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story.lead_photo.caption Duke poses with his Texas State Handicap Champion trophy. Trap Handicap is where each shooter is on a specific yard line at which he has worked to achieve according to his level of skill.. Photo by Submitted to the Texarkana Gazette / Texarkana Gazette.

TEXARKANA, Texas — It began with duck hunting.

Palmer Duke, an 18-year-old recent graduate of Pleasant Grove High School, first became interested in trap shooting when hunting ducks with his father, Nick.

Duke started trap shooting when was 12 years old. The first event he won was a 4-H district shoot in Paris, Texas, in 2015. Eddie Anders was Duke's 4-H coach.

"It was exciting when I won the 4-H shoot," Duke said. "I have won first in other state shoots but never for Texas. Winning my first competition made me want to win more."

Travis Old and Gary Old helped Duke get into trap shooting. Duke spent a lot of time, and still does, shooting with the Olds.

"I like to meet different people, and I enjoy the traveling part of trap shooting competition," Duke said. "The mental part of shooting — having to continually concentrate — is my best skill and, at the same time, is the most challenging part of trap shooting.

"It's hard to keep performing well after a target is missed. Most of the time, it takes a perfect score to win the overall contest. When one is missed, it can throw off a shooter's performance."

Palmer Duke pauses to pose for a photo during a day of practice.

Duke competed on the Hawks' trap team for two years. Pleasant Grove added trap shooting as a competitive sport in 2018. He has placed first in seven competitions within the past year. Mark Windham was the coach in 2018, while Nick Duke and Gary Old coached in 2019.

"My dad taught me a lot about gun safety and the respect for guns before I even started shooting competitively and then, once I did, he taught me to be respectful and competitive," Duke said. "Coach Windham has also helped me a lot."

The standout trap shooter will attend the University of Arkansas in the fall and shoot for its trap shooting club. Duke may have earned a scholarship for his shooting, but the Razorbacks do not have a trap team yet.

One of his proudest moments was when he placed third out of 100 participants in the San Antonio Livestock Event (S.A.L.E.) shoot in 2018.

"Trap shooting has taught me people skills and the importance of being humble," Duke said. "I like the history of shooting and the fun of just going and practicing. It's a good way to clear my head and just focus on one thing at a time. The competitions are fun."

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