Growing high school sport makes its way to Lake County

Trapshooting has always been a hobby for hunters and enthusiasts alike. It has also been used as a way for hunters to get practice for bird season. Today, trapshooting is one of the fastest growing high school sports in Minnesota.

The high school sport of trapshooting, or target shooting, began in 2001 with just a small group of students. This spring, there are around 8,600 students participating in the sport, making it the one of the biggest high school sports, second only to football. Adding to the total number of participants this year is Two Harbors and Silver Bay.

This is the first year that Two Harbors and Silver Bay has offered trapshooting to students, and both teams have had a good turn out. Two Harbors has 19 shooters on their team and Silver Bay has 13. This was the first week of competition for the teams.

How it works

The students don’t travel to compete, but can do it in their own back yard at the local gun club they’ve been practicing at for weeks. For the next four week, each shooter from both teams will have to shoot two rounds of 25, and the total number of clay pigeons they hit is their score for the week. That score is then submitted to the league. Competition weeks last five weeks and started this week.

After the five weeks of competition, in June, all teams will travel to Alexandria, Minn., to compete in the the trapshooting championship. The top teams from each conference move on to the state tournament in Prior Lake, Minn., at the Minneapolis Gun Club. The number of top teams that move on is based on the number of teams in their conference. Conferences are put together based on how many students are on a team.

“Unlike other traditional sports where the school size determines the conference you are in, in trapshooting it’s based on the number of kids you have on you team,” said Two Harbors coach Gary Hastings. “So we compete against teams that have a similar number of shooter as us.”

Both the Two Harbors and Silver Bay teams are in Class A, but Two Harbors is in Conference 7 with eight other schools and Silver Bay is in Conference 4 with eight other schools, including Mesabi East. Class A schools will compete in Alexandria on June 11 to qualify for the state tournament is on June 20. Even though trapshooting isn’t an official Minnesota State High School League sports, this event is sanctioned by the organization.

Why start a team?

When Hastings was asked why he wanted to start a team at Two Harbors, his answer was simple — shooters need some young blood to carry on the sport.

“My wife and I have been shooting trap for a long time and it’s very popular this year in Minnesota,” he said. “I looked around at the gun club and realized that we need some younger people to carry on the tradition of the sport.”

Hasting said he and his wife have been thinking of starting a team at Two Harbors for some time, but now that they are retired they have the time to get it up and going. Silver Bay coach Al Klotzbach said he had the same thought as Hastings when it came to why he started a team at William Kelley.

“I’ve (been trapshooting) for many years and a lot of people in clubs that I’ve shot at have talked to me about starting one,” Klotzbach said. “We need some younger people to get involved in the sport and it correlates with gun safety.”

To be part of a trapshooting team, a student must be 12 years of age and possess a firearms safety training certificate. The students are also required to wear ear protection and protective eyewear. Even though this is the first year for both teams, both Hasting and Klotzbach said it’s been going great.

“The kids have gotten better every time we shoot,” Klotzbach said. “Scores are increasing by one or two and some are getting to be really decent shots.

“Some of them are even way ahead of where I was when I first started shooting.”

Klotzbach said his favorite part so far is seeing the enthusiasm the students have when their scores get better and that they are all very willing to learn. Hastings had similar things to say.

“The kids are really enthused and the parents are behind it,” he said “We have some really good shooters and others have a learning curve, but are getting better each day.”

Joining the team

Many of the students that joined the trapshooting teams did so because they like hunting or want to get better at trapshooting to get ready for grouse hunting season. Eighth-grader Allie Ludwig, the only girl on the Silver Bay team, was one that said she wanted to get ready for bird hunting season. She said every day her score is getting better.

“I was really nervous my first time shooting and I only hit three targets,” Ludwig said. “But now I’m averaging about 18 in one shoot.”

Ludwig said she’s working on not over thinking her shot and is having fun getting together with her team, whose members are always challenging each other to do better. Her teammate Troy LeBlanc, who is a senior this year, said he’s been trapshooting since he was about 12 years old and his favorite part about the team is having his buddies there.

“A lot of my buddies joined the team and we kind of compete against each other every week,” LeBlanc said. “It’s definitely fun trying to beat all my friends.”

Like many of the kids, Two Harbors seventh-grader Will Johnson said he joined because he likes to hunt and shoot guns.

“I’ve been going out hunting with my dad since I was 5 or 6 years old and started getting my own deer when I was old enough to shoot,” he said.

Johnson said that he hunts as much as he can, and if it’s legal to hunt in northern Minnesota, he hunts it. Johnson’s teammate Emily Haveri, who’s a sophomore this year, said she found out about the team in the announcements at school and thought that since she hunts, joining the team would be fun.

“I’ve never done this before,” she said. “Once I started to figure it out, it’s been getting easier to hit the targets.”


By Adelle Whitefoot