Woodbury High’s clay target trapshooting team excels in competition.
Whenever we read about guns or shooting it is all too often the context of tragedy or vitriolic political discourse. It’s easy to forget that shooting is a long-standing sport, especially in Minnesota, where hunting is an essential part of homegrown culture. And anyone who knows anything about shooting knows that it promotes skill over the kill.
The South St. Paul Gun and Rod Club welcomes teen clay target trapshooters from Woodbury High School (WHS). The team, started two years ago, began with 12 participants and grew to 25 in a single year. Trapshooting, originally intended as practice for bird hunters, is the fastest-growing sport in the country, with Minnesota leading the surge. More than 100 schools and 1,750 students have signed up for the Minnesota State High School Clay Target League.
WHS’s trapshooting team boasts exceptional shooting. Sophomore Ben Jacobus captured the 2A conference title last spring as well as the best overall state title in the fall (a perfect score is 25). Senior Jessica Martin won third place among the girls. Since the league requires the students to shoot at a gun club, with their scores posted online later, they don’t always know their status. “I didn’t think I’d placed, so it was a big shock for me,” Martin says. “I don’t really do it for the competition, I do it for fun.”
Science teacher Herb Struss, the team’s self-professed “hot-shot coach” and avid outdoorsman, wanted to support kids’ efforts “have a good time smashing clay.” Safety considerations are foremost. Each student must complete a six-week DNR certification course, which is available for those age 12 and over. Guns are not allowed on school property. “The kids are welcomed into the adult community [at the gun club],” Struss says. “There’s a lot of responsibility that goes with firearms but there is also privilege. Most of the kids own personal or family guns.”
Martin shoots a Remington 870, which she loves. “Whenever anyone gets a new gun, everyone else wants to try it out, like the gourmet hockey stick,” Struss says. He encourages kids to use the same guns they hunt with, if applicable.
“Ever since I was young I’d go to the 3M gun club and support my dad,” Martin says. “Once I turned 12, [my dad] put me into gun safety class so I was certified to shoot firearms.” She credits her shooting prowess to “determination, practice and a good gun.”
Jacobus also comes from a shooting family: his grandfather, father, mother and sister are all avid trapshooters. “We’ve all really enjoyed the sport,” Jacobus says. “People think it’s about hunters and people who like guns, but it’s just fun, and I think everyone should try it.” Jacobus practices at the club for a few hours per week. “It’s about mental focus and making consistent shots every time,” he says.
“It’s quite remarkable to have young people shoot so consistently. Lots of us have good days and bad days, but Jessica and Ben can shoot consistently even among adult shooters,” Struss says. Struss often reminds students to have fun. “I tell them, ‘I don’t think you’re getting a Fulbright scholarship on this, so why don’t you relax and have fun?’ It’s [about learning] lifetime skills.”
“[Trapshooting] is lot of hard work. A lot of people are scared of guns [but] it’s not scary unless you don’t know what you’re doing,” Martin says. “And it’s not just a man’s sport—girls can do it too. and girls can kick butt at it!”
MISA CHAPPELL | MAY 2013