Trapshooting in the Clouds
The following article was taken from Metropolitan Magazine around the turn of the 20th century. It is the story of a remarkable shoot administered by Elmer Shaner. The shoot was held on top of the old Madison Square Garden in New York City. One of  the photographs shows Rolla Heikes on the trapline, probably the only photograph showing this legendary shooter in actual competition. Also, one of the only known photographs of the 1895 GAH champion, E. D. Fulford. 

By Walter K. Buell

To those who know New York City, nothing that may be seen or heard in the metropolis is cause for surprise. Incidents and events calculated to astonish outsiders do not cause a ripple in the existence of the cosmopolitan residents of Greater New York. Therefore, when the announcement was made that a shooting tournament would be held in the heart of the city, the average New Yorker merely raised his eyebrows, as indicative of the mildest surprise, and proceeded with his customary occupation of seeing and hearing what is new and startling.

Were trapshooters, armed with the latest brand of shotgun loaded with heavy charges of shot, to attempt to indulge in a competitive fusillade in the center of any municipality except New York, the effort would be attended by a quick call for the militia; but in the case under consideration the boom of guns could be heard by those in Madison Square Park, while the fumes of the "smokeless" powder all but suffocated Diana perched on the tower of Madison Square Garden. It is under stood that this young woman, whose only weapon of offence or defense consists of bow and arrow, expressed the opinion that archery was in all respects superior to gunnery, in that it permitted of more graceful poses and avoided the disagreeable shocks and detonations of the latter. Miss Diana is said to have indicated her disapproval of the tournament by turning her head, but nevertheless the marksmen continued to break the targets and fill the surrounding neighborhood with resounding echoes.

The contest in question took place on the Madison Square Garden roof, and the shooting went on six days in the week. The only concession made was on Wednesdays and Saturdays, when, owing to matinee performances in the Garden Theatre, the shooting terminated at 1:30 P.M.

The question naturally arises as to the throngs of people constantly in that vicinity. That difficulty was easily obviated by the erection of a high and solid board wall, into which the leaden pellets were embedded, not a shot getting by the barrier. The targets consisted of the ordinary clay discs customary in such events, and they were thrown at various angles by a maugatrap operated by an electric motor. The trap was located in a wooden box midway between the shooters and the boundary wall, and the targets shot out in a way that not only baffled the amateurs, but puzzled the most expert marksmen.

It being a continuous match, the competitors shot in squads of five from a raised platform, a canvas shade being stretched above the heads of the contestants. Notwithstanding that Elmer E. Shaner, the manager of the tournament, did all possible to facilitate the good performances by the shooters, and succeeded to a remarkable degree, yet the absence of perfect light constituted a drawback of considerable magnitude. In spite of that defect, some remarkably good scores were made, as high as ninety-eight out of one hundred targets being broken by
several of the contestants. A narrow strip back of the shooters' platform was devoted to spectators, and there was an invariably large and keenly interested crowd in attendance.

They courageously stood their ground, despite the jarring and deafening effects of the heavy and constant firing. The rapidity with which artificial targets can be thrown enables a squad of five to keep up a continuous fusillade, and the roar of the heavily charged guns echoed about the roof garden with nerve-shattering effect. Needless to say, the successful trapshooter, who is thus called on to meet the recoil of his gun one hundred times during an after noon, must be supplied with a set of nerves constructed of steel wire.

As showing the popularity of that branch of sport, Mr. Shaner stated that fully five thousand artificial targets were used every day of the tournament, which lasted two weeks. The cost of these targets is one and a half cents each, and they are so brittle that when struck by the shot they break into minute fragments. It is estimated that for every live bird used in shooting tournaments throughout the country one thousand artificial targets are employed. While this is no doubt due in a1arge measure, to the fact that live bird shooting is not permitted in many of the States, yet the clay bird is popular because it can always be depended upon to fly swiftly and promptly and costs much less than pigeons. There is always great uncertainty as to what a live bird will do. Sometimes, when released from the trap, the pigeon will stand on the ground and calmly survey the surrounding landscape. It has been known to refuse to fly even after several large wooden balls had been rolled toward it. Meantime the marksman grows nervous and anxious, and is frequently compelled to call for another bird. The clay bird never stops until it is hit by shot or falls out of bounds, and is perfectly reliable. However, many trapshooters prefer the live targets, for the reason that there is more excitement in the killing of the pigeons. At the same time, it is questionable if more skill is not required to break the saucer-shaped clay targets.

A notable feature of the recent tournament was the presence of nearly every prominent trapshooter in the country. On the firing line of one squad were R. 0 Heikes, Dayton, 0hio,  J. S. Fanning, San Francisco, C. W. Budd, Des Moines, Iowa,  W. R. Crosby, Batavia, N. Y.; E. D. Fulford, Campello, Mass., and B. Leroy. In addition there were dozens of other very good performers, but the five above named are doubtless as formidable a quintette of trapshooters as it would be possible to call to the score.

Heikes is undoubtedly the best shot in the world at artificial targets, his great record of 184 successive breaks, made at Corry, Pa., in 1891 being a wonderful performance which will probably never be equaled. While Heikes' strong point is the demolition of clay birds, yet he is also in the front rank in live-bird shooting, and can always be relied upon to make a fine record whenever he competes. He made his 184 record at the rapid-fire system, single traps-a most difficult method.

Next to Heikes, and a dangerous rival of the Dayton Nimrod, is the tall, eagle-eyed Crosby. This man has been a consistent performer for years, and one of the most difficult shooters in the country to beat at any branch of the game. He will give Heikes a close race for first honors.



Last Updated on Tuesday, 01 June 2010 13:21