SCARBOROUGH — Cal Stinson Jr. won the first of his 15 all-around titles at the Maine Trapshooting Championships in 1953.

Today, at age 90, he remains a sharpshooter. He won his most recent all-around title at the state championships two years ago.

“Usually when guys get older, their scores start dropping,” said Tom Hartranft, president of the Maine Trapshooting Association. “Father Time takes his toll. Usually at 90 most people can’t walk. But when it’s time to shoot trap, Cal shows up.”

Stinson, who grew up and continues to live in Down East Maine, is a legend in a sport that receives almost no media attention. He has won 35 Grand American national titles and is the only Mainer among the 182 inductees to the Amateur Trapshooting Association’s Hall of Fame in Sparta, Illinois.

“I’ve shot in 28 states and everywhere I go people say, ‘You’re from Maine? You must know Cal Stinson,'” said Vince Conti of Cape Elizabeth. “Cal is a legend across the country. Not just in Maine. Not just in New England.”

Stinson is competing this weekend at the annual state championships at the Scarborough Fish and Game Association’s trap club, the latest stop on his busy schedule. He still competes in tournaments around the northeast and as far away as Texas. Last weekend in Syracuse, New York, Stinson shot 96 out of 100 targets to win a senior veteran title at the Eastern Regional Zone Trapshooting Championships.

“There are several hundred people at these tournaments, and only a handful can shoot that score. Cal most definitely is the cream of the crop,” said Terry Heeg, editor of Trap and Field Magazine.

Trapshooters use a shotgun to hit flying clay targets. There are three disciplines at competitions: singles, in which shooters fire at a clay target that is shot from 16 yards back; doubles, which requires hitting two flying clay targets; and handicap, which requires hitting a clay target anywhere from 16 to 27 yards back, depending on a shooter’s skill level. To win the all-around title, a shooter must have the best aggregate score in all three disciplines.

‘I’VE BEEN LUCKY’

The reasons Stinson gives for his storied career are understated.

“I’ve been lucky,” he said. “And good shooting comes from a good attitude.”

For nearly 40 years, Stinson worked at his family’s business, Stinson Seafoods, which had seven factories stretching from South Portland to Lubec before it was sold in 1990. It was the last sardine cannery in the United States when it closed under new owners in 2010.

The business was started by his father, Cal Stinson Sr., an accomplished trapshooter in his own right even though he didn’t take up the sport until his 50s.

The elder Stinson built a shooting range in the field behind the family home in Prospect Harbor.

“Basically, Dad paid for my shooting. He wanted to have someone to go to tournaments with,” said Cal Jr., who started entering competitions at 19.

“And he loved to see me improve. I was winning quite a bit. But he’d go up and collect all my winnings. Until one day I said, ‘Dad, why don’t I get my winnings?’ And he said, ‘Well, son, when you start paying your own way, then you can collect your winnings. You just let me know when you want to do that.’ I said, ‘How about right now?’ That was my biggest mistake. I won once in a while, but trapshooting costs a lot more than I was making at tournaments.”

Later, Cal Stinson Sr. bought a home in Florida. Father and son would enter trapshooting tournaments in Miami and Sarasota.

“Every once in a while in a tournament, he would really trounce me,” Cal Jr. said. “He always wanted to beat me. If I was going to win, he wanted me to earn it. There was one time we tied and he said, ‘Why don’t we flip a coin?’ He won, and it was written up in the newspaper that he won by the flip of a coin. The article said: ‘He was not only adept at trapshooting, but also adept at flipping coins.'”

Cal Stinson Sr. won seven all-around Maine trapshooting state titles. But his greatest competition was his son, who won seven consecutive all-around state titles from 1953 to 1959. Together, they were the first father-and-son inductees to the Maine Sports Hall of Fame. A photo of the two, taken in 1960 at a competition in New Hampshire, is on display at the modest Maine Trapshooting Hall of Fame at the Scarborough trap club.

PROPER FRAME OF MIND

In all, Cal Stinson Jr. has won 41 state titles, including the 15 all-round championships. But other trapshooters say those titles are not even Stinson’s most notable achievement. It’s the remarkable composure he displays in competition.

“Trapshooting is a mental sport,” Conti said. “It requires hand-eye coordination, muscle control, and mental discipline, and as you get older, that all goes south. Yet Cal is so even-tempered no matter what.”

Conti said Stinson remains calm even if he’s shooting poorly – and even if he’s shooting in the pouring rain, as he did Thursday at the state championships. Stinson walked off the trap field with a smile on his face.

Sitting in damp clothes after, Stinson shared a story about a competition 15 years ago in Arizona, where it came down to him and another trapshooter in a shootout. When the tie was decided, Stinson won, but he didn’t want to leave with just the title.

“I don’t take it that seriously, I guess,” Stinson said. “That shooter out in Arizona, he lost and was upset. He started walking off and I went over and shook his hand and said, ‘There are 60 to 80 shooters here and you and I were in the top two and one of us had to win and one of us had to lose. But congratulations because it’s still really good shooting to make the final.’

“He appreciated that, and he’s been friendly to me ever since.

CORRECTION: This story was updated at 11:40 a.m. on July 31 to show that Cal Stinson Sr. and Cal Stinson Jr. were the first first father-and-son inductees to the Maine Sports Hall of Fame. Bob and Brett Brown are also father-and-son inductees to the hall.

Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be reached at 791-6452 or:

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