With the plethora of outdoor activities and opportunities available in the area, starting a trapshooting team as a club sport seems to be a perfect fit for Lewis-Clark State College students.
The club, which started this fall, is open to any interested students and is one of more than 50 clubs offered at LC State. Trapshooting involves the shooting of clay pigeons released from a spring trap into the air away from the shooter. The sport was originally intended to be practice for marksmen to help improve their hunting skills.
Re-establishing club sports at LC State was the idea of senior vice president Andy Hanson, who was looking for more ways to help enrich the college experience for students. After brainstorming with Provost Fred Chilson and President Cynthia Pemberton, the idea for a trap shooting team was launched.
With the idea of starting a club sport, Hanson sought out the help of Ken Wareham, a professor in the college’s Teacher Education & Mathematics Division. Wareham had previously taught a shooting class at the college. Hanson told Wareham what he wanted to do and asked to point him in the right direction to get the club sport off the ground.
Wareham’s response? He took Hanson out to a gun club and had him shoot skeet for the first time.
“It took him a few tries, but then he hit one (clay pigeon), then a second, and then a third in a row,” Wareham said. “Andy lowered his shotgun, looked at me with a big grin, and said ‘We’re definitely having a shotgun shooting team.’”
Wareham went to work calling several colleges that have trapshooting teams asking for advice on how to get a new team started, what league to shoot in, program costs, and more. One of the resources that was mentioned was the Scholastic Clay Target Program, which is the largest youth clay target program in the U.S. It offers the chance for youth in elementary school through college the chance to compete in trapshooting by providing training and competitive shoots across the nation.
Originally, LC State had planned to take this year to put things in place and start the club program next fall, but Wareham and Hanson felt comfortable enough to get the ball rolling this fall and had students signing up to participate during the first week of the fall semester.
The team shoots every Wednesday at the Colton Gun Club, which is the closest gun club to the college. Lewiston used to have a gun club near the Lewiston-Nez Perce County Regional Airport, but it was shut down in the mid-2000s when its lease was not renewed by the city and airport because of airport expansion. The Colton club also has lights, which allows the team to shoot when the winter sun sets early.
Wareham said different students have shown up at times to shoot, but he has 8-10 regulars who are part of the team. Recently, the club took part in its first competition in October in a dual meet against the University of Idaho. LC State’s ammunition was donated by Hells Canyon Mountain Sports. The team is preparing for its second meet of the season in Walla Walla on Dec. 2 and expects anywhere from 3-5 additional teams to participate. LC will serve as the host of the shoot.
Wareham also expects to take a couple of students from LC State to the regional college trapshooting championships in Las Vegas in January. To qualify for regionals, a shooter must be in the top 25 percent of scores from the team. The top regional finishers then qualify for nationals, which will be in Texas in March.
In addition to the club team, Wareham is teaching a shotgun class that will be offered again in the spring. In the class, the first three weeks are spent on campus going over safety and trapshooting rules. Wareham said he brings different action types of shotguns to the class. He said students must learn how to operate each gun, check to make sure it’s clear, and how to put away properly. For the class, students must pass a safety test with a perfect score before they are allowed to go to the shooting range.
“Safety is the top priority and in the six years I’ve taught it, we’ve never come close to having any type of accident,” Wareham said. “The class is for all students. It doesn’t matter if they are experienced shooters or have never shot a gun. Everyone still has to pass the safety exam before they can go to the range.”
Wareham said the class and the team have wide appeal to the students. He had three exchange students from Russia who shot a few weeks with the team, but said it was hard for them to afford the ammunition and targets. Wareham told them about the class for the spring semester where the class fees pay for the ammunition and targets. Wareham said that makes a difference to these exchange students because their sponsors pay for class fees, while shooting outside of class with the club team is a personal expense.
Wareham said the reaction to the club on campus has been positive. He said students often tell him they plan to sign up for the class and/or participate with the team.
“Of course saying is one thing and doing is another,” Wareham said. “But once they get out there they really enjoy it. I had one previous student who called it his mid-week therapy class.”
Wareham said he has received great support for the community.
“I’ve had everything from city council members to people who love shooting say how much this is a great thing,” Wareham said. “They like that the college is offering this.”
Wareham emphasized the safety aspect of the sport as well.
“I was doing some coaching training online earlier and the thing they mentioned is that the only safer sports out there with less injuries are ping pong, billiards and darts,” Wareham said. “They made that point and then added that paint ball is included with the firearms. If you took paintball out, it would be even lower on the list of sports injuries.”