‘The match of the century’: Capt. Bogardus vs. Doc Carver

It is fitting that the World Shooting Complex is being constructed in Illinois, and that it will host the Amateur Trapshooting Association’s Grand American event in August.

More than 100,000 people are expected to attend that annual event in Sparta. Not many people know that more than 100 years ago, two men from Illinois, who also happened to be the best shotgun shooters in the country, went shoulder-to-shoulder in a series of trapshooting matches that had everyone in the world of outdoor sports buzzing.

Captain Adam Bogardus, who lived many years in Illinois, was renowned for his skill with a shotgun. He held a record of hitting 6,000 2-inch glass balls with 6,013 shots. He also manufactured his own line of glass ball targets.

Capt. Bogardus had quite a following of loyal fans. His challenger was a younger mountain of a man named Doc Carver. Born in Winslow, Ill., Doc Carver earned his fame as a crack rifle shot and a market hunter.

Because he was at the top of the trapshooting sport in the USA, and because he had nothing to gain, Capt. Bogardus put off the challenge made by Doc Carver for six years. Then, finally, he agreed to a match with Doc. But could this young challenger really expect to upstage the old master wing shooter? The whole country was eager to find out.

Their first match was in Louisville, Ky., Feb. 22, 1883. It seemed like side bets were being made everywhere by everyone. As that first match progressed, the old master, Capt. Bogardus, faltered, and the young challenger, Doc Carver, came on strong. After 100 live pigeons were released for each shooter, the final score was 83 for Doc Carver and 82 for Capt. Bogardus.

Was that first match a fluke? Is Doc really that good? Has Capt. Bogardus lost his edge? Many such thoughts swarmed through the minds of sportsmen after that first match. Capt. Bogardus then challenged Doc Carver to another match. The challenge was accepted, and the two star trap shooters were off to Chicago for their second match.

Once again, 100 live pigeons were released for each shooter, and Doc Carver knocked down 82 of his while Capt. Bogardus got 79 of his targets. After this main event, they shot an extra match using some new-fangled targets made by Gregory Ligowsky of Cincinnati. Some called these new targets “mud saucers” because they were made entirely of clay. Doc won that match, too, beating Capt. Bogardus by a score of 72 to 63.

Capt. Bogardus was humiliated by his 0-3 record against his younger challenger, and he was equally determined to redeem himself. Recognizing this moment in trapshooting history was a golden opportunity to promote his new clay targets, Greg Ligowsky then made an offer to Doc Carver and Capt. Bogardus they could not refuse. His proposal to them was to conduct a series of 25 matches of 100 targets each to be held in cities throughout the country. Ligowsky would pay the winner of each match $300.

Not only did the two men eagerly agree, they also decided that whoever won the most matches would keep the entire $7,500 prize.

So, off they went to St. Louis, Omaha, Neb., Pittsburgh, Boston, Philadelphia, Indianapolis and 18 other cities. When it was all over, Doc Carver won by shooting 93 percent of his targets compared with 87 percent for Capt. Bogardus. It was a fascinating time for trapshooting in America, and we can expect some fascinating stories to unfold from the new World Shooting Complex in Sparta, Ill., in the future.

For more information about trapshooting history, see the trapshooting hall of fame Web site at www.traphof.org.

This article was provided by the Illinois State Rifle Association. For more information about the Association, call 635-3198 or visit www.irsa.org.

From the July 12-18, 2006, issue

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