A2018 USA Shooting National Champion, shotgunner Aeriel Skinner of Jackson, Calif., landed a gold medal last year at the CAT Games, along with securing Team USA an Olympic quota in women’s trap for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. Find out what she keeps in her range bag.
What are your first memories of handling a firearm?
My grandparents own and operate a hunting club and sporting clays range in Ione, Calif., so I have been around firearms my entire life. I’m not positive exactly what age I was, but I know I started shooting a BB gun at a young age. I used to go dove hunting with my dad and brother and would be their “bird dog,” picking up their birds for them, until I started hunting myself at eight years old, with a single-shot .410. Then, I switched to shooting a 12-gauge when I was about 10, but didn’t shoot much, just occasionally, about three times a year. At first, shooting wasn’t my sport of choice. I spent most of my time playing softball. Unfortunately, shooting was always the same season as softball. It wasn’t until my sophomore year in high school that a good friend convinced me to do both. So, I joined our local youth team—A&A Shooters—and it didn’t take long for me to fall in love with the shooting sports.
Tell us how you began in competitive shooting?
I started competing in American trap and skeet in my sophomore year of high school. After a few years on the A&A Shooters team, my coach introduced me to the international version of trap, which is what really got me hooked. It wasn’t long before I realized that I should dive into the deep end, and continue my shooting career in college and pursue a spot on the USA Shooting Team. I attended the University of Arizona and earned my bachelor’s degree while shooting on the team all four years. I made my first USA Shooting World Cup team my senior year in 2017. Since that time, I’ve competed in 18 international competitions in 12 different countries.
What firearms and other gear do you use for competition?
I shoot a Beretta DT11, and as far as ammunition goes, I am not too picky. I will shoot whatever competition loads I can get my hands on.
Tell us about your range bag and what you carry in it besides your firearms?
I used to carry a G.P.S. range bag when traveling and shooting locally. However, we received team backpacks in college, and I have used that bag ever since. Now, I use a Matein Carry-on Backpack as my range bag. I like using this backpack because there is a lot of room, so I can carry everything I need. It also serves as a great carry-on bag when traveling.
I keep my shotgun in a different case with extra parts, tools and cleaning supplies. My competition essentials are in my backpack, such as my Randolph Engineering Ranger Edge shooting glasses, Shoot the Moon shooting vest and ear plugs. I also keep snacks and hydration packets for refueling and hydrating between rounds. Plus, I usually have a book, headphones, a cribbage board and a deck of cards to help pass the time between rounds. Regardless of the weather forecast, I always keep sunscreen, hand warmers, rain gear and extra clothes. It is important to be prepared for any type of weather.
What do you do in your free time?
I spend most of my free time working. But when I’m not working, I enjoy spending time with my friends and family. I like being outdoors, primarily fishing and hunting.
What would you tell someone interested in finding out more about your sport?
If possible, find a facility near you that has an international trap range. Most people would be happy to help and answer any questions. Otherwise, I suggest visiting the USA Shooting website to find information about rules and where to find competitions. Another thing you can do is search YouTube for International Shooting Sports Federation trap competition videos, and watch and learn from them.
Any tips for the new shooter?
Remember to have fun and always fall back to the fundamentals. Building strong fundamentals will be important to your success in the long run. The most important thing is never to give up. Always be willing to learn. There is never only one way to do something, so always keep an open mind when finding what works best for you.