Interview: Top Shot Champion Dustin Ellermann

Top Shot Season 3 Champion Dustin Ellermann

Aaron Spuler: Hey Dustin, how have you been?

Dustin Ellermann: Pretty good. I’ve been crazy busy with people knocking down my door.

AS: I bet, especially after the last episode aired…

DE: You bet.

AS: First, I have to say congrats on the win. That was really an amazing performance you put out.

DE: That was something else. I ran away with it so much, it’s like ‘Mike, come on. You made the show look bad. We could have had a neck-and-neck and made it more exciting.’ But there was no stress on me at the end.

AS: It looked like you really just got in the zone, and it was all over then.

DE: It only took about two minutes to run through that thing.

AS: Good job there, it looked like it was a heck of a lot of fun for that last competition.

DE: I know it. If I had a choice of whatever I could do at Top Shot, that’s just too cool to go run though all the ones you did, throughout all the different stations. That was just one big crazy challenge. It was just too neat to get to do.

AS: Just a good wrap-up of everything. Not really exactly like when you’re doing a final exam in school – that’s not exactly very fun – but with Top Shot where you get to review everything again, that’s very cool.

DE: You’ve got a good point; it was like a final exam. If you didn’t figure out something, then you were screwed.

AS: I saw that they brought back the rocks that you liked so much.

DE: I was probably throwing rocks an hour a day in the back yard. I figured that would be part of the story line, but it was just a five second segment. I didn’t know how well I would do against Mike because he’s a baseball guy, and I’ve never played sports ever. Surprisingly I could throw rocks. I told my team ‘I can’t throw rocks, don’t put me on that.’ But nobody else wanted to do it, and that’s where they put the nice guy – at the end, where nobody else wanted to go.

AS: They did show the little clip of you throwing rocks at cans in the back yard.

DE: I was doing that all the time in the back yard. One reason was it just exposed a deficiency that I had.

AS: It’s cool being able to have a chance to touch base with you again. It was back in September the last time I talked to you. I do have a couple of questions from folks that posted their questions on the blog. You mind if I get to those in turn?

DE: Yeah, bring them on.

AS: This one’s from Sean… Congrats and an awesome showing. He wonders after you spend the necessary dollars on his wife, children and camp, will you be treating yourself to any special firearms purchases?

DE: I was going to put $5,000 aside for guns, but then I got my gift card. Then I thought ‘OK, I can put $3,000 aside for guns.’ But then I’ve been so blessed with getting good deals from manufacturers. I probably won’t have to. I was talking to my wife the other day; we passed an old military jeep on the road. She said, ‘You want to get that?’ You know, I have no desire to do anything with my earned money but put it towards the house for the wife and kids. I’ve really been blessed that I get to have the toys that I wanted as part of the title. That was my first intention, to play a little. But it looks like all the money gets to go towards what I need it to go to.

AS: Even better.

DE: Yep.

AS: Another question from Sean. A lot of doors have opened for the previous winners, especially Ian and even folks who didn’t win, like Caleb. Will you pursue a firearms related career if it’s offered?

DE: I’m split two ways, just a little bit. I’ll explain. One thing I do want to do is expand the camp a little here for some marksmanship training. Just marksmanship youth camps that I want to do on the off-season on the weekend for kids in ages 8 – 17. Cold Steel already donated some tomahawks. I’ll get some knives from Jack Dagger, looking at blowguns and some .22’s and muzzleloaders and pellet rifles and bows and everything. I’ve toyed with the idea of doing competition, but I almost look at Top Shot as my one lifetime competition and it went well. I don’t need to compete any more.

AS: I understand.

DE: Some of the stuff like 3 Gun looks pretty cool. I’ve checked out some YouTube videos and the scenarios look fun, like a Top Shot type thing. I may eventually get in to competition shooting, but for now I’m staying so busy with speaking engagements, appearances, and little promotions on the side. I’m plenty busy.

AS: I can imagine you’re plate is pretty full. That does sound pretty cool about the kid’s camp. I’m a full grown man, but I’d like to go do that sort of thing.

DE: Yeah, I get that a lot. I get a lot of people wanting to volunteer. It’s going to be fun.

AS: I saw something about Daryl Parker from last season opening up his own range, sort of like a Top Shot themed thing. That would be fun.

DE: He’s talked to me about coming in for a weekend, but my wife is having her baby around that time. So it’s on the back burner for now.

AS: I’ve got a couple of questions from another guy. He didn’t give me a name, just goes by Rifleslinger. What was your normal shooting routine prior to Top Shot? In terms of weapons, positions, round count, etc.

DE: Whatever I felt like. I’m not a competition shooter; I just go out and do whatever looks like fun that day. I only knew on Top Shot for like a week and a half when they finally approached me for doing it. So, most of my time was spent getting the camp ready to go. The only thing I remember doing – and a little bit of it made the video because they gave me a little Flip cam to play around with – I ripped my scope off my 10/22 and went out to 115 yards and just blew threw a couple of mags with the open sights, unsupported position. I’d even stand on top of a fence post – a little 4 inch fence post that I couldn’t fit both feet on – and practice shooting steel 100 yards away with iron sights. The unsupported positions proved to be helpful, because when you go out to the range you’re usually at the bench or prone or doing whatever you can to stay stable and make good shots. That’s something you have to make yourself practice because it’s not as much fun.

AS: I saw your audition video where you were being kind of silly and had three guns slung around your neck and you shot each in turn. That was pretty funny.

DE: That was just like ‘Hey this looks like fun.’ I’m a big weapons handler guy, because I’m pretty much just a kid. When I would get a new gun I would sleep with it by the bedside. I still kind of do that. When I get a new gun, it stays out of the safe so I can fondle it all the time. Just having that love of guns leads to ‘Hey I could run this thing pretty good.’ Switching around weapons and all the different varieties of guns is no big deal for me.

AS: What was your mental preparation prior to the challenges? Did you try to relax, get psyched up, or just have fun? Did you mentally or physically rehearse specific skills? What was your approach there?

DE: You know, I think probably I said it on one of the challenges. ‘Just pray more and shoot straight.’

AS: Mmm-hmm.

DE: I knew God had brought me here for a reason. ‘I’ll just do the best I can do and trust the rest to Him.’ That became a big thing that was a huge advantage. Because I don’t have to carry that burden of stress, or worry about what everyone else does, or what if everything goes wrong. I just said ‘OK, all I have to do is do my best and shoot my part, and God will take care of the rest.’ Obviously that worked out quite well.

AS: It really removes a lot of the burden from your shoulders.

DE: Exactly.

AS: And you can just focus on what you can do, and leave the rest up to someone else to watch out for you. Last question from Rifleslinger… Some of the competitors came in with very specific strategies, while others seemed more flexible and open. Could you comment on your approach vs. to those of the other competitors, and advantages and disadvantages of each?

DE: Strategy, like in the mental game of the house?

AS: I think that was the angle he was going for there, yes.

DE: I’m not that cunning of a person. I’m more of a simple guy. My thought was ‘Hey, if they send me to elimination, I get to play more. And if I do well and don’t have to go to elimination, I get to stay and play more.’ I was just there to be myself. I’m not an actor. I’m not that cunning to be undermined or to see the big picture sometimes and see what’s going on or what other people are trying to do, like Jake. Although I did see through his craziness. I was just there to be myself, and when they called me to shoot I went to shoot.

AS: Easy enough. You talked about going to play… I did notice during the last episode when you and Chris walked up to the stage, where you said ‘We get to go play again.’ Just from talking to you and seeing your personality on the show, I think that sums up and says a lot about you. You’re just having fun and enjoying yourself and not making a big deal out of things.

DE: I think it may have intimidated Chris a little.

AS: I’ve got another question from a reader named Rod. He wanted to say congrats. He and his wife Carol are hardcore fans of Top Shot, and were pulling for you to win. They said that you are a great ambassador for all gun owners and we just wanted to thank you for that. Now in terms of a question: Do you think Jake should have been kicked off show for his conduct of just being unsportsmanlike and a jerk in general?

DE: I’m not in charge of the show, but Jake did create…

AS: A little bit of tension to the house I think.

DE: I’ll put it this way: I wouldn’t be surprised if Top Shot enacted some sort of sportsmanship policy for the next season. Even if you’re going for a show in ratings, I think the producers bit off more than they could chew with him. Nobody wants the show to look bad. Honestly, Jake was toned down. He was much cruder, ruder, and vulgar than the show can air. It’s supposed to be a family show.

AS: If you have to bleep everything out it doesn’t make for good television.

DE: Exactly. Don’t be surprised if we see a sportsmanship clause come up.

AS: I saw an interview with Colby where he mentioned toning down some of the drama, based on feedback from viewers. One thing that I thought sounded cool was a spin-off show where they would talk more in-depth about the guns used on each episode.

DE: They have the webisodes where they feature the guns, but most gun owners would love more technical information.

AS: Heck, just seeing folks play with cool guns that I hope that one day I could get a chance to use – that would be cool.

DE: Exactly.

AS: I want to thank you for answering the questions from my readers. I know those guys will be pretty excited to see their questions answered, so thank you for that.

DE: Sure.

AS: I see you’ve been doing a lot of speaking engagements and appearances. Does it still feel weird to be notices and have people picking you out? Or have you gotten used to that?

DE: Yeah, I’ve gotten used to it now but I’ll put it this way. When the show was just airing, and I would get recognized by one out of ten people at Academy or something like that locally it was kind of cool. ‘Yeah, I’m on the show. Yeah, thanks man. It’s been fun.’ Now that I won and everybody knows me, it’s a bit overwhelming. I went in to town once to buy some stuff, just running little errands. I thought ‘OK, I’m not going back for several weeks.’ That was just overwhelming. It’s got its coolness, but it’s not as bad when I travel somewhere else. But locally? Newspaper and radio and news all make me in to some weird hero… It’s just overwhelming right now. I’m glad to go and speak at churches and schools and civic clubs. It’s just a neat opportunity to share about myself and my faith and my experiences on the show. I am enjoying that.

AS: When I talked to Gary he told me that folks he’s literally known his whole life, since first grade, they were asking him for his autograph. He was like ‘What are you talking about? I’ve known you my whole life…’

DE: I’ve had some of my staff, they’re afraid to ask. But they really want to. It’s like ‘You work for me…’ But I will oblige.

AS: In terms of going out and doing appearances, LaRue is having their range day on November 12. I know you are a big fan of their OBR.

DE: Yeah.

AS: Is that something you are going to be attending?

DE: I will. I’ll be picking up my OBR there. Before the show even aired, I called up LaRue and told them that I want one. I will be out at the range day, as long as the baby waits. It’s all dependent on that.

AS: Once the baby arrives you’ll be out of touch for a couple of weeks. At least I was with my son. I should be able to attend. Liberty Hill is about half an hour or 45 minutes from me. I’ll be sure to search you out and shake your hand.

DE: I’m a good five to six hours away.

AS: I see you had the Halloween contest. How is that going?

DE: We had nine little Dustins. That was scary man. There was one kid that got over 300 votes, so it looks like he’s going to be the winner.

AS: I know which one you’re talking about, he got my vote as well. I don’t think I’ll ever see folks dressed up as Aaron Spuler for Halloween. If they do, they might have problems. That’s kind of funny to see people dressed up as you.

DE: It’s kind of flattering. I think the kid that is in the lead is a local guy. He had a Top Shot birthday party and everything.

AS: Even better, good for him. Other than taking care of the house, I see that you are looking to get another piece of property with the prize money. Is that going to work out for you?

DE: We’ll see. The board of directors of the camp hasn’t made anything official yet. I just thought it was too amazing that there’s only three or four properties on our road to the camp, and one of those comes up for sale the day I win…

AS: What are the odds of that?

DE: I need a bigger house for my family, so that’s pretty amazing.

AS: Cool. What have you got planned out – other than the kids camp – that you want to let folks know about?

DE: Besides me just traveling everywhere, and then once that settles down, putting on the kid’s marksmanship camp, that’s all I’ve got planned for now.

AS: I’ll let you get back to it. I wish you and your wife luck with the baby. I look forward to seeing you at the LaRue range day.

DE: Thank you sir. Hope to see you as well.