MARINE CORPS LOGISTICS BASE ALBANY, Ga. -- Maj. Curtis Goyette is no rookie when it comes to skeet shooting. But a three-year layoff from the sport caused the former military all-American shooter to wish for a secret weapon. He wondered if he would feel like a novice at the World Skeet Championship held in San Antonio, Texas, Oct. 11-19.
Shooting always came easily for Goyette. Even as a youngster, he enjoyed his natural skills hunting grouse in New England. Therefore, when Marine Corps buddy Dennis Adams introduced him to the skeet game in 1998, Goyette quickly excelled in the sport. But one year later, just as Goyette began shooting competitively, he got orders to Okinawa, Japan, and his newfound love was put on hold.
"I planned to shoot every weekend," Goyette explained. "I expected to come back a machine. Then I found out they closed the range in Okinawa and with nowhere to hone my skills, naturally they diminished."
Following his three-year hiatus, he returned stateside a bit rusty.
"When I returned earlier this year, my shooting was bad, very bad," Goyette admitted. "But I continued to shoot and things began to come together.
"Skeet [shooting] will grab you like you wouldn't believe," Goyette said, his eyes sparkling. "Lieutenant Colonel Dennis Adams from Camp Lejeune and another retired Marine named Glenn Camp got me into the game in 1998. The very first time out, I hit 23 out of 25 targets. Those two Marines were nice to me up until that point. After that, they were unmerciful," he added. "If my feet weren't right when I called 'pull,' they wouldn't push the button for the targets to come out. And when I did get my mechanics right before I called pull, one of them would throw a bunch of shells up along with my target, so I had to look through all this stuff to hit the target," he said.
Goyette's goal back then was to get a 'clean walk,' which is breaking 25 targets in a row. Most shooters can go an entire year before they get a clean walk, Goyette said. But with the instruction of his mentors and their nerve-racking antics, Goyette's mental game toughened up and his first clean walk came three short weeks later. Today, a clean walk for Goyette is second nature.
"When you begin skeet shooting, it's about 90 percent physical and 10 percent mental," Goyette said, "because you really don't know what to do. But when you learn the physical aspects, strangely, it becomes 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical."
In August, Goyette felt he had recaptured his physical game. That's when he traveled to Atlanta to test his mental control of the sport in a skeet competition.
"I kept the pressure off by going into this competition with no expectations," Goyette said. "Even so, just to compete, I knew I needed something extra going up against about 250 of the strongest skeet shooters in the country."
That something special, or secret weapon, was already with Goyette, but it wasn't his Krieghoff shotgun - it turned out to be his family - wife, Wendy; 2-year-old daughter, Heather; and infant son Ethan.
"Seeing my daughter in the stands applauding each time I broke a target helped tremendously," Goyette said with a wide smile.
With Heather's help, Goyette quickly recaptured his form and keen eye and came away with first place honors in the 20-gauge Zone Four Open, the hardest zone to win.
"Being away from the sport and then competing on that level was not easy," Goyette explained. "But each time I broke a pair of targets, I saw my daughter clapping in the stands. That certainly kept me confident."
From there, Goyette advanced another level, entering the World Skeet Championships, testing his skills against roughly 1,000 of the country's best skeet shooters.
At the Mini-World event, Goyette went into his shooting routine, which is to remind himself to shoot like a 'well-oiled machine.' Shooting 'tight chokes,' as he described it, Goyette shot a 99 with the 12-gauge; a perfect 100 with the 20-gauge, and 99 with the 410 bore. The human machine ended the competition with a 395 overall average and military runner-up honors.
In the event's World Shoot portion, he blazed through the military 410 championships and snagged the gold medallion that goes with it.
"With such a long layoff, I am proud of these accomplishments," Goyette said, "but I certainly will not rest over the winter; [it will be] practice and more practice till spring. I hope to improve on my scores next year and give the World Championships a run for it next year."
Goyette brings more than 22 years of Marine Corps shooting experience with him to skeet-shooting events.
"Qualifying with the M-16 [service rifle] requires repetition, but skeet requires a lot more skill and discipline because your target is traveling 50 miles per hour," Goyette said. "You and that weapon really have to become one and move fluidly to consistently break targets.
"The difference between a 95 and a 100 is the mental side of this game," Goyette continued. "There is no room for mental mistakes to run a 100 straight. The Marine Corps helped me with the mental discipline and so did my mentors. This is my golf, so on Saturday and Sunday you'll find me on the range calling 'pull.'"
Goyette, who is a web master and club secretary with the local Flint Skeet and Trap Club, encourages those interested in shooting skeet to visit the club's website at www.flintgc.com.