Trap shooting trend a blast for Minnesota youth

In America’s swirling political vortex of gun policy debate, one thing seems to be fairly non-controversial. Clay pigeons deserve to eat my child’s hot lead.

Trap-shooting is the fastest-growing trend in high school youth activities in the state of Minnesota. This, according to a May 30 Bob Shaw story in the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Though, to be clear, the craze was already every bit as big here in Northern Minnesota as it has become in the Twin Cities metro area.

Trap shooting involves firing a shotgun at a clay pigeon hurled into the air, mimicking the fight of a bird. It’s a sport, but not an athletic one. The skills involved are mental and dextrous. You need patience, aim, good breathing and mental sharpness.

Technically, high school trap teams aren’t operated by the schools, but rather independent organizations sponsored by the school. According to the Pi Press, 343 teams exist in Minnesota, with more than 11,000 participants. However, students can letter in trap-shooting.

The state youth trap shooting tournament runs June 12-20 in Alexandria.

One of my sons participates in archery, which is a similar kind of club-based extracurricular activity. Both archery and trap-shooting are co-ed, with boys and girls competing alongside one another. In fact, the girls often shoot better than the boys.

Both sports are also huge in this region — with far more participants than any other sport.

Interestingly, the trap shooting trend goes beyond Minnesota high schools. Here in Northern Minnesota, community colleges — including my employer Hibbing Community College — are adding club trap shooting as an activity next fall.

How does it work? Bob Shaw explains:

In each trapshooting field, five shooters line up in a semicircle. When ready, the first shooter says “Pull!” and the bright-orange clay target sails up at 42 mph in a randomly selected pattern.

As the shooting progresses, red shell casings pop out of the guns and the salty-sweet aroma of gunpowder fills the air.

The shotgun pellets shatter the targets, and orange fragments rain down on the field. A scorekeeper watches from a pedestal.

Watching the practice, Tartan coach Ken Balfanz pointed out another reason the sport is popular — the best shooters and the worst compete side by side. There is no A team and B team.

Out of a possible 25 targets, he said, “We have kids who shoot in the single digits and kids who get perfect scores.”

Taking a break after a successful round of shooting, Tartan senior [Jeff] Munter said he wasn’t surprised to see the sport grow so quickly.

“It’s quite underrated,” he said, pulling out his orange ear plugs. “This is just a place to come and enjoy yourself.”


  1. Pat Schoenfelder says

    I think that the comment in paragraph 3 that kids are firing rifles at clay pigeons is probably wrong. Trap and skeet shooters use shotguns, as noted lower in the article.

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