Dannevirke Clay Target Club member Mark Johnston has returned with top honours from the 36th annual Norfolk Island International Clay Target Championships, despite being tempted to get back on the plane after the first day.
"For the first three days of the shoot I barely featured - except for a second placing on the third day. There was a sea breeze and the targets were jumping around like kangaroos. The locals are used to it, but to the rest of us Norfolk Island is known as "the shooters' graveyard" as the sea breezes and the high temperatures and high humidity take their toll.
"I went over there three years ago thinking it would be a walk in the park and I didn't get on the podium once."
At this year's Norfolk Island competition he clawed victory from the jaws of defeat, shooting well on the fourth day to line up against last year's champion Clinton Judd and a 15-year-old competitor who Mark said he largely discounted, as he was sure he would crumple under the pressure.
"Clinton was the real threat - you can't play mind games with him."
Mark shot both rounds clean to win the double barrel - which in New Zealand is termed the single rise. He came second in the ball trap, was one of just two of the 79 competitors to shoot 50/50 in the target skeet and finished the event as the NICTA High Gun for 2016.
He says the Norfolk Islanders are hard to beat but the locals do have an edge as they know the conditions on the island "and there's really not much else to do over there", he laughs.
Mark had good reason to anticipate a podium finish. A clay target shooter for seven years and shooting competitively for three, he has represented New Zealand in the ICTSF World DTL Championships in Christchurch in 2014, qualified for the Mackintosh Trophy - an international postal shoot - last year, had made the North Island team and is one of just three New Zealanders who has so far qualified "clean" - having shot three scores of 75 - for this year's ICTSF World DTL Championships in Galway, Ireland.
All he has to do now to secure a place on the New Zealand team to go to Ireland is to shoot well during two compulsory rounds of point scoring on the last day of the New Zealand national competition in two weeks time in Christchurch.
Mark says qualifying for the international competitions is time consuming.
"I have spent 12 weekends in a row away from home this year, at competitions all over the country, to get the scores I needed."
Now packing his Beretta DD10 for the nationals, he is in the North Island team which will shoot against the South Island, with the top five shooters from that competition to go forward to shoot against Australia's top five at the competition.
He is also hoping to make the Mackintosh Trophy team which will shoot on the Saturday morning of the competition.