By Will Brantley
How old were you when you first learned to shoot?
I didn't pick up a shotgun until I was 14, at a 4-H program. But I fell in love with it and started competing at the local level. Although I compete in international trap, I shoot everything for fun. Sporting clays. Skeet. All that.
As an Olympic athlete you have to spend a lot of time training. How often do you get to go waterfowl hunting?
Luckily, duck season falls during the off-season for my training. My boyfriend plays for the Denver Broncos, so we try and get out when he has an off week. I usually get to hunt ducks and geese several times a year.
Did you grow up duck hunting?
No, I grew up hunting big game in Alaska. I did some upland hunting but have only recently experienced Alaska waterfowl hunting.
What kind of shotgun, choke, and shells do you use for competition?
I shoot a 12-gauge Krieghoff over-under. It's a German-made gun, but other than having an adjustable comb, it's a pretty standard setup. I shoot a modified choke on the bottom, which is the first barrel, and a full choke on top. In trap, you're allowed two shots at the target. The first shot is usually around 30 yards, but if you miss, the second shot is around 35 or 40. We have to shoot a specific load in the Olympics—a 24-gram load, which is less than 7/8-ounce of shot. It's really a 20-gauge load in a 12-gauge hull.
What advice would you give to Greenwings about how to improve their shooting during the off-season?
A big one is just to get out there and practice! Don't put your gun away at the end of the season. And don't shoot the same clays from the same angles and positions over and over. Mix things up a little. The skeet field is a great place to get shooting practice from a variety of angles.
Do you have any other shooting tips for Greenwings?
The way the gun fits you is another important consideration. Unlike a rifle, a shotgun doesn't have a back sight to line everything up with. Your eyes are the back sight. So if your eyes are not aligned properly down the rib to the front bead because of a poor fit, you'll be off. Make sure that the gun isn't too long for you, even when you're wearing thick hunting clothes.
During the Olympics last summer, you were the target of some criticism from animal rights activists because of your hunting background. What advice do you have for young hunters who find themselves in a conversation with someone who's against hunting?
Just be educated about the benefits of hunting, and be prepared to talk about the great work hunters do for conservation. And be respectful. Many times, people who say they're against hunting are really just not educated about it. If you respectfully present them with the facts, they'll sometimes change their minds.