His Sporting Clay Life…A Family Affair
It can be a common misconception with those individuals that aren’t familiar with “clays” that shooting at an orange disk…is simply that; shooting at an orange disk. However, those involved in the sport know that formidable and lifelong relationships are formed, families are bonded, character is built, and lessons are learned.
Thanks to San Antonio’s F. M. “Butch” Roberson’s commitment to skeet, trap, and especially, the sporting clay industry, thousands of hunting enthusiasts desiring a little exciting off-season practice or craving to be a part of a challenging competition have been able to participate in year-round target shooting.
Currently, at 70-years old and almost always wearing his signature cowboy hat with a turquoise band, the semi-retired, unassuming Butch remains an integral link to a sport he, oddly enough, didn’t become heavily involved with until well into adulthood. Born and raised in Lubbock, he regularly hunted dove and quail as a youngster. In his teens he “busted a few clay pigeons” which were hand-slung by his brother-in-law. But, “true” skeet shooting was something Butch had yet to discover. Working primarily as a surveyor, it was a subsequent move for he and his wife Pam, from Alaska to Seguin, Texas, that would put him on course to establish a respected, professional link between the name Roberson and the business of sporting clays, skeet and trap shooting – a link that remains unbreakable after more than 30 years.
So, how did this unlikely transition into the shooting business occur? After moving to Seguin, Butch began working as a well driller while Pam, took a position as the club secretary at the near-by National Shooting Complex (which was also the headquarters for the National Skeet Shooting Association). Due to Pam’s position within the association and her husband’s unavoidable exposure to it, as Butch recalls, “I liked shotguns, and this was something, and someplace, that I could really get into.”
It wasn’t long before Butch’s love and uncanny ability for fixing things, found himself part-timing at the complex. His early days there proved to be a learning experience. He was tasked with the upkeep, maintenance and repair of the assorted equipment used for launching the clays. He liked what he was doing; when the Texas economy “tanked” in the mid-eighties, Butch signed on permanently as the center’s undisputed “jack-of-all-trades”. He became an essential part in the staging of many NSSA and sporting clay adjunct, the National Sporting Clays Association (NSCA) tournaments. He was a registered shooter in the USSCA and competed in the championships in Colorado. After the last championships in Broadmoor, the NSSA formed the NSCA where he began to work.
As it evolved, the first NSCA tournament was held at Minnesota Horse and Hunt. He modestly states, “I just took the equipment out of our towers, mounted it onto pallets, loaded it on the trucks and sent it to Minnesota.” Once in Minnesota, with the help of the manager, they designed the course and then Butch had to reassemble everything at the site, get it up and running, wait until the event ended, and then do it all over again to get it home.
Many credit his efforts as creating the first traveling sporting clay units ever. While working at NSSA, Butch traveled the state planning their shoots for other gun clubs. It wasn’t long before he realized that he could be doing this for himself. In 1989 Butch started a part-time business, R&R Trap Sales (Roberson & Roberson, which refers to himself and Pam). He began transporting, setting up, servicing, and designing skeet, trap and sporting clay ranges. He set up and showcased his equipment at the Loma Alta Gun Club in the Rio Grande Valley. He worked on courses, privately-owned properties across the nation. His work also took him into Mexico and Nova Scotia.
Butch spent a few years serving as the President of Texas Sporting Clays. In 1992, he was instrumental in the introduction of sporting clays in Mexico. “A gun club in Acapulco purchased a bunch of Lincoln handsets. They would fly me down there and I’d design the course. Then I’d run ads in Sporting Clay Magazine inviting Americans down and I’d shoot with them,” Roberson recalls.
Over the next quarter-century, his company enjoyed a great deal of success as he, and on occasion Pam, traveled far and wide. “My business card had a picture of a guy running with a wrench and it said, ‘My place or yours”. As Butch stated, “we helped everyone. I think that’s why we made it and other companies didn’t. We’d go anywhere to help anybody.” Even though he sold R&R Trap Sales a few years back, the business he created is still, as he attests, “going strong”.
Today, while still involved with NSSA and NSCA, Butch recalls the best thing about his life in the sporting clay world has been having his family by his side with Pam working at the NSC and his boys Quint and Shayne, now grown, who, as Butch recounts, “grew up around the complex.” The Roberson boys worked as loaders, became refs, and Quint worked with handsets until starting TTI, Tournament Targets Inc. All of the Roberson’s volunteer regularly at the various tournaments. They all still love to, “bust a few clays” every so often too. When asked who the best of the group is, an honest but proud Butch admits, “I used to be able to whip my boys at the clays but now, it’s no contest with either of ‘em. I can still give Pam a run for it though.”
Butch encourages families to shoot together. “Taking kids once a month to a local gun club is not that expensive. It’s cheaper than taking kids to pro basketball games and you get to be outdoors, interacting with your family instead of yelling at guys on court. You can take your family to shoot then stop and eat at Whataburger on the way home and spend less.”
The other thing that has made all his years in the industry so meaningful is the friends he’s made. “I’ve got people that are still good friends who make life worth living. You can’t buy friendship.”
The next time you’re at the range or at a shoot on somebody’s ranch and enjoying a little sporting clay competition with family or friends, think about Butch Roberson – ambassador, everyone’s friend and all-around go-to guy – because, through his love of and dedication to the sport, he really has helped make its widespread availability and popularity what it is today.