Lebanon’s John “Bev” Spickard, who recently added to his collection of national shooting trophies during a competition at Camp Perry, Ohio, says marksmanship is a talent inherited from his pioneer forefathers.
“In those days you had to shoot good to survive,” says Spickard who traces his family’s Wilson County roots back to 1792.
“I started shooting when I was about five, and it just came natural to me,” Spickard says. “My grandfather started me out with a Daisy BB gun, and I graduated up to a .22 rifle. “When I’d go frog hunting, I’d shoot bullfrogs in the head to save the meat. I could shoot rocks and spark plugs thrown into the air – the secret is to time your shot when the target it at the top of its rise, just before it starts to fall. At that split-second, gravity holds it stationery.”
Spickard is now 70 and his shooting eye hasn’t dimmed. He won the Grand Senior National Championship during the recent event in Ohio, adding to an impressive array of awards that includes a National Gold Medal for Marksmanship.
Spickard honed his shooting skills during a stint in the Army. For the past 15 years he has served as Wilson County’s Register of Deeds, and during his free time he conducts classes in shooting and firearm safety.
“Marksmanship is an art, and for several years it was in decline,” he says. “Now it’s making a comeback. There are lots of youngsters and juniors getting involved in various shooting competitions, including several here in Wilson County. It’s great to see so many young people taking it up.”
While being a good marksman partly comes natural, Spickard says good training also is part of the equation.
“It’s a combination of both,” he says. “You have to be born with the talent, but to become really good, you have to have proper training. I was fortunate to have both. I was born with a natural ability, and during my time in the military I had some excellent instructors.”
Practice, like anything else, makes perfect.
“Competitive shooting is something you have to constantly work on,” he says. “You have to stay in form. You have to be dedicated to be a competitive shooter.”
As a certified firearms instructor, Spickard teaches his students the techniques he has acquired over the years, along with an emphasis on safety.
“I do it as a hobby,” he says of the classes. “I love to shoot, and I enjoy getting others interested in it.”
Spickard use to hunt, but nowadays does his shooting at targets.
“I enjoy the completion and the challenge,” he says. “I don’t ever get tired of it.”
For generations Tennesseans have been famous for their marksmanship – from Davy Crockett to Sgt. Alvin York.
“We have a great tradition of outstanding shooters,” Spickard says, “and I want to see it continue.”