Christmans are shooting stars: father and son win state trap titles

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Ronald and David Christman are a father and son who share a love of shooting. Residents of Pleasant Township, the pair not only shares a passion for hunting, but also share a love of trap shooting.

Traveling all around the area, the Christmans always saw trap shooting as more of a pastime than a way to earn honors, but as they earned title after title in smaller shoots, they became aware of the Indiana State Trap Shooters Association — which holds a state trap shooting meet each year.

At this year’s event held in Fortville, Indiana, the 112th gathering of the Indiana Trap Shooters Association crowned a Christman as its state champion.

Not one, but two.

David Christman was the state winner in the “Hall of Fame Handicap” shoot on Friday; while Ronald Christman earned the title of state champion in the “State Handicap Championship” — an event that son David calls, “The Grandaddy of the week.”

“It’s the biggest event of the week,” David Christman said. “It’s the event that the most people participate in. Winning the State Handicap is definitely the biggest title that a person can win in the state.”

Certain events during a trap shooting competition are called “handicap events” because shooters of different ability levels shoot targets from different distances — between 19 and 27 yards. The better you are, the further away from the targets you stand.

NEARLY PERFECT

Ronald Christman can’t remember not having a gun in his hand. He figures that he’s shot trap for at least 40 years, but has been hunting since his childhood.

“I was shooting a gun long before I was shooting trap,” he recalled. “When I was eight years old, they gave me one old gun and one shell so I could go rabbit hunting.”

At Sunday’s “State Handicap Championship”, he was placed in a “squad” of five shooters, usually grouped according to their ability and handicap distance. Because he’s very proficient at his shooting, Ronald Christman shoots at a distance of 23 yards. Within each squad, shooters take turns shooting at increments of 25 targets each until all shooters have attempted 100 targets.

Scores are recorded for each target — sometimes referred to as “birds” — hit.

After shooting his 100 targets, Ronald Christman had hit 99 of them, including having to reshoot a target because the first one was a “broken bird” — a target that was determined to be broken or chipped at the time it was thrown.

And the one he missed?

“I did a dumb thing,” Ronald Christman says with a laugh. “The guy shooting in front of me missed his bird, and I called for my bird before his hit the ground. When they threw mine, I saw his.”

“It’s a concentration game,” David Christman says. “When you lose your concentration, it’s usually a missed target. Any other thing moving around out there can distract you and take you off your target. I’ve had plastic bags and all sorts of stuff float by.”

Still, with 99 out of a possible 100 targets, Ronald Christman was in position to claim the state crown — but another shooter had also connected on 99 targets.

“When there’s a tie, the shooters go to a shoot off of 25 targets each,” Ronald Christman said. “He shot first, but missed his last target. I was standing there watching that.”

But it was some words of advice from his son that meant the most.

“I finished second in the state in 2002,” he remembers. “I had my chances to be state champion, but I didn’t do what I wanted to and got runner up. Dad and I had that discussion before he went out to shoot on Sunday. I said, ‘Just finish what I started in 2002’.”

And Ronald Christman did.

Hitting a perfect 25-for-25 in the shoot off, Ronald Christman because just the 13th State Handicap Champion to record a score of 99 in the more than 40 years that the event has been in Fortville. No shooter has recorded a perfect score of 100 since 1977.

Actually, Switzerland County’s new state champion hit 124 out of a possible 125 targets — counting the shoot off birds, an amazing feat from any distance.

“After I watched that guy miss his last bird, I was sweating on my last target,” Ronald Christman said. “When I hit it and looked up, David was walking toward me with his hand out to congratulate me. That was pretty special.”

“Watching him shoot on Sunday actually took more out of me than shooting my targets,” David Christman smiled. “That was exhausting.”

Now the holder of the highest honor in Indiana Trap Shooting, Ronald Christman is making plans to attend the 107th Grand American World Championships being held in Sparta, Illinois, August 13th-18th. For his efforts, the American Trap Shooting Association has also moved him back two more yards on his handicap, meaning he’ll shoot at the Worlds from a distance of 25 yards.

“I’ve never shot in the Grand before,” Ronald Christman said. “I just never did think I was good enough.”

FAMILY FOCUS

David Christman was one of about 450 shooters in the “Hall of Fame Handicap” on Friday. Shooting in squads and firing four rounds of 25 for a total of 100 targets; David Christman connected on 98 of his possible 100.

That incredible shooting was done at his handicap distance of 25 1/2 yards. His state title will allow the American Trap Shooting Association to move him back to the maximum distance of 27 yards — where only the best shooters in the nation are found.

Like his father, David Christman has always been around guns and hunting.

“I’ve been shooting trap seriously since 1994, but even as a kid, I was around it,” David Christman says. “We usually just participated locally, we never went to the state tournament or anything. I think my first trip to the State was in 2001.”

Along with being father and son, Ronald and David Christman are also close competitors and friends.

“We’re always comparing notes and stuff,” David Christman says about his relationship with his father. “We talk about all different aspects of shooting, and that helps us out when we’re at a particular tournament.”

The duo also spends time shooting in area events in such places as Butlerville, Commisky, Ohio County, and ranges here in Switzerland County. At all venues the Christmans say that observers will see families gathering to shoot in different events; husbands and wives, sons and daughters.

“It’s a family-oriented thing, but I think it’s pretty unique that we both won our championship rounds,” David Christman said. “I was pretty happy with the way things turned out.”

And other members of the family? Ronald Christman says proudly that his granddaughters have been doing some shooting; and wife Phyllis — after years of watching — announced at age 55 that she wanted to give trap shooting a try.

“We went out back and I threw her 15 targets the first time and she hit eight of them,” Ronald Christman said of his high school sweetheart and wife of 44 years. “She said, ‘That wasn’t very good,’ and I said, ‘It was darn good.’”

“I didn’t expect her to hit any.”