AUGUSTA — Ashley Hamilton stared down the barrel of her .22 caliber Cooper rifle, her target 50 yards away, and got into a zone.
“I’m trying to think about nothing,” said Hamilton, 27, of Chelsea. “It’s just me and the target. I’m thinking about Xs. This is all mental. You have to be relaxed and you can’t let any pressure get to you. If it does, it will ruin you.
“Shooting competition is a totally different animal.”
The Capitol City Rifle & Pistol Club is hosting the second annual One-Shot East Shoot this weekend.
Gary Hamilton — Ashley’s father — of Neilson’s Sporting Goods in Farmingdale organized the event, which featured a rim shot competition Friday morning.
Ashley Hamilton was the top shooter, earning about $320 to kick off the festivities.
Competition concludes today when 36 shooters will compete for five original oil paintings as well as stainless steel Excalibur Cooper rifle that retails at about $2,400.
“There are a lot of extremely good shooters here,” said Hugo Vivero, who owns Cooper Firearms that is based in Stevensville, Mont. “It’s going to be a nice rifle for somebody.”
Ashley Hamilton, as well as the other 15 shooters who joined her on the range Friday, hopes the prized rifle will be hers by the time competition wraps up late Saturday afternoon.
She certainly got off to a good start Friday, when two flights of shooters took aim at 50 targets. A “hit zone” shot was worth 10 points in each target, meaning 500 would net a perfect score.
Ashley Hamilton finished with a 499.
“A good day,” she said. “I feel relieved. There’s no more pressure. I beat my father and my brother, and that’s all that matters.
“I used to shoot in high school (Cony) and last year I decided to get back into it. This year I’ve only shot a couple competitions. It’s not easy to do. I don’t think people understand the variables that go into this. You have to worry about the sun, worry about the wind. There’s a lot that goes into it.”
Added John Hassam, 49, of Belgrade: “The .22 is pretty challenging. There are a lot of factors. These competitions, they affect people differently. I don’t let it get to me. I know I have 25 targets on each (sheet), and I just go from one to the other.”
Pete Wass, a renowned marksman who finished second to Gary Hamilton at the state championship last week, says he thrives at shooting competitions.
He finished second.
“It’s a game of patience,” said Wass, 67, of Ellsworth. “If you run out of patience you will not do well. It really is a mental game. There is more mental than mechanical, really.”
Cooper Firearms has put on a One-Shot competition for 14 years in Montana. The event draws shooters from across the country and Canada.
Gary Hamilton, who attended several of those competitions, approached Vivero a few years ago about hosting one in Maine.
“Gary came to me and asked if I’d ever consider doing one in the East Coast,” Vivero said. “So we decided to do it. We have a lot of customers in Maine so it made sense. We’re still not sure if we want to do it every year here or if we want to have other people host it.”
Vivero added he’ll likely bring the tournament to Canada as well.
“We’re going to start a Cooper One-Shot Canada,” he said. “But that will probably be it. We don’t want to go too crazy.”
Today shooters will take aim at targets fastened to original oil paintings from Joe Cavaliere, who helps coordinate the competition.
Cavaliere painted five pictures — a bobcat, black bear, moose, deer and coyote — specifically for the event.
About six shooters will be assigned to a painting. The top two highest scores at each will advance to the final round this afternoon.
“In the finals, the targets are 150 yards away,” Vivero said. “The winner will get the rifle.”
Bill Stewart — 621-5640