Me and my calm demeanor…. “I hit them, I hit them, oh my God, I hit them,” I screamed as I jumped up and down. And we did it over and over again, moving from station to station on the skeet field. I know many of you know what I am talking about. That overwhelming sense of joy of accomplishing something you never thought you could, and understanding how you did it.
It was sheer coincidence and a huge stroke of luck that landed me on the skeet field of the Homestead Shooting Club that day. The instructor I am referring to I fondly call “DJ” but the rest of the shooting world knows him as David Judah, NSCA Level III Instructor and manager of the Homestead Shooting Club.
That chance meeting over five years ago has since forged into a cherished friendship whose foundation is built on a mutual love of shooting and has been the inspiration of a “second career” for me.
When you first meet David Judah, you know immediately “he ain’t from around here,” or anywhere close for that matter. A native of Jamaica, I’m not sure if it was his ability to get me shooting targets with some consistency or if it was his Jamaican accent that kept me coming back for more lessons. Probably both, but whatever the reason I’m glad I did. Over time, DJ has had a profound impact on me, both as a shooter first and later as an instructor and a friend.
He was the first person to teach me how to see the target clearly, to help me realize the importance of both the hold point and break point for targets and to really understand lead. He was able to help me establish a systematic approach to shooting targets that I could readily grasp and apply. Once equipped with that knowledge and having learned to shut my left eye consistently, I came home and worked under the tutelage and support of my good friend Ed Wingfield, still going back for DJ adjustments whenever I could. Gradually I was becoming a shooter.
Now, what is that old saying, that success builds success? Well, the more I enjoyed shooting, the more friends I would take with me to the Homestead and shoot with David. I would bring several friends at a time and then stand back and watch as DJ worked his magic. His ability to engage the student’s attention, sense apprehension in the beginners and put them at ease, as well as make adjustments accordingly to more advanced shooters is always amazing to me.
It is his patience, affable manner, sense of humor and exemplary teaching skills that make him such an outstanding instructor. In his mentoring of me, now as an NSCA instructor, he certainly leads by example.
While watching and listening to David instruct, I have learned many of his teaching phrases. I have now named those infamous verbal expressions “Judahisms.” Things like “do me a favor and shoot it a half a second sooner” or “miss the next target six inches in front” or “just pretend you have a bayonet on the gun for the next one.”
These days his Judahisms aimed at me are things like “Why don’t you just put a saddle on it and ride it to West Virginia” or “Liz, just stop and open the gun for a second. You are suffering from analysis paralysis” or even better, “Why don’t you just try shooting it with both eyes closed?” It is times like these that DJ stands for Damn Jamaican.
Then there are the side-by-sides. I will never forget when, last year, David asked me if we were going to the Southern Side-by-Side Shoot in North Carolina. I said I doubted it as I have never shot a side-by-side before. “Well then, we are about to change that and you are going to love it,” he said.
The next thing I know we are bouncing around the sporting clay range with eight different side-by-sides. “Here, shoot this one”…… “OK, now try this one.” “Remember the safety”…..”OK now, this one has two triggers”….and on it went for the entire afternoon. His love of them was obvious and his enthusiasm contagious, and he was exactly right, I loved them!
To fully understand his love of shooting and side-by-sides you need to know a bit about his past. A modest and humble man, David will never talk about himself or his teaching abilities. But ask him about growing up in Jamaica and you have just hit the primer with the firing pin. Kaboom, his face lights up, a mischievous grin crosses his face and out shoot the stories.
The third son of Douglas Judah, a Jamaican Senator and Attorney of Law, and his wife Mary, David lived a privileged and adventure-filled childhood. Actually, his father was Sir Douglas Judah having been knighted by Queen Elizabeth for his work in securing Jamaica’s independence.
While David’s parents were avid sport fishermen, his father was also a passionate wingshooter. David’s father was a member of the Jamaica Gun Club. Memberships were passed from one generation to the next and that was almost the only way to get one. The waiting list was a joke. David’s father put each of his son’s names on the list the day they were born. David’s older brothers were well into their 20’s before they received membership. David received his at 17.
In the meantime, as they awaited membership, the boys would sit on the adjacent properties and try to intercept birds in flight toward the gun club whenever they could for fun. Each time one of the club rangers would inform the boys the shooting was much better on down the line….ha, good try, Mr. Ranger!
David started shooting with a single-barrel .410 and quickly graduated to an Iver Johnson Skeeter. At about nine years old he received a hand-me-down side-by-side Savage 20. His next gun, another hand-me-down from his brother, was a 32-inch Belgian 12-gauge side-by-side, choked full and fuller. Shooting the only shells available in Jamaica at the time, Remington high brass 7 ½’s, he frequently got knocked on his rear because the gun would double.
It was always in the swamp and David’s mother would say “Douglas, you need to buy poor David a gun. That damn thing is going to kill him.”
For his 11th birthday he received a 20-gauge Beretta side-by-side, a gift from his father purchased in England while on vacation. Ironically, it was the first side-by-side I ever shot and last year I won the Ladies 20-bore with it at the Vintagers’ World Side-by-Side. A lot of luck and some DJ mojo was in that gun. It was a sentimental win for me.
Aside from hunting, DJ grew up picking guitars, racing go-karts, and collecting and restoring vintage cars. Schooled in England from 10 to 12 years old, David returned to Jamaica where he finished primary school, high school and graduated from college. David was following in his father’s footsteps, pursuing a career in law when the Judah’s decided to flee the 1977 civil uprising in Jamaica.
With his wife Eileen and young son, John, they settled in Boca Raton, Florida for about eight years where David’s love of old cars manifested into a restoration business. At the urging of his brother, David pursued a new business in Hot Springs, Virginia and it was there in the Allegany Mountains the Judah’s and their two children would ultimately call home.
Funny how life’s detours send you down roads you never thought to travel and you end up in a happier place doing something you were always meant to do.
David started helping out at the Homestead Shooting Club on weekends. Before you knew it, he was there full time and managing the Shooting Club. He was instrumental in getting the sporting clays course built and helped the club grow from a small skeet club to the top notch facility it is today. All of the instructors on staff are NSCA Certified. David received his prestigious Level III designation in 1995. The rest is history as they say.
To this day he still loves vintage cars and collecting anything having to do with old service stations. As one of his good friends very aptly describes it, “David cannot drive or be driven down a country road without stopping at every old gas station, antique shop or old barn in hopes of discovering ‘automobilia.’ No matter the size he convinces us it will fit on top of the car.”
Probably the thing David gets teased about the most is the fact that he operates in his own time zone. I call it Judah Standard Time (JST). If you want him somewhere at a certain time you need to tell him at least an hour earlier and he might, just maybe, get there on time.
Just ask the one state trooper who issued him three moving violations in one day for, you guessed it, speeding. Why? Because he is always late.
Ah, but I forgive him for that flaw. You see, to know DJ is to love DJ. He has been encouraging and supportive of women in the shooting sports. He laughingly, albeit seriously, says that “many men do not want their wives or girlfriends to take shooting lessons because they are afraid of being “beat by a girl.” And I would think they would want them to shoot,” he says with a big grin, “that way they could buy lots of new guns.”
David is a gentleman, a devoted family man, his generosity and kindness knows no bounds and I feel very privileged to call him my friend. Now when we shoot together we help each other, he far more than me helping him. But just the other day I found myself standing behind him saying, “DJ, do me a favor and shut your left eye.”
For information about the Homestead Shooting Club, please visit http://www.thehomestead.com.