ECHUCA was locked and loaded last weekend, as the Victoria Trap Shooting Championships rolled into town.
It saw the best shooters from across the country making the trip to take part.
And Echuca shooters can lay claim to being the cream of the crop.
More than 400 shooters from clubs all over Australia attended the event, vying for individual championships, club championships, as well as spots on the Victorian State Team.
Echuca Gun Club was dominant.
The club claimed the overall club championship as the best in Victoria.
They also had four men selected to the 15 man state team, the highest number of any club in the country.
Club president Stephen Atkins completed the high gun with a score of 343 of a possible 350, finishing third and qualifying for the state team.
Despite the performance, Atkins was not satisfied.
‘‘I wasn’t happy with how I shot at all,’’ Atkins said.
‘‘I was consistent without being good, I know I could have shot better, so I’m a bit disappointed. That said, 400 of the best in the country, coming third is not a bad showing. I just know I could have done better.’’
Casey Fletcher came second in the single-barrel shooting for the tournament, which saw him, as well as Craig Fitzgerald and Warwick Kelvy, selected to the state team.
Kelvy also gained the distinction of being selected to the five stand team.
The tournament ended on Monday morning, after the double-barrel tournament was unable to be separated at 11 o’clock on Sunday night.
The final match ended on Monday morning, with Sam Clifford taking the championship with a stunning score of 758 from 758 shots.
This performance from Clifford was a record for the club, also setting a new Victorian state record.
It was also part of an incredible gun streak — 842 consecutive targets made without a miss.
It was a stunning end to a fantastic event.
The Victorian championships is the second biggest event in the country, behind only the national championships, which this year was down on attendance.
More than 400 shooters, families, as well as a number of dogs made their way to Echuca to take part.
As Echuca turned on the weather, the shooters put on a sensational show.
Western Australia’s Gary Kelly took out the high gun as the best shooter throughout the competition, as well as taking out the single-barrel title.
Kelly said he was ecstatic to put together such a strong performance when the moment arrived.
‘‘I’m really happy with how I’m shooting at the moment,’’ Kelly said.
‘‘I’ve been seeing them really well and have been extremely happy with how I’ve shot this weekend.’’
It was the greatest individual honour for Kelly in a near 20-year shooting career.
He missed just four shots to finish with a score of 346 from a possible 350.
‘‘In my time I haven’t been the high gun winner, so getting to claim the award in this tournament is a great honour.’’
Jarrod Nicholls, who shot a 342 in the high gun, and also claimed the double rise title, said the event was a platform for young shooters who wanted to make the jump into bigger events. ‘‘For me, I would love to make the national team and shoot at a world championships, that’s the goal I have and events like this start to build the confidence in your shooting to build you towards those events,’’ he said.
Stephen Atkins said this event, as well as a future olympic qualifying event, shows the calibre of shooting in Echuca is strong, and can only continue to get better. ‘‘We’re stoked to get to hold an event like this. It’s the biggest shoot in Victoria. It’s close to the biggest shoot in the country, so getting to hold it in Echuca means that our club is only going to get better for it,’’ Atkins said.
‘‘To have this kind of crowd make it down is wonderful. We have turned on the weather as we so often do so it’s been a great weekend.
‘‘Being able to host an event like this, knowing we have more on the radar, it really shows that the work we did to improve the facilities at the club was a great investment.’’