World Champion Skeet Shooters: the title perhaps conjures up images of rugged folk toting shotguns across the Western plains. But the real-life world champion skeet-shooting couple insist that the sport is fast becoming the domain of suburban families. Dr. Charles Clark, founder of the Encinitas Medical Group, and his wife, Gena, met 22 years ago at a skeet-shooting practice range and went on to build a life style around their hobby. Times staff writer Leslie Wolf interviewed the Clarks at their Del Mar home, and Barbara Martin photographed them.
Gena: As a young person back in Texas, I had watched skeet shooting and done some bird hunting. I started skeet shooting just as a hobby while I lived in Hawaii. I saw an article in the newspaper about a state champion who was teaching a woman to shoot, and started taking lessons from him. He indicated I had some talent, and coached me for three years.
Charles: I’m from Kansas, and my father raised me with a bird dog and a shotgun and a fishing pole. One day, some friends of mine who were hunting companions invited me to shoot a round of skeet, and I did very well. A month later I was totally addicted to the sport.
Gena: Charles and I met skeet shooting at a gun club in Otay--we were married about three years later and we’ve been shooting ever since. We have now shot 100,000 competition targets each.
Charles: We won the National Skeet Shooting Assn. husband and wife world championship recently.
Gena: As a couple it’s the best thing you can win. That’s the top.
Charles: We’re extremely proud of winning the competition, because when you’re 51 and 60 years old, respectively, you don’t expect to win. It is a game of reflexes and eye coordination, and the competition is long--about two weeks. You get pretty tired.
We will compete next at the zoned championships in Fresno in April. We always expect to win, but there are other husband-and-wife teams who are every bit as capable of winning as we are.
Gena: We have some really stiff competition in California.
Charles: It’s getting very popular. A lot of families travel in motor homes now and a lot of gun clubs have facilities for them to park there during the weekend of the competition.
Skeet shooting has become a family sport. There are several families across the nation in which the husband, wife and all the kids shoot. There is a level of competition for everybody in the game, so you don’t have to be the very best to have an enjoyable weekend of skeet shooting with your family.
We have nine children between us--all four boys shoot in competition. One of my sons became the darling of the skeet-shooting world at age 12. In one year he went from being a non-shooter to a world champion. We have another son who’s been a world champion many times over. He’s safely one of the 10 best shotgunners in the United States.
Gena: One thing that has kept us shooting for so many years is the friends we have made from all over the country, and we would just hate to give that up.
Charles: We have friends in every major city in the United States that has a skeet-shooting field. The National Skeet Shooting Assn. is really a wonderful social organization as well as a competitive one.
The whole state of California has about 800 to 1,000 members, and that varies from year to year. A lot of people shoot for a few years, then lose interest. But we stay involved. I think that husband and wives who begin to shoot together seem to stay with the sport longer.
Gena: It’s a hobby that husband and wife can do together and be fairly equal, ability-wise.
Charles: There are many couples where the wife outscores the husband consistently. In fact, Gena is better than I am.
We’re interested in encouraging people to participate in our sport. We don’t charge for lessons. It doesn’t take long to teach someone.
To get started, it would take about $500 for one gun--generally an automatic 12-gauge shotgun--but that’s all a beginner would want to spend until they know if they like the sport.
Gena: A round of skeet at the Miramar Gun Club is $3.50, and ammunition is $7.
Charles: So basically, a skeet shooter could have three rounds of skeet for the same amount of money that you pay for a round of golf.