So you’re wondering what our secret so success is, how we were able to take our dream of becoming professional exhibition shooters and making it a reality? To be honest, you could read a lot of business, sales, marketing, goal setting, motivational, and inspirational books and never find our secret to success. Most books don’t cover what has led us to where we are.
Aaron and I are brothers, but growing up we were certainly not friends. We are only 4 years apart in age, but we had very little in common. What we did have in common is that we were all about living life for ourselves. We wanted to experience the most fun we could in our lives. That meant we did what we thought would bring us the most enjoyment and we tried not to let anyone get in our way. For some reason, this life of no restriction and the pursuit of self-gratification turned up empty and not satisfying at all. It seemed strange, how could we be doing whatever I want and still not be happy? We wanted something different. It was time for a change…
Aaron broke first, sick of his life, he wanted a new one. Growing up in a church we had heard, that God loves us, that he sent His son Jesus to die for us, and that if we confessed with our mouth and believed in our heart that Jesus is Lord and that God raised him from the dead, we would be saved. So that is exactly what Aaron did. He confessed his sin, admitted his need for a savior from his sin, accepted Jesus into his heart, and he was given a new life.
A few years later, I too was fed up with the status quo. My life was empty and meaningless. I wanted more, but I wasn’t sure where to find it. Then, for the first time while at college I attended a church service. While at this church, it became so clear what was missing from my life and that was Jesus. So just like Aaron had done a few years prior, I accepted Jesus as my savior.
It wasn’t until that point that I even had much of an interest in hunting and shooting. Aaron and I now had a common interest that brought us together. Hunting led into shooting and shooting quickly led into exhibition shooting. As we followed God the doors of opportunity began to open. We knew that we were created for a reason and with unique talents. God gave us the dream of pursuing exhibition shooting and we began to follow that dream. Did it take hard work? Absolutely! Did it take dedication? For Sure! But what it really took it God opening the doors. When we look back at our journey to where we are now, there is no denying God’s hand in it all.
We are amazed at the opportunities that we’ve had and we love what we do, but the only reason we are satisfied is because God has us where we are. Before we lived life how we wanted and contrary to Gods plans and it led to emptiness. If tomorrow, God calls us to something other than exhibition shooting we will follow, because it is only meaningful if it is God’s plan.
So how did we get to where we are? Here’s the secret, are you ready… by the grace of God! In all honesty, our secret is really no secret at all. You can find it in the most popular book of all time, the Bible! If you’re looking for life abundantly, there is only one place to find it and that is in Jesus!
It is our hope that you will choose to accept the amazing life you were created for by following Jesus as your Lord and Savior. Walk into a life that will be far better than anything you could have planned yourself. We guarantee you won’t regret it.
Things don’t always go as planned for Gould Brothers Exhibition Shooting. In this clip, Steve throws up his Winchester shell in the air but when he attempts to catch the shell it bounces right off of his glasses. Just another reason the Gould Brothers are protected by ESS Eyewear http://www.esseyepro.com
Tom Knapp was known by many as the greatest exhibition shooter of modern times, amazing crowds with his shooting feats. Those that were fortunate to have seen a live exhibition put on by Tom know that it was as much about his ability as a showman as it was a shooter. Tom inspired many through the shooting exhibitions that he performed for over 20 years. We were fortunate not only to see Tom’s show several times but also to have the opportunity to create a friendship over the last couple years. We have written the following to share in memory of our inspiration and friend, Tom Knapp.
Dating back even prior to the well known “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West” show, which was founded in 1883, exhibition shooting has been a long-standing American tradition. Throughout this history, there have been many great exhibition shooters but some rise above the others, shooters such as Annie Oakley, the Topperweins, Herb Parsons, and most recently, Tom Knapp. Through the course of time, these shooters have inspired and influenced thousands, including the next generation of great exhibition shooters.
Adolph Topperwein inspired Herb Parsons when Herb was 17 years old. Herb Parsons inspired Tom Knapp when Tom was 9 years old. Tom in turn has inspired many through his years of shooting exhibitions and TV appearances. Out of the many that he has inspired will surely come another that stands out, but we all know that Tom was a living legend, a one of a kind and no one can fill his shoes.
With pending careers in aviation and finance, we had no idea how Tom would influence and ultimately change our direction. What started as brothers trying to improve hunting skills completely changed after coming across youtube videos of Tom’s exhibition shooting. Inspired, we took to the range and quickly acquired a new found passion for the art of exhibition shooting.
In 2009, we were able to go and watch Tom perform at Rice Creek in Little Falls Minnesota. Simply put, it was amazing and it added fuel to our burning desire to become exhibition shooters. The summer of 2009 was dedicated to exhibition shooting and by the end of the summer we were able to make a great deal of progress. We were learning to shoot, but could we perform? From watching Tom, we knew that only part of his success was being able to shoot, but the other part was his remarkable ability to entertain as a showman.
That fall we put together a live exhibition for some friends and family as a test run. The comments and feedback were good. Looking back, they were probably just trying not to hurt our feelings. After putting together a youtube video of our shooting, we reached out to a few local clubs. We were lucky enough to line up several exhibition shows in 2010. We charged whatever people were willing to pay. Our first live show paid a case of shells and it’s debatable if we were even worth that. There was much to learn about live entertainment and shooting in front of people. It was apparent from that summer of struggling through exhibition shows that there was a lot of room for improvement, but we also saw things heading in a good direction. People seemed to enjoy the uniqueness of our two person show and we were determined to carve out a career in exhibition shooting.
That August Tom was going to be performing at the Game Fair in Anoka Minnesota. We thought we would go down check out the festivities and then catch one of Tom’s shows. Tom’s show was brilliantly entertaining, just as it was the year before. Wanting to formally meet Tom, we waited for the crowd to disperse and then we approached him. Needless to say, there was a fair bit of nervousness as we introduced ourselves to the greatest exhibition shooter in the world. We introduced ourselves and told Tom that we were starting to do exhibition shows. Much to our surprise he said that he had heard of us. He mentioned that one of his friends had been to a show of ours. This was a little embarrassing as our show was quite unrefined at this point.
Surely, Tom had many individuals approach him over the years to tell him that they too were exhibition shooters. It would have been perfectly understandable for him to politely act like he cared and then blow us off, but he didn’t. We chatted with Tom for a while and then he invited us to the tailgate of his truck to continue the conversation. We talked a little while longer and absorbed all that Tom had to say. In fact, upon returning home it was all written down. Tom also mentioned that he would be in Dalton, Minnesota the following month and since it was fairly close to where we lived he told us to come up and hang out. Wow, what an invitation!
Unfortunately, Aaron had to work, so I went up to see Tom by myself. I watched his show for the third time in less than two years and it was still as good as the first. Again I waited for the crowd to have their time with Tom and to move on their way. I again, timidly and nervously walked up to Tom, wondering if he would even remember me, but of course he did. Tom had a tremendous ability to make people feel welcomed. I was invited to join Tom and the folks from Dalton Outdoors after the event for a cook out. That evening I was able to spend quite a bit of time with Tom and I cherished every moment. I listened intently to the experiences and stories that Tom had to share. I was amazed at his ability to tell stories and jokes.
In 2011, we were invited to return to Dalton Outdoors but this time we were asked to do a brief show as an opening for Tom. They said that Tom had recommended us. We weren’t sure what we had done to deserve it, but we were certainly honored. Tom called us ahead of the event to discuss a few items. One thing he said was that it was okay to poke fun of him during our show. It was pretty cool that a guy of his stature would call us and tell us we could poke fun of him. We thought a lot about this. We wanted to find something we could say or do but in no way did we want to offend him. The event at Dalton was a blast. Our opening for Tom went well and we got to spend a good portion of the two days hanging out with him.
In the spring of 2012 we were performing at Rice Creek in Little Falls Minnesota, another event that Tom performed at for many years. Tom was going to be performing on Sunday and we were asked to do a brief show right before Tom’s show. Now feeling a little more comfortable with Tom, we had an idea. We thought it would get some laughs if we wore fake handlebar mustaches. We bought the mustaches and as much as we thought this could just be an embarrassment in front of hundreds of people, we did it. We claimed that we had finally found the secret of Tom’s success. After studying Tom for the last few years, we realized that it was all in the mustache. The crowd laughed and enjoyed the routine but seeing Tom smiling and laughing certainly made the day.
We stayed in touch with Tom throughout 2012. If fact, Tom started referring us into events that he could not make it to and he would publicly endorse us at events we were at together. It meant so much to have Tom give his referral and endorsement of us. In the fall, we were again invited to open for Tom at Dalton Outdoors and again we were able to hang out with him over the course of the two-day event. Little did we know that weekend would be the last time we would visit with Tom in person.
On March 21st, 2013 Tom sent us an email saying “There may be changes in my 2013 schedule. Do you want more shows? I may be doing more fishing!!!” That got us wondering what was going on, but we soon found out. On April 2nd, we received the announcement of his retirement. Knowing this was the end of his legendary shooting shows was sad and hard to imagine.
On Friday, April 26th, just 24 days after the announcement of his retirement, we got the shocking news of his passing. Our hearts sunk, as this icon, legend, inspiration, and friend was gone.
From 2009 – 2012 we saw Tom perform 9 times and every show was just as good as the one prior. Each show we watched was an opportunity to learn from the best. We will always remember our time with Tom and what his friendship meant to us. Tom was very passionate about what he did and it showed. He had a passion for the American tradition of exhibition shooting and he wanted to see that tradition carried on.
As we say goodbye to a friend and an icon in the shooting world there is an irreplaceable void. Knowing he was truly one of a kind, no one will replace him. As we attempt to carve out our own legacy and place in history, carrying on the American tradition of exhibition shooting, we will always remember our friend and inspiration, Tom Knapp.
If you have any Tom Knapp memories or stories, we would sure love to hear them. Please feel free to leave them in the comments section.
I grew up in a Christian home and my parents tried to instill Christian values into all of us kids. My family attended church activities on Sunday morning and evening as well as Wednesday nights. By a young age, I had memorized most of the bible stories through Sunday school and I could answer most of the questions asked by my Sunday school teachers.
I was homeschooled through the 5th grade and had little interaction with friends who were not part of the area homeschool group or my church. As I became more involved with sports in junior high; I began to meet many people who did not share my beliefs and who lived differently than I was brought up. I wanted to fit in. I wanted to be accepted. Up to this point in my life my faith and what I had been taught had never been tested. Wanting to be accepted and not stand out I began to do things I knew were wrong.
At first it was what most would consider small things. I began to swear, tell dirty jokes and look at images that were inappropriate. I felt guilty about doing these things because I knew they were wrong. Over time, the feelings of guilt seemed to subside as I suppressed my knowledge of right and wrong and fed the desires of my own selfishness. By the time high school came around, I probably showed little sign of my Christian upbringing, unless, of course, I was around my parents or someone from church.
By my senior year, I was addicted to chewing tobacco and drinking alcohol whenever I could get my hands on it. Dating was all about fun and I poorly treated those who I dated because I was consumed with own gratification. It was all about me, nothing else mattered but trying to fill the hole I felt inside with pleasure. I mention a hole because that’s exactly what there was. Nothing I tried filled that hole. I was sad and angry with my life. That hole in my life was supposed to be filled by God and I knew it. Sadly I did not want to change. I was determined to live life my own way, even if I knew I was walking the wrong path.
In college all of the aforementioned lifestyle characteristics exponentially increased. The more I consumed myself with these activities the worse I felt. Thankfully, a change was coming. Between my junior and senior year, I started to feel wrong about how I was living. Which was strange because I had not felt wrong about anything for many years. That fall many things started to fall apart. The relationship I had been in for several years ended and drinking had become where I went to get away from all the stress of my personal failures. At this point I started to realize what had been happening over the last six months. I had started to feel wrong because God was convicting me of the way I lived. He wanted me to turn my life to Him. One night on my way home from work I finally realized there was only one way to set my life right. I called up my best friend, who incidentally is also my cousin and I told him that in order to get my life back on track I needed to give up my selfishness. I needed what he had been praying about for years, I needed to give my life to God. We both prayed together on my drive home and I put my faith in Jesus.
That night was the first night in many years I felt truly happy. Many areas of wrong behavior changed instantly that night but for other areas it has been a process. I am ever changing as God reveals himself to me and the path he has led me down has been remarkable. The hardest part of my process was forgiving myself for how I had treated people in my life, especially those I had dated. God had forgiven me, but I needed to forgive myself. God spoke to my heart and told me I should not date again until He said I was ready. This was a huge act of faith for me for I longed for female companionship. It was over two years before God gave me the go-ahead to pursue a wife.
When I became a Christian and put my faith in the Creator of the universe, my life changed drastically. God filled the void that was inside that I could not fill through my sinful behavior. For the first time I knew I was in the right frame of mind and life began to have meaning, joy, peace, and love.
God has now blessed me with a wonderful wife and two energetic boys. My faith is ever growing and I am striving to mature in a life of faith in Him who created me. This voyage of life is not all smooth sailing nor will it ever be, but my life is joyful through the trials because I know my Savior.
Why post this online? Why on our business page? I want you to find the joy of Jesus. Maybe your story is similar to mine. Maybe you were never raised in a Christian home and know nothing about that which I am speaking. I would love to talk to you, contact me at email@example.com. We are called to share the good news of Jesus! I was given an undeserved gift of love; you also can receive this gift. He is calling you.
John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.