The National Firearms Museum receives donations every year — some from within our own NRA family. Today, Museum Director Jim Supica received just that kind of donation from the family of our very own Bill Poole, the Director of NRA’s Education & Training Division.
It’s no secret to NRA employees that Bill is a wizard when it comes to the game of trapshooting. When you meet his mother Hazel, it’s easy to understand where Bill not only gets his shooting skills, but his sense of humor too.
Hazel flew in from Indiana to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with Bill and his family. While here, she made a unique donation to the National Firearms Museum: her “Scare Jacket.”
Many competitive shooters own Scare Jackets (or shooting vests) embellished with the patches, pins, medals, and other awards they collected over the years. And Hazel’s jacket is certainly scary enough to warn other competitive shooters that she was quite the force to be reckoned with on the range.
As an accomplished trap shooter, Hazel is an Indiana State Trap Champion and a Hall of Fame trap shooter in both Indiana and Kentucky. Her Scare Jacket is covered with patches and pins that recognize her accomplishments on the trap field including State Team and Ladies’ Champion titles. The largest patch of all is on the back of the jacket — the Ladies’ Champion at the Dayton Homecoming Grand American in 1970, a major competition for trap shooters.
When it comes to her shooting career, Hazel was a bit of a late bloomer.
“I started late,” Hazel laughed. “I was 38 years old when I began shooting trap, how’s that for showing my age?”
Although she picked up a shotgun later in life, she has always known how to handle a rifle ... something that Bill has apparently known since he was still in the womb. “When she was pregnant with me, she’d take a Model 52 bolt-action rifle and throw cans and bottles into the river near our house to shoot at them,” bragged Bill.
“But I never visualized myself shooting a shotgun,” Hazel admitted, adding that her son and husband were the ones who got her started. “Bill and Bill went off to a turkey shoot once and came back with a lot of turkeys!” exclaimed Hazel.
“We came home with more turkeys than we could eat!” added Bill. “Back then, if you won, you kept the birds.”
“Well they started going to turkey shoots every weekend. And who was left at home? MAMA!” Hazel laughed.
When the younger Bill was drafted into the Air Force, Hazel began to accompany her husband on shooting trips. Although she was hooked, she admits her marksmanship skills weren’t the best.
“Early on I learned all the bad habits of shooting. I shot one-eyed, and I never could learn to shoot with both eyes open,” said Hazel.
Despite her self-proclaimed bad habits, Hazel stopped using her husband and son’s shotguns and had one custom-fitted to her small frame. That’s when it all came together and Hazel worked her way up to Champion titles, earning her the accolades that adorn her Scare Jacket. Hazel’s husband (and Bill’s father) purchased the jacket for her, and was responsible for having the pins and patches attached.
When Bill saw the jacket hanging in Hazel’s closet on a recent visit, he knew it belonged in the National Firearms Museum.
“The jacket represents the evolution of the sport, especially the role women have played in competitive shooting. NRA puts an emphasis on recruiting women into the shooting sports, and this jacket shows that women have been involved in the sport for decades,” said Bill. “It’s a gender-specific announcement that says ‘We’ve been here!’”
“It also shows women that they can get out there and shoot, no matter what their size,” added Hazel, who stands at just 4 feet 10 inches tall.
The jacket will hang in a place of honor within the National Firearms Museum, in a case dedicated to shotgun games donated by Rudy Etchen, one of America’s most legendary shotgunners. It’s a piece that Supica is excited to add to the case that helps convey the history of the sport.
“I love any artifact that tells a story beyond the gun itself. This jacket tells a story of competitive shooting, especially of women in competitions and we’re just delighted to have it,” said Supica.
What more could you ask for? How about Hazel’s beloved Winchester Model 1400, affectionately named “Betsy”?
“Would you like Betsy to add to it?” said Hazel to Supica.
I think we know the answer to that question, but that story is for another day.