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Layne Merritt recently earned third place honors at the Alabama State Skeet Championships in individual shooting competition and was part of the five-man team “F-Troop,” which won the 5-Man Retired Military Championship at the Armed Forces Skeet Championships held in Virginia. Photo Contributed

Layne Merritt Is Madison’s Skeet Shooting Champion

MADISON- Since 1997, Layne Merritt has taken aim at perfecting his talents at skeet shooting. Looking down the barrel of his Krieghoff, German made over/under shotgun, the 55-year old retired Lt. Colonel of the United States Army earned High Overall third place at the Alabama State Skeet Championships held at the Red Eagle Skeet Club near Childersburg. He also earned Retired Military Champion honors.

“When I moved to Madison in 2000 I began shooting with the Muscle Shoals Skeet Club and began shooting with the Army Skeet Team while on active duty and have continued shooting in both individual and team competitions,” said Merritt.

Merritt grew up in the area of Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minn. and started squirrel hunting at age 14. He also was a long distance runner, which he continued until midway through college. He joined the U.S. Army where he stayed for 21 years before he retired and has worked for the U.S. Government for the past 11 years. Currently, he is acting director of the Aviation Development for CCDC on Redstone Arsenal. He and his wife, of 29 years, Patty, have three children.

In 1997 while stationed at Fort Rucker, located in Dale County in South Alabama, Merritt was taken to the local skeet range by a friend as both were attending test pilot school. “Once I attended the range and saw the sport up close I got the bug and stayed with it,” said Merritt. “It’s a game of perfection and action and is a good challenge at any level of the sport. What I also found out is the people associated with the sport are the most encouraging folks you’ll ever meet. For me, it’s become a social game.”

Merritt is a certified skeet instructor for both youth and adults. He stresses to each participant the fundamentals of skeet shooting, which includes the efforts to make the movements within a shoot consistent each time. He said muscle memory is a must to be a consistent shooter at the birds, which are made up of tar material, are 21 yards from the shooter and travel at 45 miles per hour once released.

“The proper technical effort by a shooter has be consistent,” added Merritt. “Feet shoulder-width apart, view about one-third of the way from the exit window and look generally back toward the window to find the bird, sustain a lead on your aim and follow through. Have your muscles trained to do the same repetitious movements each time you take aim.”

He generally tells those learning to shoot skeet to have their belly button in the low house window, which assists in making the body line up correctly and assisting the gun to be in a natural position upon shooting.

Practice shooting for Merritt generally occurs at ranges located on Redstone Arsenal not far from where he works. In a match, he generally fires about 500 rounds each competition and with registration fees included, cost for a regular tournament ends up around $400.

He generally shoots eight competitions annually and includes his shooting with the Redstone Arsenal Skeet Team, which recently won the Base/Club Championship at the Armed Forces Club Team Championships. He’s a member of the  team called “F Troop” and the squad recently won the 5-Man Retired Military Championship at the Armed Forces Skeet Championships held in Richmond, Va. Merritt said he likes the challenge the sport brings of combining the complex movements and hand-eye coordination necessary to consistently break the targets.

Merritt will soon leave the Tennessee Valley for a new job in Texas, but has left behind the legacy of a true marksman who finds the target in skeet shooting all awhile finding the comradery that only the sport can generate.

“Skeet is a game of perfection, mental consistency and must be on target to be good all the time,” he added. “Being with fellow shooters is fun at all times.”

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