Next generation shoots for success Caswell family competing, officiating at national skeet championship
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Dale pulls, Jason shoots, Brant watches.
That was the scene seven years ago at the Winnipeg Trap and Skeet Club in Oak Bluff, as Jason Caswell, then 42 and still in the prime of his skeet shooting career, would practise for hours on the range. His son, Brant Caswell, then 7, would periodically divert his attention away from a soccer ball to watch the clay targets explode 20 feet above him.
The Canadian International skeet National Championship will be held at the Winnipeg Trap and Skeet Club in Oak Bluff, MB from Aug. 18-21.
The tournament will field 21 competitors from six provinces (Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and B.C.).
The shooters will not only vie for the title of national champion, but to qualify for the SFC High Performance program Skeet Qualifying National Development, and Junior Team Event.
This week, Brant, 14, will take matters into his own hands and join his dad in the Canadian International skeet National Championship, held at the Winnipeg Trap and Skeet Club from Aug. 18-21.
The event will encompass a multi-generational family affair, as Dale Caswell, Jason’s father and Brant’s grandfather, will officiate the tournament.
Jason and Brant are a part of the field’s 21 shooters, who will not only vie to become a national champion but qualify for the Shooting Federation of Canada High Performance Program.
Those who finish at the top of the high-performance program will qualify for the 2022 XIII CAT Championships in Lima, Peru, where shooters can earn Canada a quota spot in the 2026 Olympic Games in Paris.
It’s a long, arduous process, but one Jason has done before and found success in, representing Canada at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta and once again in 2000 at the Games in Sydney, Australia.
“It’s a standard. It kind of grounds you.” Jason told the Free Press on Wednesday during the national championship practice rounds. “No different than kids who grew up playing hockey, you go out and get on the ice and it’s sort of relaxing.”
As a young lad, Jason, now 48, would exclusively hunt waterfowl with his father but wanted to find another way to quench his thirst for shooting outside of the brief hunting season.
He stumbled upon the Winnipeg Trap and Skeet Club by accident when he was a teenager and later decided to return with his shotgun to try trap shooting.
The only problem was the gun he shot was inadequate for that discipline, so he was advised to try skeet shooting instead.
Within a couple of weeks, Jason had gained attention at the club, prompting an international skeet shooter to take the teenager under his wing and show him the intricacies of the sport.
Soon, the sport would encompass his life, taking him across the world, including Italy, where he’s visited 13 times for competition.
“From my perspective, I’m glad that he (Jason) got into it because of his success and the opportunities that it opened for me.” – Dale Caswell
The young skeeter had immersed himself so deep, that Dale decided to tag along.
“I figured, ‘well, I should be involved in that, too,’” Dale said while chuckling.
Except Dale, 76, wasn’t interested in using his gun. Instead, he learned how to officiate skeet shooting events. He worked his way up to becoming an ISSF referee, and then a judge.
What was once a pass time for Jason had become another way for the father and son to bond, travelling around the world together, as Jason competed and Dale officiated. Dale has visted Italy, Peru and numerous cities in the U.S..
“From my perspective, I’m glad that he got into it because of his success and the opportunities that it opened for me,” Dale said.
But Jason had hit a point where he had a decision to make.
As much as he loved the grind of being a high-performance athlete, he was now a father to a still-young Brant, who would frequent the range with his dad.
“I started feeling bad that he was missing out on things like camping or fishing or activities of his own because I was always preoccupied with my stuff,” Jason said.
So, the two-time Olympian holstered his gun and spent some quality time with his seven-year-old son. It would remain that way for six years before Jason started teaching Brant the fundamentals of shooting.
“Last year with COVID, everything was really slow, the gun clubs were pretty quiet out there. So I started teaching him how to shoot skeet, it was something to do and he’s picked it up,” he said.
Brant tried his hand at a few different disciplines, shooting international bunker trap and American trap at first. The teenager won the junior provincial championship in trap shooting in Alberta, where he and his parents currently live.
As good as Brant was at trap shooting, he enjoyed skeet more and made it his primary focus going forward.
“There’s eight stations you gotta learn, every single target, as well. It’s not like trap (shooting) where you just go out there and shoot the same target. In skeet, they’re all different. So much to learn, so much to take in and just lots of fun,” Brant said.
“Hopefully, one day I can do what my dad did and go to the Olympics.”
Brant has been shooting for a year now, and his participation in the national championship this week has reignited the urge that fuelled his dad for so many years.
“I figured if I’m going to drag him out to these events, I might as well dust off my gun and come do it, too. Otherwise, it’d probably drive me crazy just sitting there watching,” Jason said.
The difference for Jason this week is his altered approach. The time away from skeet shooting allowed him to realize how much the grind wore on him mentally. He vowed to take a laid-back approach to the sport going forward.
“For me, I’m in a different headspace now than when I was. It’s not about achieving more, it’s just about the process and enjoying the shooting and doing it well,” he said.
Dale pulls. Brant shoots. Jason watches.
Four other shooters from Manitoba will compete in the Canadian International skeet National Championship this week: Ray Parades, David Mosscrop, Kang Lee Ming and Hongda Zang.
Joshua Frey-Sam happily welcomes a spirited sports debate any day of the week.