finishes in each of the three contested disciplines: trap, which launches clays from a central box; five stand, which hurls them from five launching points; and skeet, which is when the clays come both high and low from positions in a tower.
Logan was among four Colorado shooters to qualify. It was a surprise, he said, but one that’s been a big boost of confidence as the group has trained together, burning through 400 rounds in one practice last weekend.
“I shot 95 out of 100 down on the Front Range training with those guys on skeet,” he said. “That’s a good feeling, to go down to a range I’ve never seen and shoot that well.”
The national competition begins Monday and wraps up Wednesday.
The fondness for the sport doesn’t have a lot to do with the next couple of days in Nebraska, however. It has more to do with the challenge it presents and the environment it creates.
Logan is more than welcome at the Routt County Rifle Club, as are all of his teammates.
They worked Monday evening and, at times, were flat-out astonishing, dusting long series of clay pigeons.
About 16 4-H’ers from across the county are signed up for the shotgun sessions, and the influx of young shooters is greatly appreciated by the range’s regulars.
“That 16 is just in shotgun. That doesn’t count the archery or the .22 rifle, but we need more,” Dan Bankard said.
The Bankards envision more people falling in love with the sport the way they did: fast and deep.
“Being a rifle shooter, you’re used to aiming and all that stuff, but shotgun is all about movement flow,” Dan Bankard said. “When you shoot at birds, you don’t aim the barrel. It’s more like you are looking through the window of a car. Your eyes track the bird and you bring the gun up between your eye and the bird. It’s a totally different mindset.”
The environment at the range is one the father-son combo take easily, absorbing ribbing from some and dishing it out to others, with Logan playing along, confident but not cocky, cutting but not mean.
Those relationships were a big help as he grew to love the sport, with the veterans offering tips and tricks to help track and connect with the targets.
“When you’re a 15-year-old kid out with the 50- and 60-year-olds, they don’t like when you beat them,” Logan said. “But they warm up to you. They like seeing younger shooters, getting more shooters coming. We’re trying to spread it as much as we can.”
Relationships have helped make his trip possible in more ways, too. The state 4-H association helped each of the four qualified shooters with $500. Bankard picked up another $500 check for the trip Monday from the Lorna Farrow Memorial Fund.
He’s going to Grand Island with teammates and his family, but Steamboat’s rifle range community is invested in him, as well. He also threw out thanks to the Routt County Rifle Club, which allows the 4-H shooters on the range for free; to Three Quarter Circles, where he’s been able to train; to Steve Moore and Bryan Tuck, the Safari Club International; and to his father.
To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com