Bridge Creek Clays
Mike Simpson’s passion for kids and shooting sports is making a difference across the globe.
Looking back at it after all these years, it’s likely that a BB gun with no sights was the starting point. Now, Mike Simpson is handling five-figure Perazzi over-and-unders while training Olympic gold medalists.
“I learned to shoot by pointing that gun, not sighting it,” Simpson said. “I remember my first dove shoot, at 6 years old. I picked up six birds that day and have been hooked on hunting and shooting ever since.”
Simpson’s Bridge Creek Clays and South Georgia Shooting Club is in Hartsfield, roughly 10 miles from Moultrie, but its effects reach worldwide. A former USA Shooting National Coach Of The Year, Simpson’s list of awards and accomplishments is beyond impressive. That said, perhaps the club’s mission statement provides a purer glimpse of the man: “To inspire young people to desire the highest level of character, conduct, citizenship and leadership while promoting sportsmanship, self-esteem, self-worth and self-control.”
“Working with kids has been a way for me to show them that they’re loved and share with them a love for shooting and the outdoors,” Simpson said. “I have a lot of kids who come through here that have never been hunting. It has been a priceless tool to be able to accomplish showing them that others care. I can’t begin to tell you how many of those late-night phone calls I’ve gotten that started off, ‘Coach Mike…’”
(During a mid-morning call-back to Mike for an additional bit of info, he said, “Actually I’ve got a kid here from Puerto Rico that I’m working with; can I call you back?” His phone earns its keep…)
Back in the 1980s, Simpson began working with the Georgia 4-H sporting clays program.
“We had 150 kids in the program statewide, back at Rock Eagle four decades ago,” he said. “My kids won the state championship, and I went on to serve 19 years on the Georgia State 4-H Committee.”
During that span came an interesting twist of fate. It happened in 1996, right after Atlanta’s participation in hosting The Olympic Games.
“That Atlanta venue was one of the finest in the world, and it was hosting a World Cup event in International Trap and Skeet,” Simpson said. “We had a team shoot in that area and went by there on the way home. The director of the shoot came over and asked the kids if they would like to shoot. They knew they were good, and they were pretty cocky; but they also got humbled pretty quick. At the same time, they got completely hooked.
“And so did I… 1996 really started it all. Once I got into coaching, I wanted to know everything about coaching that I could just like they wanted to know everything about shooting that they could. Since that time, 48 kids have come through here that have gone on to participate in national teams to development teams to world championship teams. This year I had some members of the U.S. Olympic team here to train the week before they went to Tokyo. Among them was Amber English, who went on to win the gold medal.”
Bridge Creek Clays spreads over 65 acres and features two state-of-the-art Olympic bunkers, American trap and skeet, 4-H sporting clays and double trap—plus instruction from one of the best coaches in the world.
“I’ve had up to 300 kids here, lined up 70 to 80 deep waiting to shoot,” Simpson says. “It means that much to them, and in today’s pace that says a lot. I try to teach these kids to have a dream and make a commitment to it. That’s the only way to get there.”
When you’re selected national coach of the year by USA Shooting, there’s not a whole lot more you need on a resume. But to me, that’s not even at the top of the list. This is: Simpson is one of only two coaches in the United States to hold an International Shooting Sports Federation license. What that means is that he can step right into any ISSF facility—in the world—and begin helping folks shoot better.
The list goes on and on, including Assistant National USA Shooting Olympic Coach, and when the South Georgia Youth Shooting Club bills itself as “Home Of Champions,” it’s not kidding.
“Being an assistant USA coach opened the doors for me to go all over the world, as well as the kids I’ve coached. It has been a golden opportunity for them.”
So, if you want to have better success in a dove field or duck blind, even after a lifetime of shooting, where would a world-class coach suggest making modifications? I had to know and was talking to the guy who does. He gave me two tips, one of which, ironically, was the first lesson I ever learned about a shotgun—at the same age he started!
“Get fit for the right shotgun,” Simpson says adamantly. “That is the first order of business; it’s crucial. People go to Walmart or wherever and pick up whatever is on the shelf, then can’t understand why it’s not magic right out of the box. When that gun hits your shoulder, if it’s not pointing where you’re looking then you’re not likely to hit what you’re shooting at. Making that adjustment is the first key.”
The second goes back to his BB gun, and both our childhoods.
“One of the biggest things I see with people, especially hunters who use both rifle and shotgun, is that they don’t realize that they should aim a rifle but point a shotgun. When they put the shotgun up, they look for the bead to aim by; by the time they find it, the target is long gone. Point, instinctively; don’t aim.”
Bridge Creek is open to the public, so if dove season results have you in the dumps, check it out before the next one comes in! Mike says a group of old-timers headed to Canada on a duck hunt were recently at the facility, “and they were busting clays before they left.” Simpson’s address is 3760 Dunn Road, Hartsfield, Ga. 31756.
If you want to know more, or better yet want to get a child involved at the highest of levels, contact Mike Simpson at 229.454.0669. Or email [email protected].
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