The shooting of clay targets or “pigeons” was once considered exclusively a man’s sport.
But watch out, boys, because the girls are taking charge.
Cori Gordon is just 15 years old, going into her junior year at Cody High School. This summer, she was one of just 11 young people from across the country chosen to attend the 2021 Olympic and Sporting Clay Development Camp in Ohio.
There, Gordon learned from world record sporting clay coaches and former Olympians, igniting her drive to excel in a sport that seems to come naturally to her.
“When I was younger, I had really bad asthma so I couldn’t compete in a lot of other sports,” she said. “When I was 10, some friends of ours took me out to a Pheasants Forever shoot. They took me up to the trap field and I just fell in love. And some coaches were recruiting. So when I started shooting, it just kinda found me a good road that I could keep going on.”
And she’s definitely going — skeet shooting has allowed Cori to travel the region and compete on a national level.
“We compete across Wyoming and Montana for the most part, we go to quite a few shoots down in Billings, and then this year, I will be going to nationals in Ohio,” she said.
Renae Gordon, Cori’s mother, said the fact that her daughter is competing in a traditionally male-dominated sport doesn’t faze her.
“A shotgun is something that levels the playing field – any type of gun levels the playing field,” she said. “It doesn’t matter how fast you can run, it doesn’t matter how strong you are, per se, but you can put anybody and it’s a battle of skills. It’s a battle of talent.”
Because of Cori’s interest, her parents have become involved in the shooting sports as well, according to Renae.
“We are 100% supportive of whatever she chooses to do,” she said. “I do go to all the meets, and I actually am an assistant coach.”
However, Renae Gordon noted that shooting is a very expensive sport.
“The cost has skyrocketed. A case of ammo is about $100 a case now, and that’s 250 rounds, which you know, she’ll shoot 350 rounds at regionals next week,” Renae said. “So you have that cost, entry fees, etc, etc.”
But sponsorships have helped to offset that cost – which has helped other young shooters pick up the sport as well, boosting membership in the Scholastic Clay Target Program team Cori belongs to — the Cody Clay Crushers.
“We do have great sponsors – Wyoming Outdoorsmen is a huge sponsor for these kids,” Renae said. “And so Midway USA, Pheasants Forever, Wild Sheep Foundation, they helped to keep our costs down a little bit, which has helped our team to grow overall. We bumped up to 16 kids this year from maybe five or six.”
But Renae said Cori doesn’t rely just on sponsorships — she’s expected to contribute as well.
“We are very much the family that thinks our kids need to work for something in order to appreciate it,” Renae said. “So we did buy her her first $400 shotgun, that didn’t even make it a year. She saved up birthday checks and money whatever she could find doing odd jobs to buy her first shotgun, it was used, from a girl in Billings for $700. And then from there she has house-sat for various friends, and had various jobs. She’ll help with the vet clinic, and then she also raises animals through 4H in order to get to that next level.”
And there are some pretty impressive competitions coming up for Cori, according to her mom, including the Scholastic Clay Target Program national championships in Ohio in July.
“So she’ll be competing in international skeet, American skeet, American trap, doubles trap, doubles skeet, and sporting clays,” Renae said.
Cori said the sport is setting her up for bigger and better opportunities in the future – and she encourages other girls to not let traditional gender biases get in the way of competing in a sport they love.
“I think that if you want to do it, you just have to go for it,” she says. “If it’s a guy sport, then you can try it and go for it. You have to do what you want. You have to push your way through it.”
And Cori is setting her sights high.
“To me, I want to go to the Olympics and I want to win,” she said. “That’s my goal.”