BENNETT NAME SYNONYMOUS WITH LA GRANDE GUN CLUB AND TOP-NOTCH TRAPSHOOTING

June 01, 2001 12:00 am
HALL OF FAMER: Alan Bennett was inducted in April into the Oregon State Ameteur Trapshooting Hall of Fame. It "was quite an honor for someone like me. It means a lot to me to be recognized," he said. (Observer photos/PAT PERKINS).
HALL OF FAMER: Alan Bennett was inducted in April into the Oregon State Ameteur Trapshooting Hall of Fame. It "was quite an honor for someone like me. It means a lot to me to be recognized," he said. (Observer photos/PAT PERKINS).

By Pat Perkins

Observer Staff Writer

Not even a broken shotgun can keep Alan Bennett from hitting 100 targets in a row.

A few years ago, Bennetts old Model 12 shotgun started acting up during a shoot.

The receiver was cracked and it would get hot, and that crack would seize, Bennett said. On the 97th of 100 planned targets, I fired and it broke and the pins and the rib clattered to the ground.

Already behind schedule from having to deal with the cranky gun, Bennett decided to keep going.

I shot the last three targets looking down the barrel with no rib and it was a couple of bumps, he said.

Bennett and his old Model 12 are like James Bond and his vodka martini. Why try something else when the usual standby works so well? The secret is that the gun wasnt even Bennetts to begin with. It belonged to his father, Alvin, whose name is on the handmade grip on the underside of the weapon.

The way I am, it gives me a special feeling to be out on the line, to be shooting my dads gun, said Bennett, who in April was inducted into the Oregon State Amateur Trapshooting Hall of Fame. A Model 12 is an exceptional gun. Its probably the best pump-action shotgun thats ever been made.

The gun is also a symbol of the Bennett familys commitment to trap shooting. Alvin Bennett was extremely good with that gun. Alvins brother, Talbert, was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1997. Alans daughter and son-in-law, Lisa and Stacey Feik, are trapshooters, and his grandson, Nolan, has started shooting, too.

The Hall of Fame induction was quite an honor for someone like me, he said. It means a lot to me to be recognized.

The Bennett family has been active in the La Grande Gun Club for decades. Alans grandfather, Bird Bennett, was an active member of the Wing, Fin and Fleet Foot Club, which later became the La Grande Gun Club. Bird Bennett helped lay the concrete lines that mark where shooters stand during competition, and his name adorns a gun rack in the clubhouse.

Alvins death of cancer when Alan was 14 nearly ended the familys involvement, however.

He passed away and I kind of got away from shooting, Alan said. My whole life turned upside down.

Alans mother remarried and moved to Ogden, Utah, where Alan, as the new kid on the block, just got away from shooting. After he got married, he and his wife, Julie, returned to Union County where he found work with the countys public works department. He still works there as the road superintendent.

As soon as I got settled I started going out to the local clubs and practicing, he said.

He got good, quick. Using his fathers gun, he started shooting registered targets in 1981. Within two years, he had hit 100 in a row. By 1990 he could stand on the back fence, the 27-yard line where the best shooters take aim during the handicapped events.

He still hasnt won the state championship he has sought, but he was the Oregon runner-up in singles competition in 1999 and 2000.

His other accomplishments are many and impressive. He won the Class AA high overall championship at the Golden West Grand shoot in Reno a few weeks ago, repeating his feat from 1998 after being the runner-up in 1999. Last year he won four titles at the Washington state tournament.

Watching his daughter shoot, however, gives him more pleasure than anything. Lisa Feik won the womens singles state championship and the prelim handicap championship this year. She won two state titles in 2000 after winning her first in 1999.

Shes got a natural ability, Bennett said. One of my proudest moments was watching my daughter win last year the ladies championship in a shoot-off. That meant an awful lot to me.

Hes proud of his son-in-law, Stacey Feik, too, as well as his grandson Nolan. Stacey recently started shooting competitively and while Nolan isnt yet ready for a 100-target shoot, his best mark is 23 of 25.

Hopefully hell catch fire, Bennett said. Hell carry on.

Maybe someday Nolan will get his grandfathers gun. Just dont expect Bennett to give it up soon.

A lot of people, theyve asked me over the years, Why dont you get a better trap gun? Bennett said. After all, the newer guns used by other competitors are larger and have wider shot patterns.

It just isnt me, he said. It makes me feel good.