Bemidji – Trap shooting team program proposed

BEMIDJI – The school board here is mulling a proposal to establish a student trap shooting team.

Brad Smith, president of the Bemidji Trap and Skeet Club, appeared before the Bemidji school board last week asking for its support in creating a team that would compete in weekly trap-shooting competitions, beginning spring 2014.

Jim Hess, superintendent of Bemidji schools, said the school board will further study the issue with its activities director and state high school league and will discuss it with neighboring districts that do have such a team in place.

“We’ll see if it would be in the best interest of Bemidji High School to offer a program,” Hess said.

Trap shooting is one of three major disciplines of competitive shotgun shooting. Participants shoot at clay targets, 25 targets per round.

According to the proposal, no firearms or ammunition would be on or near school property. Team members would gather weekly at the Bemidji Trap and Skeet Club and record their scores locally, submitting them to the Minnesota State High School Clay Target League for ranking.

Coaches and volunteers would be required to be certified firearms safety training instructors and all team members would obtain a Minnesota state firearms safety certificate.

“Safety is our No. 1,” Smith said.

The Minnesota State High School Clay Target League was founded in 2001 and now has 3,400 students competing on 114 teams at 195 schools. Area schools include Brainerd, Crookston, Detroit Lakes, Kelliher and Thief River Falls.

“We’re in northern Minnesota. We’re a destination place for hunting and fishing,” Smith said. “Along with fishing comes shooting sports. People come to this area to do these things. This is another avenue to support those types of activities that we’ve all grown up with in a positive, safe environment.”

Smith said the Bemidji Trap and Skeet Club, proposed to serve as the team sponsor, has been discussing the proposal for about a year.

He knows there are students who would be interested in such an activity, noting that he himself has a 14-year-old son and a 9-year-old son.

“There would be a lot of benefits, from a community standpoint to a club standpoint,” Smith said. “Trap shooting is kind of an older, traditional sport and so a lot of the guys who know about it and do it are aging. This is a way to also infuse some younger generations.”

Teams are proposed to be coed with participants ranging from grades six to 12. Scores are recorded locally, so the only travel required would be to the state tournament, held annually in Alexandria.

The cost for the season, per team member, would be $125, to cover league fees, trap fees and uniforms. Students would provide their own shells.

“I’m optimistic,” he said about his reading of the school board. “I didn’t get any negative vibes.”

Smith reported trap shooting is the fast-growing high school sport in Minnesota. The number of students involved has doubled every year since 2008.

“Every program that I’ve looked at and talked to people about, they’re all like, ‘Let’s do it,’ and questioned how many kids (would come out),” Smith said. “Without exception, everyone was kind of overwhelmed with the number of interested kids, from all walks of life.”