By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
BLUE SPRINGS – The 39th annual Hillbilly Open skeet shoot is getting back to its roots.
The three-day event at Whitetail Ridge Outdoors, which begins with the doubles competition Friday afternoon, will have more of a regional than national field this year.
“It’s becoming more of a regional shoot again, like it used to be,” said Dick Hollaway, the president of Whitetail Ridge Outdoors. “It’s still a top shoot.”
Hollaway expects a field of 60 shooters to compete in the doubles, 12-gauge, 20-gauge, 28-gauge and .410-bore competition. The shooters will range in class from AA (experienced shooters) to E (novice shooters).
More than 80 shooters competed last year.
“I think the main reason we’re down is because of the economy,” Hollaway said. “I expect to see it back up when our economy gets better.”
The Hillbilly Open field will still include some of the sport’s best.
Former .410-bore world champion Frank Callahan of Starkville will be challenged by one of the region’s top young shooters in Ripley’s Jonathan Hopper, who has won his last three events, including Jackson’s Rebel Open two weeks ago.
Hopper won the Rebel Open’s high overall championship with a 399×400 score. Brian Rishel of Dumas, who will shoot the Hillbilly, was the Rebel runner-up with a 397×400.
“We’ll have some late entries like we always do,” Hollaway said. “It’s going to be a competitive shoot.”
Another factor in the low entries, Hollaway believes, is the reduction in the number of bird hunters.
“There’s a lot more deer hunting going on than wing hunting with shotguns,” he noted. “Dove season used to be like a holiday. It’s affected the number of shooters we have.”
One positive, Hollaway said, are the youth programs.
“We’ve got a really good 4H program here, a scholastic clay target program for young shooters,” he said.
At the end of this month, Whitetail Ridge will host the four-day (July 30-Aug. 2) Junior World Skeet Shoot with more than 120 shooters entered.
“We hosted it here in 2005 and it was a great shoot,” Hollaway said.