Jake and Jonathan Ratcliffe can shoot with the best of ’em.

Jake and Jonathan Ratcliffe can shoot with the best of ’em.

The father and son tandem have taken up the sport of skeet shooting and excelled in their first year of competition. Jake, 12, a member of the Carter County 4-H Shooting Sports team, was named to the National Skeet Shooting Association All-American second team in the sub-junior age group. Among shooters from across the U.S., Jake was the only Oklahoman in the sub-junior ranks to earn such a distinction.

As for dad, Jonathan was named a 2011 All-American Rookie second-teamer along with Jake. Not bad for just starting their competitive skeet shooting careers in April.

“It took a couple of months,” Jake said of adjusting to the sport. “You want to be good at it at first.”

But it takes time ... and practice. Jake shot 6,250 registered targets last year in competitions ranging from Ada to the World Skeet Shooting Championships in San Antonio.

Jake’s highlight came at the T-Town Classic in July, when he hit 97 of 100 targets in the 20 gauge event. It was one of the more accurate days in a sport that requires dead-eye precision.

“If you miss, you try not to think about it. You can’t take it  back,” Jake said.

Jonathan likened skeet shooting’s mental challenges to those of golf, where one mistake can throw off an entire round. Dwelling on a missed shot means overthinking a future shot.

There’s no time for that, with clay disks firing at 100 per round from as many as eight field stations.

“It’s probably the toughest (sport) as far as the mental game,” Jonathan said. “It’s just as much if not more of a mental game than golf.”

The Ratcliffes’ honors were awarded based on their performance in months worth of competition.

Shooters compete against others of like ability. Candidates for the All-American team must shoot a required amount of registered targets in each of four gauges — 12, 20, 28 and .410 and the doubles event where the shooter can chose his gauge as long as it falls under 12.

Next up for the Ratcliffes is the March Open at Dallas, the first event of 2011. When they arrive, they’ll be All-Americans.

“He’s gotten better everyday,” Jonathan said of Jake. “Just because he loves it. He can’t get enough of it.”

Erik K. Horne