Rebecca Etchen Peters is a competitive shotgunner and bird hunter whose family legacy is marksmanship. The daughter of Pennsylvania custom gun dealer Joel Etchen, she represents the fourth generation of sharpshooting Etchens to emerge as a major contender in registered competition, and the third in her family to look beyond the barrel at a career related to shooting and hunting. In a Q+A with assistant editor Kristyn Brady, Rebecca shares some lessons from her grandfather, a world-class shot, her love of dove hunting, and what it was like to deal with the unique pressure of competing as a youth in a sport where everyone knows your name.
First, a bit of history on her family. Rebecca’s maiden name holds a lot of weight in the shotgunning world. The family’s history of hunting goes back even further than Joel Etchen. Rebecca's great-great-grandfather, John Etchen, was a market hunter who sold birds to local restaurants and hotel kitchens in Kansas in the late 1800s. He trained his six sons in the same vocation, and one of them, Fred, branched out into competitive shooting. He went on to captain the U.S. Olympic shooting team in the 1924 Paris summer games, and to help clinch the gold medal in the team clay pigeons event. Fred also invented a style of pistolgrip for a shotgun still known as the Etchen grip.
Fred’s only child, Rudy, was a world champion shot known for shooting double-trap with a pump gun. He won the 16 yard Championship in every category—from sub-junior to senior veteran—at the Grand American of trapshooting between 1937 and 2001, when he passed away. Rebecca was able to shoot in one competition with him in 1999. Both Fred and Rudy Etchen were inducted into the Trapshooting Hall of Fame.
Rebecca’s father, Joel, is Rudy’s youngest son. He has excelled in business—Joel Etchen Guns in Ligonier, Pa., has become the largest Beretta target gun dealer in the country—and in competition, all while helping to raise Rebecca and her brother Alex. In 1992, on the same day he took the Class AA title at the Grand American, he and Rudy won the Father-Son Championship with a record score of 399 out of 400.
Rebecca’s whole family traveled with Joel to competitions every summer, and reunited annually with Rudy, who lived in Arizona when Rebecca was in high school, at the Grand American. Rebecca, now 31, learned to shoot from her father and grandfather at a young age before entering her first registered shoot around age 14. After shooting competitively until her college graduation, Rebecca married, moved to Seattle, and began a career related to the shooting sports, working for Beretta and then Eddie Bauer. This month, Rebecca and her husband Adam will relocate from Seattle back to the Pittsburgh area, where she will work with her father and looks forward to getting back into competitive shooting.
Here, she and I talk trap, the first time she shot 100 straight, and the most meaningful guns in the family safe:
KB: Who taught you to shoot and by what method?
REP: I got lessons and advice from both my father and my grandfather. I don’t remember how old I was when I started firing a BB gun, but I worked up to shooting soda cans with a .22, and periodically my dad would have me hold a shotgun to see if I was strong enough to handle the recoil. In my lessons, they both emphasized fundamentals, keeping my head down, and lots of practice.
Now, it has become so instinctual...I just remember knowing, not learning. It was funny trying to help my husband learn how to shoot later in life. I really had to think about it.
Photos from top to bottom:
1. Rebecca, courtesy of Eddie Bauer/Motofish.
2. A young Rudy Etchen with his Father, Fred.