Sandestin resident Mark Devlin learned to shoot a gun when he joined the United States Air Force and during pilot training at Moody AFB in Valdosta, Ga., in 1974.
Devlin found that he developed an acute hand/eye coordination skill set during two assignments in Japan as an F-15 fighter pilot.
On retiring from the Air Force in 1994, Devlin put away that learned set of skills and did not think much about it any more, especially when he began a second career with Northwest Airlines in 1996 as a commercial pilot. Northwest merged with Delta in 2008.
During his working days, Devlin can be found flying passengers through the friendly skies to destinations such as the Caribbean, Central America, and a variety of domestic locations on the Delta routes.
As an active Delta pilot based in Atlanta, Devlin can live almost anywhere he wants and moved his family from Memphis to Sandestin two years ago.
After relocating to South Walton, Devlin met another former Tennessee resident, Kent Lillie, who also now lives at Sandestin.
On his way to the Air Force reservation in January, Devlin saw a sign announcing that Hurlburt AFB Skeet Range is now open to the public.
In mentioning the sign to Lillie, Devlin found that the two of them have more in common than the states of Tennessee and Florida.
The men went out to the skeet range in January and since then have enticed others to join them.
"I had gone skeet shooting once 30 years ago, and I don't even own a gun," said Devlin. "I have to borrow a gun when I go."
He now goes out once a week with three others from the area and has found a new hobby.
"It's a skill level you develop of pointing the barrel of the shotgun, then putting a little lead on it to stay with the skeet when it is released," he explained.
Devlin describes skeet as shooting at a small clay disk that is approximately 4 inches in diameter, otherwise known as a clay pigeon. The clay pigeon is launched over a field from nine high and low stations.
Skeet is one of four major types of recreational and competitive shotgun target shooting sports. Participants, using shotguns, attempt to break the clay disks that are flung into the air from two fixed stations at high speed from a variety of angles at the stations set up in a semi circle.
Skeet is shot using a 12-gauge, 20-gauge, 28-gauge, or 410-gauge shotgun and has pellets in the cartridge shells that dispel.
Since Devlin is not a hunter and doesn't own a gun, he has enjoyed the challenge of the sport. However, he has found that the skill set he learned in the Air Force, and the skills he uses today as a commercial pilot have aided him in catching on to the sport.
"Eye/hand coordination is required in both fields," he says.
A few weeks back he shot his personal best of 20 out of 25, but qualifies that by saying he usually shoots 18.
"Kent is much better," he says. "Kent typically shoots 23 out of 25."
Devlin says the range at Hurlburt is currently being expanded due to its popularity.
For more information visit www.hurlburtfieldskeetclub.com.