Seven years ago, coaches Mike Kettner and Kevin Lannon launched a trap shooting team in Dunn County. That first year they had seven shooters on their team. This season, they are coaching two teams — one from Menomonie and one from Boyceville — and have a total of 77 shooters combined.
The two teams compete in the West Central Division of the Northern Wisconsin Clay Target Conference. The conference is a virtual league with teams shooting weekly on their home range, which is the trap range of the Northwest Rod and Gun Club in Boyceville. The teams shoot on Sunday afternoons. The scores are then entered into a computerized data base and the results are released once a week.
The student athletes compete at five different levels. Prior to joining the team, shooters must get their hunter’s safety certificate. Sixth graders compete it the rookie league and seventh and eighth graders who are in their first year of shooting compete in the intermediate entry level.
In their second year, shooters are at the intermediate advanced level. High school students in their first year of shooting are on the junior varsity (JV) team and then move up to varsity in subsequent years. There is also a collegiate category for high school graduates.
The students shoot a standard round of singles trap which is comprised of 25 shots at clay birds thrown one at a time. Five shooters take one of the five stations on the firing line. Each shooter, in turn, calls pull and a clay pigeon flies out from the throwing bunker, and the student fires a single shot at the bird. It’s either hit or miss.
Safety protocols are strictly observed by the student shooters. When not on the firing line, actions are kept open and the muzzle is always pointed in a safe direction. On the firing line, only one round is loaded into the gun at a time, and it is only loaded into the gun immediately before shooting.
Local competition and beyond
In addition to the weekly Sunday shoots, students have an opportunity to participate in a conference match in Eau Clare, a state match in Rome, and a national match in Marengo, Ohio. The conference match has around 300 participants. The state match draws over 1,400 shooters and the national match has over 3,400 shooters.
This year the Menomonie team will send 25 shooters to the conference and state matches and the Boyceville team will send five shooters. Last year, Kyler Bugslawske and Daniel King went to the national match and Bugslawske, who was in eighth grade, placed fifth in the nation in the intermediate advanced match, hitting 195 out of 200 clay pigeons. This year, 12 students will compete at the national level.
The Menomonie varsity team members can also earn a high school letter. To earn a letter, they must break 23 out of 25 clay birds in a round and maintain an average of 18 or better for two years. Students must also participate in both the conference and state matches. Last year, 10 team members earned a letter and this year the number may double.
Trap shooting can also help letter winners fund college as nine universities currently offer full athletic scholarships for shooting.
Drawing on experiences
The students find trap shooting to be very rewarding and fun. Chayze Graff enjoys trap shooting because participants must rely on themselves to be successful. There are no teammates to bail you out if you make a bad shot. Shooting is one of his favorite activity and he also enjoys other versions of trap shooting such as doubles, Annie Oakley and the Make or Break matches.
Amber Kettner, the sole local shooter at the collegiate level, finds trap enjoyable because, as she coyly noted, she can participate in a sport without doing squats and conditioning drills. Amber grew up in a shooting family, so it was natural for her to take up the sport. She added that trap shooting is a great way to learn to focus and develop self-discipline.
Daniel King has been shooting on the Menomonie team for four years and is currently a sophomore. He has learned a lot about gun safety and guns in general by being on the team. He thinks it’s really important for everyone to learn gun safety. Shooting has helped him to develop his hand eye coordination and learn how to concentrate on tasks.
Chad Amundson has two daughters on the team: Danielle, a freshman who has been shooting for three years and Makenna, a seventh grader in her second year on the team. For Amundson, the emphasis on gun safety is a critical element in the program for his daughters. He also recognizes that the sport helps tehem develop self-discipline. He also likes how the atmosphere at the matches are very relaxed.
Shooting is not a high-pressure sport. Shooters are competing against themselves to improve their scores rather than trying to defeat an opponent. Amundson also appreciates how the students can take the sport as far as they want. They can choose to shoot year round or just during the prime trap shooting season. It is different than a lot of team sports where athletes are playing year-round, training and attending camps to stay fit and competitive.
Amundson and the young shooters all remarked on how shooting is a lifelong sport. All members of the trap team can reasonably expect to be able to shoot until their 70s or older. Amundson also noted that shooting is one of the few sports where parents and kids can participate together. The trap team encourages the parents and students to enjoy the sport together by holding fun shoots where both the parents and kids can participate.