Top Shot

Dustin Ellerman, a 28-year-old summer camp director from Zavalla, is featured in the upcoming third season of "Top Shot," a History Channel show where marksmen compete for a chance at a grand prize of $100,000.

Dustin Ellermann didn’t apply for “Top Shot” to be on television or for the reality aspect of it.

“Forget the whole TV mess, that’s just the reason I knew about it,” the Zavalla resident said. “‘Top Shot’ seemed like Disneyland with guns.”

Ellermann, 28, has been shooting almost anything he could get his hands on, starting with BB guns at age 6. He intended to audition for season one of the show, but “the time wasn’t right” for fitting it in around his work at Camp His Way, a summer camp located on the Sam Rayburn Reservoir.

“Then season two came out, and a friend sent me a text saying ‘Top Shot’ was holding auditions for season three,” Ellermann said. “All they wanted was an email with a picture and some information about yourself.”

Ellermann sent in the headshot and bio, and said a representative from “Top Shot” called the next day requesting an audition video (which is currently available on YouTube) by the end of the week.

“A couple weeks later, they flew me out to LA,” he said.

Competitive shooting was a new experience for Ellermann.

“I was the only person there with a blank shooting resume,” he said, laughing. “It was homeland security people, cops, Marines ... and Dustin.” 

A self-taught marksman, according to his bio on history.com, Ellermann and 15 other marksmen had to “display mastery of weapons from all eras of human history, from the most primitive (rocks) to the most sophisticated tactical firearms,” a press release from The History Channel stated. “Contestants will employ some of the biggest munitions ever featured on ‘Top Shot,’ including the Gatling gun, the Hotchkiss mountain gun and the CornerShot. In addition, they must endure extreme physical tests to stay in the game,” the release stated.

Ellermann said that it was next to impossible to really practice for the show, because every season’s challenges are different.

“Hunting kind of gets you prepared for any situation, like on ‘Top Shot,’” he said. “You just have to hope you’re well-rounded and a quick learner, or you’ll be left behind.”

Ellermann also had to devote time to making sure Camp His Way was prepared enough to run without its director for the duration of shooting “Top Shot.”

“I just spent time working on marksmanship basics, like trigger control and shooting from different positions,” he said. “I also probably prayed more than I practiced.”

As for noticing any sort of rise in celebrity status now that he’s completed filming and is now back home, Ellermann just said, “My face has been on TV for two seconds, it’s not a big deal.”

The experience, to Ellermann, was reminiscent of the camp he runs.

“It was kind of like being at summer camp,” he said. “A bunch of people gathering with a common interest. I was really looking forward to hearing cool stories and getting to know these SWAT members, homeland security people, competition shooters and cops. There was also a Marine and a Navy SEAL there.”

An avid shooter, Ellermann said that when faced with an unfamiliar firearm, he could “pretty much pick ’em up and figure out how they function fast enough.” His first long-range shooting experience should be reason enough to expect impressive achievements on “Top Shot,” he said.

“The first time I shot long-range, I got a running coyote in the head at 350 yards,” Ellermann said. “That was fun.”

Ellermann said he enjoys “Top Shot” both for the opportunity to “have fun and shoot other people’s guns” and for offering a different perspective on firearms to the public.

“‘Top Shot’ shows people can be safe, responsible and have fun with firearms and other weapons,” he said. “It’s a hobby, it’s a recreational thing.”

One of the hardest parts of the experience, Ellermann said, was being away from his family. Ellermann’s wife, two children, and three foster children were in Texas while he was taking part in “Top Shot” challenges in Los Angeles.

Adept with pistols, rifles, a compound bow and throwing tomahawks and knives, according to the history.com information, Ellermann said he can’t choose a favorite.

“That’s kinda like asking ‘who’s your favorite kid?’” he exclaimed. “I’ve never been particular about what I shoot. I do like the .22 long rifle, though. It’s inexpensive and it still goes ‘bang,’ so you can shoot a lot and have fun.”

Ellermann also said he’d like to host a youth marksmanship camp at Camp His Way after the new season of “Top Shot” airs.

“I’d like to show kids how to be safe and shoot well,” he said. “I love God, I love kids, I love guns, you put them all together and it could be a great time.”

“Top Shot” premieres at 9 p.m. Aug. 9 on the History Channel.

Audrey Spencer’s email address is aspencer@lufkindailynews.com.

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