"Most weekend shooting exhibitions involve Benelli dealers advertising ahead of time that I'm coming to town," Knapp said. "I come in, put on an exhibition, and the dealers have shotguns for everyone to try."
In Italy, he said, he's considered by many shooters to be a modern American John Wayne. Recently at the Italian Game Fair, he was mobbed by people trying to get his autograph.
"I was pushed up against a tractor," he said. "Finally, the only way I could escape was to crawl underneath the tractor and get out the other side."
Minnesota kids who grow up with a knack for shooting usually also are hunters. Knapp is no different. The owner of two Labrador retrievers, he loves to chase birds, a fitting interest now that he is also host of "Benelli's American Bird Hunter," a TV show that airs weekly on the Outdoor Channel.
"We do 26 episodes, and when we begin filming in the fall, I arrange to film on the Monday, Tuesday and sometimes Wednesday after I do a shooting exhibition," he said. "Then I fly home, change clothes, and fly out again."
As Knapp spoke, he reached for a handful of clays, advanced a few steps, and heaved them into the air. Pop. Pop. Pop. Pop. Pop. Pop.
Six clays up, six clays broken.
Then he whipped the shotgun behind his head, and tickled the trigger that way -- also hitting the target.
"You want to try?" Knapp asked.
And I shot a few holes in the sky, sometimes breaking clay targets that were thrown.
Sometimes watching the targets break when they hit the ground.
Dennis Anderson email@example.com
Kids pull wacky stunts, and many of the them Tom Knapp pulled as a youngster involved guns. He shot the heads off dandelions, blew up cucumbers, and, generally, plinked away at anything he perceived to be a target, moving or stationary.
All the while, he dreamed.
Not of being a professional basketball player. Or starring as a pitcher on a baseball team.
But of being a trick shooter. Or what more appropriately today is called an exhibition shooter.
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