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Trap shooting growing in popularity

Conservation League hosts event

By Greg Seubert

Trap shooting is a sport that is catching on at schools throughout Wisconsin.

Waupaca High School is on that list.

John Woodliff and Pam Gibbs have coached the school’s trap shooting team – the Comet Clay Crushers – since the team began competing in 2014.

Woodliff is also the president of the Waupaca Conservation League, which hosted an event June 22 for students interested in the sport or in joining the team.

“A lot of young people may not have the capabilities of being football, baseball or soccer players,” he said. “This gives them an opportunity to come and try something different. One thing unique about this sport – shooting clay targets – is they can do it for the rest of their lives. With football, baseball or basketball, there comes a time in your life where it’s going to be, ‘I can’t do this anymore.’ With this sport, they have the opportunity to go to high school and shoot. They also have that opportunity in college. Many colleges have taken up trap shooting.”

The team is open to all WHS students. Team members are required to have a firearms safety certificate and maintain passing grades.

The Comet Clay Crushers compete in the North Division of the Kettle Moraine Trapshooting Conference with teams from Berlin, Central Wisconsin Christian, Laconia, North Fond du Lac, Oakfield, Oshkosh, St. Mary’s Springs, Wautoma, Winnebago Lutheran and Winneconne high schools and a team sponsored by the Twin City Rod & Gun Club of Neenah.

“We just completed our fifth year and had a good season,” Woodliff said. “We had 11 matches and won five. The kids that have been in for three or four years now have improved immensely. They’re starting to pay better attention. They’re finally starting to realize that they don’t know everything.”

Meets are usually held after school on Mondays and several parents follow the team on the road.

“We have several parents that are there religiously and that’s great to have,” Woodliff said. “The kids love it.”

The team practices during the fall and competes in the spring.

The 2018-19 team had 10 members.

“Ten is a good number,” Woodliff said. “It gives us two squads. If we had 15, that’d give us three squads and three squads is better than two.”

Students have to choose between playing fall or spring sports and joining the Comet Clay Crushers, according to Woodliff.

“Other school sports conflict with our programs,” he said. “There are a lot of kids that would like to participate, but they’re either going to play football or baseball or shoot trap. They can’t have it both ways.”

Everyone on the team competes.

“Everybody that participates in the high school trap club is a team members and their score is going to count on the team level or individual level,” Woodliff said. “We take the five top scores out of an event and that’s the team score. Nobody sits on the bench or is left out. Everybody shoots, everybody participates, everybody’s score counts someplace.

“They’re going to get some self-discipline out of it,” he said. “This is a mental sport and a physical sport, so they have to stay focused.”

The shooters’ scores will improve during the season, Woodliff said.

“Pam and I have our system pretty much locked into our minds of how we do things,” he said. “Between the two of us, we help mentor and develop these kids into doing things correctly. It takes time. It just doesn’t happen overnight. Besides learning the fundamentals of trap shooting, they learn how to keep score and learn about the equipment used, the whole works. They get more out of it than, ‘Hey’ let’s go shoot some trap targets.’ They get a good mix of what’s going on in the shooting industry.”

Practice encouraged

Team members are encouraged to practice on their own during the summer at the Waupaca Conservation League grounds south of Waupaca.

“It’s practice, practice, practice,” Woodliff said. “Practice is what’s going to make or break these kids into becoming better shooters. We have 25 teams that shoot in our summer trap league. Most of the adults don’t really care about hunting, but this gives them a chance to come out and socialize, shoot some trap targets and have fun. You do not have to be a hunter, but if you do hunt, shooting some trap, skeet or sporting clays is going to help you. It’s excellent practice for being a better shooter.”

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