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Community Sports

Paralyzed Veterans take best shot

Jim Rutledge of Monroe, Wis., takes part in the Paralyzed Veterans of America's National Trapshoot at the St. Charles Sportsmen's Club in Elburn on Sunday.
Jim Rutledge of Monroe, Wis., takes part in the Paralyzed Veterans of America's National Trapshoot at the St. Charles Sportsmen's Club in Elburn on Sunday.

ELBURN – Bob Arciola shoots trap with his mouth. At this weekend’s Paralyzed Veterans of America’s National Trapshoot at the St. Charles Sportsmen’s Club, Arciola used a unique, after-market product called the sip and puff to fire his shotgun.

The sip and puff was the most unique mechanism many competitors had ever seen. Although it’s a difficult device to master – the timing required is very difficult – it allowed Arciola, a quadriplegic, to compete alongside some of the nation’s best paralyzed trap shooters in Elburn this weekend.

Arciola’s wife helps him load rounds into his shotgun because, “I don’t have the dexterity in my fingers,” Arciola said. “My hand use is very limited, but my arm strength is good enough to where I can hold the shotgun.”

Arciola is a recreational shooter who shot trap only about once or twice a year before this year. But the location of this weekend’s event, specifically its proximity to his home in Bartlett, allowed Arciola to make the short trip west.

With the new experience and the quality of the Sportsmen’s Club’s event, Arciola hopes to compete in more events on the PVA’s National Trapshoot Circuit.

“This is my very first event, but I’m probably going to do some more in the future,” Arciola said.

This was the Sportsmen’s Club’s first time hosting the PVA and it was chosen, in part, because of John Pilotte’s suggestion.

Pilotte, one of the circuit’s top shooters, lives in Wisconsin and had seen the turnout and excitement at Rend Lake Shooting Complex in downstate Whittington dwindle in recent years. Because the region’s shooters primarily come from Illinois, Wisconsin and South Dakota, Pilotte suggested St. Charles Sportsmen’s Club host the event because of its proximity to Chicago and to decrease the travel time required for most shooters.

“I just thought it would make sense to move it up to a closer location so we could cut down on the travel time of all the guys that travel,” Pilotte said. “Most of the guys that are here shooting in chairs, except for maybe one or two, they’ve driven in. It just made logistical sense to put it up here closer.”

Pilotte pitched the idea to PVA associate director Andy MacDonald, the man in charge of this weekend’s event. MacDonald thought moving the trapshoot nearly 300 miles north was a smart idea, in part, because it could draw more participants from the Chicagoland area.

“We were supposed to be down [in Rend Lake] originally, but we decided we’d rather be closer to the airport, closer to a major city; basically closer to civilization,” MacDonald said. “I contacted the Sportsman club back here back in January or February and I got an immediate response from them saying they’d love to do it.”

Shooters almost universally hailed this weekend’s event as a sweeping success, praising nearly everything the weekend offered, from the national anthem to the facilities at the Sportsmen's Club.

“They love it,” MacDonald said. “Usually, there might be a bump in the road with a trap range, but our guys have had no complaints about anything that’s happened here. In fact, I’ve got nothing but compliments and kudos to the range, the staff, the volunteers. It’s been awesome. It’s been spot-on.”

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