By Tyler H. Jones

The Golden Isles has a sporting legacy that goes beyond the traditional environments.

While names like pro golfer Davis Love III, St. Louis Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright, and Detroit Lions cornerback Darius Slay give the Isles plenty of athletic cache, Coastal Georgia also produced one of the best target shooters of all time. Fred Missildine, who was born in the Isles in 1915, is considered one of the finest marksmen to ever compete in competitive clay target shooting. Missildine won more than 35 national and international skeet shooting championships over a career that spanned 26 years. He only missed 327 of a staggering 28,425 targets in competition, a nearly 99 percent success rate.

“Fred is in the Georgia Skeet Shooting Hall of Fame and the National Skeet Shooting Hall of Fame based in San Antonio,” says Jon Kent, Sea Island’s director of outdoor pursuits. “His records are pretty incredible, especially considering the ammo has gotten better and the technology in guns has gotten better. Fred was doing most of this with a Winchester Model 12 pump gun. He’s definitely a legend in the sport.”

Clay target shooting — which encompasses the disciplines of sporting clays, trap shooting, and skeet shooting — isn’t much different from more well-known pastimes. Hand-eye coordination and focus are just as big in clay target shooting as they are in baseball and golf.

“Hand-eye coordination is big, but more importantly, it’s trusting your hand-eye coordination,” Kent says. “A lot of people out there have good hand-eye coordination, but they don’t believe they have it. To be able to score better, it becomes a focus game.”

The key to improving your shooting also follows a similar axiom to other sports — good practice and good coaching to keep out bad habits is paramount. From a mental standpoint, Kent says shooting and golf share a lot of similarities. He even read golf books and adapted the mental approach of one precision sport to another.

“I read books like ‘Golf is Not a Game of Perfect’ by Dr. Bob Rotella, and related all the information in that book to shooting,” he says.

That focus is put to the test in tournaments like the Seminole Cup Sporting Clays Championship held at Broadfield Plantation in the first week of March. Kent said the event brings in 500 to 600 shooters to compete.

Tournaments like the Seminole Cup are set up in shotgun starts with participants divided into groups called squads to go through the course.

“Typically, you’ll have 10 to 15 stations on average, at least on a sporting clays course,” Kent says. “You rotate through and shoot a series of 100 targets typically.”

Shooters are classified by skill level with the top-tier shooters in the Masters class. Keeping your focus can be tough in competition, but Kent tries to not worry about what other shooters are doing.

“You may not necessarily be shooting with people in your class,” Kent says. “It definitely does not help to sit there and dwell on what other shooters are doing. You can watch all of the shooters in your squad shoot, but I don’t necessarily think that is a good thing. I usually walk up there, get a game plan, and don’t pay too much attention until it’s my turn to shoot.”

Kent got into clay target shooting looking to improve as a hunter. He then discovered he liked the competitive nature of shooting tournaments as much as he liked going on a hunt.

“It’s not always that way, but for me, it was a way to become a better hunter — until I realized how much fun the competitive side was,” he says.

If you are looking to get a child involved in competitive shooting, Kent suggests that the child should be at least 12 years old before starting.

“You will run into your random 10-year-old that can handle it, and they’re pretty darn good,” Kent says. “My rule of thumb is they need to be 12 or around 100 pounds and be able to handle the weight of the gun and the recoil.”

Kent adds that the Scholastic Clay Targets Program run by the Scholastic Shooting Sports Foundation is a good resource for adults who know kids and teens interested in the sport.