Talbot Rod and Gun Club Celebrates 90th Birthday

This column in Attraction, by Amelia Blades Steward, visits the faces of those who have benefited from the generous and tireless work of the nonprofits on the Mid Shore or are one of the organizations giving back in unique ways to better our world. She has been a freelance writer in our community for over 20 years and offers a glimpse into the lives of residents on the Mid Shore whom she has met along the way.

In 1934, men would gather at farms throughout the county, setting up a single trap behind hay bales and shooting targets over a field. The informal group called themselves the Talbot Rod & Gun Club, shooting both skeet and trap. Invented in Massachusetts in 1920, skeet shooting is a competitive recreational activity where participants use shotguns to break clay targets mechanically thrown in the air at a variety of angles from two fixed stations – a high house and a low house. Named after the Norwegian word for “shoot,” skeet gained popularity during World War II when the U.S. military used it to teach gunners to lead flying targets.

According to the club, there were more hunters and fishermen in the area during that time. The name “rod and gun” reflects the comradery the club was built upon. Members privately organized hunting and fishing parties during those seasons and during the warm weather, they shot skeet to improve their shooting skills.

Youth shooting at Talbot Rod & Gun Club’s 90th birthday celebration. Photograph courtesy of Amy Steward.

In 1960, the club bought land on Chapel Road and the first organized skeet shoot was held in 1962. My grandfather, Everett Blades, was one of the early members of the club, and is listed on one of the clubhouse plaques. Over the years, the club grew and received national awards, held shooting exhibitions, and hosted several popular shoots sanctioned by the National Skeet Shooting Association. The club has six skeet fields, two five-stand fields, and a trap field. Since then, the club has taken on a new community focus embodying a true sportsman’s club where the spirit of friendship and family combine, as well as a new focus on educating and teaching the next generation of Talbot Rod & Gun Club members.

At the Talbot Rod & Gun Club’s recent 90th birthday celebration, members gathered to celebrate the organization’s accomplishments and share new directions the club is pursuing as it grooms the next generation of members. Several dignitaries were on hand to honor the club.

“This event marks 90 years that the Talbot Rod and Gun Club has been an important part of our region. Over these past 90 years, they’ve provided a safe, enjoyable space for recreational shooting and fostered a community for those interested in outdoor sports. They have been a great haven for outdoors and shooting sports enthusiasts across our region – offering fellowship, camaraderie, and education to those who seek membership,” stated Megan Cook, Mayor of Easton.

Megan continued, “We’re fortunate to have the Talbot Rod and Gun Club act as a place of education for our youth who enjoy hunting and fishing our native fields and waterways. Their outreach working with youth programs such as 4-H, offering Hunter’s Safety education, and establishing competitive clay shooting teams with Easton High School is important work, equipping future generations with the tools to become stewards of the land, conservators of our natural resources, as well as become safe and capable operators of firearms.”

Congressman Andy Harris presented an American flag to the club that was flown in the U.S. Capitol.

Joe “Cap” Capozzoli, the President of Talbot Rod & Gun Club, talks with Easton Mayor Megan Cook. Congressman Andy Harris is in the background. Photograph courtesy of Tom Judge.

Maryland Senator Johnny Mautz added, presenting a citation from the Maryland Senate and an honorary Maryland flag, “What this club represents is more than just a milestone. If you were to walk on these grounds, probably 90 years ago, it would look a lot like what they look like right now . . . the club today looks exactly the way it did when I was a child … even though it has different faces, it has the same ethos, the same mentality, and that same spirit.”

Maryland Delegate Tom Hutchison presented a citation from the Maryland House of Delegates to the club but also a special citation for Joe “Cap” Capozzoli, current president of the club, in recognition of his leadership, commitment, dedication, involvement, and guidance that he provides the club as president.

Master of Ceremonies for the celebration, Austin Eader of Cordova, a student at Easton High School, shared that he has been active in shooting sports since he was eight years old. He commented, “I was taught about shooting and shown how much fun it actually is. I think it really makes you a more responsible and knowledgeable person on many different things. It’s a great thing especially for the youth to experience.”

Austin is helping to organize a high school skeet club for Easton High School and is encouraging friends to get involved. He took the idea to the Talbot County Board of Education with signatures of support from 211 students and 24 teachers. Currently, there are skeet clubs at Kent Island High School and Queen Anne’s County High School.

“It showed the support we have in the community for the idea. I love the sense of community at the club and the aspect of fun, friendly competition,” Austin added.

Abbi Hutchison of Easton is active in the Talbot County 4-H Archery and Shooting Club and is looking forward to getting involved with the skeet club once it gets formed. She added, “It’s good to have another sport that people can do.”

“We are very fortunate to have had 90 years of the Talbot Rod & Gun Club’s operation, but we need to look ahead and as we look ahead, it’s the kids who are going to be the future of this club,” commented Joe. “We are hopeful the skeet club will get approved. It gives kids who are not athletically gifted or big or strong the ability to compete in an activity right here. They can earn a letter and they can earn scholarships.”

Talbot Rod & Gun Club has 275 members, a number which has increased over the past few years. The club has added a new women’s shooting group that currently involves about 12 women. Member Gabrielle Perrett commented, “Our group had its first event in September, which was well attended and included several women new to the sport. The group meets monthly through the summer months, and we encourage women to join us.”

Talbot Rod & Gun Club’s officers are Joe “Cap” Capozzoli, President; Joylan “Joe” Devens, Skeet Chairman; Tony LeCompte, Vice President; Jim Robertson, Membership Chairman; Justin Eader, Treasurer; Paul Bergere, Event Chairman; Tom Ostrowski, House/Grounds; and Tom Hughes, Director/Secretary. For further information about the club, youth initiatives, and the women’s shooting group, visit www.talbotrodandgunclub.com.

Officers of Talbot Rod & Gun Club pose with dignitaries at the club’s recent 90th birthday celebration, including Maryland Senator Johnny Mautz (left), Congressman Andy Harris, Club Vice President Tony Lecompte, Joe Devens, Club President Joe “Cap” Capozzoli, Tom Hughes, Paul Bergere, Jim Robertson, Justin Eader, Maryland Delegate Tom Hutchinson, Easton Mayor Megan Cook, and Talbot County Sherriff Joe Gamble. Photograph courtesy of Tom Judge.
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