An Interview With Mark Isner 2021 All-American Sub Vet

I sat down with Mark Isner WV’s 2021 All American First Team Sub Veteran to discuss his All American journey.

  Mark learned to shoot at the age of six. His father, Pete, a machinist at Kaiser Aluminum, set up a .22 cal range in their basement in Ripley which consisted of an inch thick steel plate with a one inch bullseye. His dad advised when he could consistently hit the bullseye he would take him hunting.

   Young Mark enjoyed hunting and sports, playing football for Ripley High School and later for WV Weslyan College. In 1980 he married Bea, his wife. After college, Mark looked for a competitive sport he tried golf, tennis, badminton, lawn darts and at best was average.  Mark’s father, a member of Kera, took Mark to the range in May of 1988 to try Trap Shooting. Pete told Mark if he could successfully hunt with a shotgun he should be able to break targets with one, and Mark could. After shooting just a few hundred targets, Mark shot his first WV State Shoot held at Kera in July; and was hooked. Mark’s first Trap gun was a Browning Lightning over and under he later traded for a Winchester 101 combo. 

     During the mid 1990’s, Mark was shooting at Oakland Gun Club when owner, Richard Paxton, commented he was as good as he would ever get shooting the 101. Later, at the WV State Shoot that year, Mark broke the first 100 of the Championship Singles and was waiting for Richard at his camper, Richard had broken a 99, and exclaimed “that 101 kicked your ass” Paxton’s reply was “come see me after the second hundred.” Richard ran the second hundred for a 199 winning the WV State Singles Championship with Mark dropping two targets in the second hundred for a 198. Later that year, at Richard’s range, Mark tried a Krieghoff K80 and after a little adjustment, crushed 50 straight and bought the gun, while driving home he wondered how he was going to explain to his wife he’d just spent over 6K for a shotgun. At the Ohio State Shoot, Mark hit the middle 50 for almost 2K and advised Bea that his K80 would make money! Shooting the K80, Mark became competitive and set a goal to become a member of the WV State Team. Mark succeeded in 1997, and was named to the 1998 WV State Team and has been a regular ever since. Mark continued to improve his shooting, and in 1999 was the WV State Doubles Champion, 2001 Newt Jones Trophy recipient, 2010 Singles Champion as well as numerous Class Championships, Zone trophies, and trophies from the Grand American World Championships. Mark has also served the WV Trapshooting community as the WV Delegate to the ATA from  2010 to 2013 and continues to serve as the WVATA 2nd Alt. Delegate Mark was inducted into the WVATA Hall of Fame in 2012.

Mark with a trophy he won at the 2020 Grand American

Mark has trophies everywhere.

One of his favorites is this banner when he represented WV in the Grand Champion of Champions

   A story I would like to relate is one I witnessed. As reported previously, Mark won the 2010 WV State Singles Championship, by winning you are eligible to compete in the Champions of Champions Event held during the Grand American. Mark was eager to represent WV and did just that and ran the first 3 traps. Mark was on his way to another hundred straight….until he missed! The puller didn’t call the target. When Mark’s turn came around again, he asked the puller if his last target was lost, the puller said no, Mark said “I don’t think I hit it, did anyone see a piece?” silence… Mark said “mark it lost”. I’ve shot on the same squad with Mark for 15 years and have seen this scenario more than once. Mark won’t take a target he doesn’t think he broke.

   Mark is well known in the Oil and Gas Industry for buying and selling and was in great demand. I was told the following story. When one of his counter parts didn’t think a particular contract was worth the effort as one company had had the bid for many years, Mark said he would go in his place and bring back the business. When he walked in his competitors were more than a little concerned with his presence and reputation “as a guy that gets it done”. Mark commented to the group that he would win the sealed bid, one of the bidders asked how he could know as the bids were sealed, Mark quipped “watch”. Mark turned in his bid after just a few minutes while others labored over their bids turning them in just before the dead line. When opened, Mark’s bid was the winner, when asked how he could’ve known what their bid would be, Mark replied “I didn’t, I wrote my bid as: three cents higher than the highest bid received.”

Such is a small example of Mark’s psyche, when presented with a problem he finds a way.

     Now any trapshooter knows that the gun is important, it’s not everything, but you must have confidence that it will break targets. Mark has had more than a “few” guns. When we started shooting together and building our squad, he was shooting a Krieghoff K80. Mark would go down to the Southern Grand in Florida, often he would shoot let’s say, less than his normal score, and return with a new gun. One year, an Alfermann, another year a Lujtic, a Silver Seitz (actually a few over the years); each time back to a K80, then… a Caesar Guerini which he shot so well that the barrels came apart and the replacements never shot scores as high. Another Caesar Guerini he shot well but the triggers would become sloppy after a short period of time. Then back to Krieghoff, this time a Trap Special Pro Rib; a Kolar and then… well, you get the idea (I better stop here in case Bea is counting). When Mark breaks up with a gun, shooters wait in line. Like most shooters looking for the best fit and optimum POI Mark would make adjustments, breaking a good score here and there, another adjustment sometimes going the wrong way. Mark set his gun’s POI up in his basement with a boresight having placed pieces of tape on the wall to practice. After a shoot that didn’t go so well, Mark returned home put in the boresight and said to himself “what was I doing” as the POI was way too high. He set his gun up; locked it down vowing not to make any more changes. Keeping that vow through 2020. He also went to a  double release trigger which usually takes a while to get used to, but Mark showed success quickly and while there’s the occasional double fire in doubles, but a look at his averages says he’s made the transition.

 

Mark shoots a lot, I mean a… lot generally over 15,000 registered  tournament targets a year plus the practice comes to well over 20,000 a year. Mark leads WV in total targets registered currently at 388,950, his goal is 500,000 before he’s finished.

 

In 2016, Mark suffered a heart attack and after a quadruple bypass and nine days in the hospital he’s grateful to have survived. He went back to work which gave him a lot of freedom to travel and he could do while shooting. But in March 2019,  Mark lost is father, father-in-law and an Aunt, made the decision driving back from the funeral that he would retire the following Monday and devote as much time as possible shooting and enjoying life without the stress of work.

 

       After the double release and attending several shoots in 2019, Mark’s goal was trying to have some consistency in his scores. During that period, he had begun to amass All American Points shooting friends pointed out that he in fact was headed toward garnering enough points to put himself on the All American SubVet second team. He missed the second team by a mere 30 points. Vowing not to let that happen again and armed with the fact that the All American Team was achievable Mark plotted out a path to actually make a run for the 2021 team and not just the second team but the first team. You know what, Mark succeeded! His assault began in Cicero, NY with the North Eastern Grand garnering 140 points,  next  Bostic, NC the Dixie Grand 212 points, then to Ocala, FL for the Southern Grand and 90 additional points. Then the Chinese Virus shut down our country and trap shooting, the Buckeye Open postponed, Virginia postponed, WV postponed and ultimately cancelled. Mark adjusts his plans and after a 1,700 mile trip to Vernal, UT for the Western Grand gains 108 points, next, Marengo, OH for the Ohio State Shoot and 91 more points added to his total and just four points from his last years’ point total. Next to Spartanburg, SC for the South Carolina State Shoot earning an additional 165 points. As the month of August approached, Mark would shoot 24 of the 31 days and total of 6000 targets traveling several thousand miles. First to the Grand American, this year being held in Missouri, and a total of 242 points. Then back to Marengo, OH for the  Cardinal Classic and 49 points, then eight hundred miles to Ackley, IA for the Heartland Grand and another 112 points. For an adjusted total of 1070 to grab the 11th spot on the first team.

 Everyone wants to know what “the secret” is, for Mark, it was a disciplined journey to 9 shoots in eight states traveling over eleven thousand miles through seventeen states and over ninety hours in the seat most of which was pulling a forty-four foot fifth wheel. Shooting over fifteen thousand shells on average breaking 97.26% of the singles, 90.25% of the handicap from the 27 and 93.96% of the doubles target he shot at and untold flats of practice shells. All without changing or adjusting his gun.  Mark shoots a K80 Trap Special with a Zoli for back up, although he has yet to use it, both fitted with a double release trigger.

    Congratulations Mark for this achievement attained.