by Kate Nation
When it comes to Union Sportsmen’s Alliance shooting events, it’s not uncommon for the team with the high overall (HOA) score to include the individual shooter with the highest score. Not so common, however, is for the HOA team to include three youth shooters and for one of those kids to achieve the top score of the day. But that’s exactly what happened at the USA’s 2014 Western Pennsylvania Sporting Clays Shoot.
Dave Cole, a member of Utility Workers Local 666, began letting his son, Tristan, tag along when he and his buddies got together on Sundays to shoot clays when Tristan was about seven years old. He would let Tristan shoot every now and then, but the guns were just too big for a young child to handle.
A hunter, shooter and farmer from Waynesburg, PA, Dave lives an outdoor lifestyle and strongly believes in getting youth involved in outdoor activities. So when Tristan showed interested in shooting, Dave got him a gun better suited to a youth and connected him with the Hunting Hills Hawkeyes Sporting Clays Team, in 2011. Little did he know he would soon be clocking as many as 2,500 miles on the road in six days to watch Tristan shoot and rack up awards in sporting clays and skeet competitions.
Applying the same work ethic he pours into the family farm and 4H, Tristan has continued to improve in the shooting sports, thanks to the support of his dad, his team and a lot of good old-fashioned practice.
The Hawkeyes train for three hours every Sunday afternoon, shooting 100 rounds each. From February through the end of May, both Dave and Tristan shoot 100 rounds on Sunday mornings and stay through the team session. Plus, they try to hit a shooting course at least once during the work week.
“I buy shotgun shells by the pallet, 96 cases at a time. It’s a pretty healthy bill,” Dave said.
In 2012, Dave learned about the USA’s Northern Ohio Sporting Clays Shoot through UWUA Local 666 President Gerald Powers, who had received a flyer from the USA and encouraged Dave and his son to participate.
To round out the team of five, Dave reached out to his shooting buddy, Doug Hinerman, and his two sons, Nathan and Aaron, who shoot with Tristan on the Hunting Hills Hawkeyes team. When Dave contacted the USA to confirm that youth could participate, USA Event Analyst Heather Tazelaar informed him that youth are always welcome, but she tried to set realistic expectations.
“I’m gonna be honest with you, the kids will never make it through 100 rounds,” she said.Heather and many others were proven wrong when the team of three youth and two adults took home the HOA award, with Tristan busting 58 clays.
As the saying goes, practice makes perfect. In 2013, at just 12-years-old, Tristan finished as the HOA shooter in his division and his team took first place at the state championship. At the national championship in Sparta, IL, he achieved 5th overall in his age bracket and 2nd place team.
More recently, at the USA’s 2014 Western Pennsylvania Sporting Clays Shoot, Tristan took home three trophies for HOA team, HOA individual and HOA youth—something that had never been done before at a USA shoot—after busting 86 of 100 clays with the Benelli shotgun he purchased with his 4H earnings.
“I’m just really proud of him,” Dave said. “To watch somebody come as far as he’s come in three years has been an amazing journey, and I don’t think we’re near the end of it yet. I think he still has a lot to show and prove to himself.”
If Tristan’s ability to bust clays is any indication of how he’ll perform as a hunter now that he’s old enough to get a license and join his dad in the field, the squirrels and whitetail in Pennsylvania should be very, very wary.