Fueling his fire on the trap range
Alexandria's Doc Hanson needed something to fuel his competitive fire after many of the sports he loved had been taken away from him.
Hanson has never done anything just for the fun of it. He grew up as a four-sport athlete in Appleton who played everything with one goal - to win.
That drive helped him accomplish that goal many times throughout his life, especially on the golf course, where he is a one-time executive champion and a three-time senior champion in the Resorters tournament.
Now at age 75, Hanson admits that just getting dressed can be a chore some mornings. Gone are the days of competing at a high level in contact sports like basketball or football. The problem for Hanson is that the drive that helped him succeed at those sports still hasn't left him.
"I have had to refocus," he said. "I just decided that well, if that's the way it is, then I have to shift gears."
Hanson turned to trap shooting to help fill that void. His long history of hunting pheasants and waterfowl made it a natural transition. His father, Dr. Vernon Hanson, took him hunting for the first time when he was 8 years old near their home in Appleton.
"Once I got the smell of gun powder, I was hooked," he said.
But it wasn't until 2008 that Hanson started shooting trap competitively at the Minnesota State Trap Shoot in Alexandria. This past winter, he took his dedication to the sport to a new level, shooting near his winter home in Tucson, Arizona.
It was there that Hanson ran into a group of shooters who helped him improve his accuracy. Improved focus, confidence and better gun position were three things he said he knew he had to work on.
That is exactly what he did leading up to the 2010 State Shoot earlier this month. Hanson entered the Minnesota Singles Championship with a lot of confidence after months of shooting almost 3,200 shells a week.
That confidence took a bit of a hit after his first round of 25 shots. Hanson missed two of his first 10 clays. At that point, he had to regroup.
"I thought, 'Oh boy, now I've blown it,' " he said. "But then I figured, 'No, I can get the rest of them.' I got the next 75 that day."
Hanson said he knew he needed to be almost perfect from that point on. That's what he was, busting 186 straight over two days to take the Senior Veterans championship with 198 hits.
"Really a great feeling," Hanson said as he fought back tears. "I may be sentimental, but as you get older, it's a little tougher to concentrate, and I guess you want it more. You want success."
Trap shooting has allowed him to achieve that again. It's a sport that doesn't discriminate. Young or old, male or female - everyone has the tools to succeed if a person is determined to do so.
"You can't play tennis when you're 70," Hanson said. "At least not very well. All contact sports are out. It's just enough to get your pants on and get some corn flakes in a bowl at this age. That's why I like shooting because if you can stand there, you can shoot. In fact, there are a lot of guys in wheelchairs that are great shooters."
Hanson's determination has put him in the same class as a lot of the great shooters in the state. When he saw the mark that fellow Alexandria resident Scott Green set in the 2004 state shoot with a perfect 200 performance, Hanson immediately set out to match it.
"Scott Green is probably the best shooter in the city in my estimation," he said. "When he got 200 out of 200 in 2004, that to me was a goal that I wanted to achieve, so I have been working hard at it."
Hanson has also received a lot of help a long the way. Being new to the sport, he was always willing to watch and listen, and strong shooters like Alexandria's Tom Townsend have been willing to offer encouragement and plenty of advice.
"I credit a lot of the skill that I have to him because he helped me a lot," Hanson said. "They really encouraged me to work hard, so that was great."
Hanson plans to continue shooting thousands of shells with the hopes of repeating as a state champion at the 2011 state shoot. Eventually, he hopes to test his aim at the Grand American Trapshooting Championships in Sparta, Illinois. What better venue is there for someone in search of the ultimate competition?
"Those are the best shooters in the world," Hanson said. "How do you stack up against the best shooters in the world? The only way to find out is by shooting against them."