OQUOSSOC — When Registered Maine Guide Sheri Oldham showed me the sheet of five targets, I felt nervous. When I held the rented .22 rifle to try out for the new “American Marksman” TV show, the unfamiliar firearm filled me with more doubt.

But when I watched Abigail Hammond of Lincolnville shoot first, all my nervous energy faded away, because there was no way I was going to come close to shooting like this rock-solid 13-year-old.

“It felt good,” Abigail said shyly afterward.

Oldham, Abigail and I were three contestants for the Outdoor Channel’s new reality show, “American Marksman.” The local competition, held last weekend at the Rangeley Region Guides and Sportsmen’s Association’s brand new pistol and rifle shooting range, was the first tier of competitions being held this month at more than 200 shooting ranges around the country.

The best of the sharp-shooters in four divisions (men’s, women’s, youth, and law enforcement/military) will qualify for nine regional competitions this summer, with the best from those events advancing to the championship in January in Talladega, Alabama. The grand prize for the show, which will air in 2017, is $50,000.

Producers at the Outdoor Channel decided after market research that a shooting-sport reality show would be of interest, said Sam Melnick, a regional manager of “American Marksman” in Denver.

“We’ve been working with industry professionals to make sure the courses are safely designed. And we thought it was the right time, so we took it and ran with it,” Melnick said.

Only amateur shooters can try out for the show. The entry fee is $20 for the chance to fire 50 shots with either a pistol or rifle. What adds to the difficulty is that the competition is timed. Any shots that land outside the bullseye add time to the final score.

This was Hammond’s first shooting competition. Two weeks before the event, she and her father practiced at Beaver Lodge in Hope, home of the Knox County Fish and Game Association. Then they watched YouTube videos of other “American Marksman” competitions to get a sense of what would be expected.

“It’s all mental. I used to shoot a lot for competition, though not for money,” said her father, Doug Hammond.

Once her turn came, Hammond quietly listened to Oldham run through the protocol for the shooting qualifier.

There would be three commands before the clock started: “Shooter make ready,” “Shooter ready?” and, “Shooter stand by.”

Throughout the three commands, the gun barrel is pointed down, in the safe position. After the third command, the shooter waits for a beep from the official timer to begin firing.

Hammond shot with robotic precision and with a steady cadence, showing no nerves. She hit the bullseye on 46 of her 50 shots, taking just 21.11 seconds for her first 25 shots.

“This is pretty cool. You’re pretty consistent. It’s interesting that you’re so close,” Oldham commented.

As for myself, I hit the bullseye on 35 of 50 shots and was off the targets on only one shot. Not bad. But I lacked Abigail’s speed, efficiency and consistency.

When all three shooters had competed, Hammond’s smile widened.

“I thought I might be nervous, but once I started shooting I was calm,” she said. “One of the ways I try to relax is just taking deep breaths.”

Two days later, Hammond learned she qualified for the regional in Gerrardstown, West Virginia, on July 16-17.

“I think that I’ll do pretty well in regionals, maybe not nationals, but still well,” she said. “If I do make it to nationals that would be one of the awesomest things to happen. Even if I don’t win, I would get to go to Alabama and get to be on TV. That’s always fun.”

Doug Hammond said the family will be working on bottle drives and launch a GoFundMe page to help pay for their trip to West Virginia. Her fundraiser can be found at gofundme.com/24dsj2k

 


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