Shotgun Master Opens Idaho School
If you think it is only those who cannot do who teach, meet Dan Mitchell.
by Ed Mitchell
Mitchell (no relation or I might have been a better shot through the miracle of genetics) owns more awards from armed forces, national and world championship shotgun events than he can hang on the walls of his Nampa home. A career Navy man, Mitchell holds a place in the armed forces shooting sports Hall of Fame and will likely take his place in the National Skeet Shooting Association (NSSA) in 1998. At least one of his records, for breaking all but one target in 500 during one national competition, has not been broken to date. He has the heavy gold ring to show for his 1991 World Championship in the NSSA skeet competition.
After retiring from the Navy, Mitchell managed and expanded the Wolf Creek shooting range (host of the 1996 Olympics clay target competitions) at Atlanta, Georgia into a world-class facility. He has been offered the leadership role at several of the largest shooting facilities in the country. So what is he doing in Idaho, holding shooting camps for teenagers and training adult shotgunners at shooting clubs in the Boise valley, not to mention acting as tournament director for the Idaho State Sporting Clays Championships?
As it is with some other talented people raised in Idaho, he could make a ton more money somewhere else but it just would not be the same. He likes the place, he loves the bird hunting, he enjoys teaching and he has grand memories of boyhood bird hunts here with his grandfather. He thinks he has something valuable to give back to Idaho, to eager kids, and to the shooting world.
So how does an old Idaho birdgunner like myself take to instruction from a top-dog competition shooter?
On a recent afternoon at the Skyline sporting clays venue, Mitchell did more to correct some of my shotgunning faults in three boxes of target shells than all the other teaching and advice Iíve had in nearly 40 years of shooting. And thatís without hurting my tender feelings in the process. Danís demeanor is calm and calming to the student while his instructions are direct and easy to grasp.
When difficult targets began turning to dust instead of floating into the distance unscathed, it was obvious the man knew what he was talking about and, more important, could make his point even to a ham-fisted country shooter with a lifetime of bad habits. (Mitchell had a way easier time with Idaho Fish Ďní Hunt partner Dennis Udlinek, who had not fired a gun since Viet Nam; the big guy had forgotten any shotgun shooting faults he may have had as a kid and powdered almost every clay bird thrown that day.)
Mitchell started his shotgunning life as a kid hunting birds in Idaho. He tasted clay bird competition while stationed in Japan in 1967, where he hunted bamboo groves with Japanese bird hunter friends. But he began in earnest in 1972, after duty in Viet Nam, when he competed in an armed forces shoot where he broke 93 of 100 skeet targets on his first try. As a young Navy man with a wife and kids, he had no money to travel to shoots in style. He traveled to events on a 175 Honda, sleeping bag and shotgun tied to the back, until he caught the eye of a Navy officer who helped with a little money and the right assignments until Mitchell gained enough credibility to be made captain of the Navy skeet team. In the course of his skeet career, Mitchell shot more than 120,000 registered targets.
At 50, Mitchell feels a responsibility to teach. With beginning shooters, his goal is not only to teach shotgunning skills at his new Clay Target and Wing Shooting School, but also to help his students learn their own responsibility to wildlife resources and in safe and honorable hunting. Along with those lessons, Mitchell has some important pointers to share from a life richly lived.