A youth movement has gone a long way at Morristown Gun Club.
Sport shooting is increasing in popularity with high school shooters in Minnesota. Over 11,000 co-ed individuals participated in the 2019 Minnesota State High School Clay Target League this spring. That’s a number that continues to grow.
The MSHSCTL began in 2008 to address a problem sprouting up that decade: Gun ranges were shuttering. The average age of recreational shooters neared 60 and membership was declining.
Something had to change.
The MSHSCTL was part of the movement to introduce the sport to more youth as well as to offer different opportunities within.
The league began with three teams and 30 kids. Now, over 300 alone between Faribault, Bethlehem Academy, Waterville-Elysian-Morristown and Northfield can be found taking aim on Thursdays and Sundays during the spring season.
“Our club, like most clubs in the state, were dying before this happened,” said Morristown Gun Club director Tom Kuball. “These kids literally revived our club.”
Trap shooting is the more popular and widely available form of two clay target divisions within the MSHSCTL. There were 324 teams competing in the 2019 regular season. Trap is one of three major disciplines of competitive clay pigeon shooting.
Trap shooting in a nut shell is where targets are launched from a single house and away from a shooter. A shooter will shoot five shots at five stations separated by a few feet.
The other MSHSCTL division is skeet shooting, which is not as widely offered at ranges. Only 38 teams competed in the league this year.
In skeet, targets are launched sideways from a lower elevated house and from a higher elevated house. Reaction time is shorter in skeet.
A shooter will shoot three times at eight stations more spread out and positioned in a semi-circle. A score is out of 25 as the shooter has an “option” to reshoot, which is usually done after the first miss.
Thanks to a grant from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, skeet shooting is coming to Morristown Gun Club.
The grant is part of a $2.16 million legislative appropriation in 2014 that aims to increase shooting range capacity for youth trap shooters. Its grants match funds with recreational clubs open for public use.
A given club funds the entire project up front and is later reimbursed after the guidelines of the grant are met.
“These grants will be a shot in the arm to the trap shooting community and help provide more opportunity for youth trap shooters, whose numbers have swollen since the inception of the Minnesota High School Clay Target League,” said Maj. Roger Tietz, DNR Enforcement Division operations support manager.”
Morristown Gun Club has applied for and received three grants in that duration.
The grants helped fund the addition of concrete sidewalks for both the trap and now skeet shooting areas. It allowed for an extra trap house to be built to accomodate the growing demand at the high school level.
Now, it helps to fund the trappings of a skeet range from more sidewalks, to the structure and machinery.
The club funded its part of the projects with membership fees and range fees for public and membership.
The labor and materials for these projects were largely sourced locally and often done voluntarily or at a reduced cost.
The skeet range opened this summer. The club offers skeet shooting Sundays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and on Thursdays from 5 p.m. to sunset. These can vary during the high school season in May.
Schlichter said his membership is excited for the new opportunity as more are beginning to give it a try.
Dedicated skeet shooters can now avoid treks to the closest skeet ranges at sites like Prior Lake, Le Sueur and Austin.
“We encourage them to try it. They either go ‘Oh, that’s too hard’ or they enjoy it,” Schlichter said. “It is challenging, so you really need to watch a video or have someone watch along and coach you. We have members who have knowledge of it. We have people who have never tried before and try it and like it.”