DEER RIVER — Not only is Deer River’s Randy Cook one of the top trapshooters in the state of Minnesota, but he also has distinguished himself against the best shooters the rest of the world can provide.
Cook, 67, who has been among the top trapshooters in the state and country for decades, recently placed second in the World Championship Grand American which is conducted every year in Sparta, Ill. It is an 11-day event, and Cook said if a shooter shot in all of the events during the 11 days of the competition –which he does – a total of 2,600 rounds will be shot.
A total of 2,100 shooters shot in the event and 51 shooters – including Cook – shot 200 straight birds during the first day to remain in the competition. That evening, shooting under lights, the 51 shooters fired another 200 rounds, with five shooters including Cook hitting them all to remain alive in the competition.
The next night the five remaining shooters competed with two dropping out at the end of 100 rounds. Then, another shooter missed in the next round of 25 leaving Cook and another shooter vying for the world title. At the end of six boxes of shells, Cook missed to put him in second place.
“I lost to a guy from Ohio, and I had run 542 rounds before I missed and that pretty much was the title for the other guy to win,” said Cook. “I lost out but I felt as though I was the winner because I was elated to be there.”
Cook said the long competitions and hot weather can wear physically on shooters,
“It has a tendency to wear on you; being in August it is hot and humid and the weather can wear on you as much as the shooting,” Cook explained. “People come from all over the world, from Brazil, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, England, Canada, European countries, and from all 50 states of the U.S.
“The guys that come to this event from around the world are good. They are traveling thousands of miles to come to this event which happens once a year. The Grand America is like the mecca of trapshooting and shooters come.”
Cook comes from a family of trapshooters with his father Phil and uncle Bill being among the top shooters in the area for years. Strangely, he didn’t start in the sport until he was 12 years old but it didn’t take him long to distinguish himself as one of the top Junior shooters in the state of Minnesota.
At age 14 in 1964, he won the Minnesota State Sub-Junior Championship, and in the next three years (1965-67) he captured the Minnesota State Junior championship.
Cook, who has lived in Deer River his entire life where his family owned the Northwestern Bait. He said he loved being in the woods as a youngster and added that he didn’t get involved in trapshooting until later because there weren’t a lot of participants in the sport at the time.
“Trapshooting wasn’t like it is today with all the high schools and stuff,” Cook said. “That is something that just happened the last eight years.”
After graduating from high school, Cook drifted away from the sport for 12 or 13 years because he had gotten married, was raising a family and was busy working. Then his uncle Bill convinced him to return to shooting in the mid-1980s where he just shot in leagues for the first six to eight years. In the early 1990s, he joined the Amateur Trapshooting Association (ATA) with a life membership.
“It was then that I started shooting in competition, state shoots, regional shoots and traveling around the state and what not,” Cook explained. “In the 2000s, I started traveling to other states like Arizona, Florida, going nation-wide and I have been doing that for the last five years.
“That really steps up the competition levels. Trying to gather All-American points for making the All-American teams, that is traveling to state shoots and to what they call Satellite Grand Shoots.”
There are nine Grand Shoots every year conducted in different states, and placing in the top three places will earn All-American points for shooters in the divisions that they shoot in. At the end of the year, points are compiled from the shoots to make up the All-American team. This year, Cook was able to attend eight major events to compile his points and he did quite well.
He won the Handicap championship in a big shoot in Utah – the Western Grand – and he also won the Veterans Singles state championship and was runner-up in the States Championship Singles Division. He was able to do the same thing in the state of Wisconsin. In years past, he has won a number of major competitions including in 2016 at the Grand American Shoot when he won the Sub-Veterans World Singles championship.
“There are so many titles, honest to goodness,” Cook laughed. “It has been great. More so than the shooting aspect of it is the people you meet and the friends you make. I am always looking forward to going to these events and seeing some of the friends that you have made in the past and you get to see them again and spend some time with them.
“Competition is one thing, but just being amongst friends and having a good time is really the draw. It really is the best part about the whole thing.”
As for the future, Cook said he has been in the Minnesota State Singles shootoff twice and he has lost both times. He said that his main goal now, to win a state Singles championship. His chances seem to be good as he had the highest average in the state of Minnesota in 2018.
“I have twice come in second and there are other achievements but that is the one I want to be known for,” Cook said. “It’s there but you have to have the right day because competition is tough.”
Cook was asked what advice he would give to young trapshooters and he said, “A good trapshooter is a person who can focus on every target and No. 2 is timing. Everything has to do with timing. If you are not focused it throws off your timing. Those two go hand-in-hand.
“That is the most important thing in trapshooting.”
He also serves as a coach for the Grand Rapids High School team and he said it is something he enjoys doing.
“I really enjoy it and I think there is nothing better than for these kids to have the opportunity living in Minnesota to shoot. The one thing I think gets lost in all of this is when these kids are shooting there is etiquette and there are rules.
“These kids learn the rules and the etiquette and how to get gun safety out of it. That is so important that they get that too.”