Colin Neuman and Aaron Abegglan compete in other sports, but there’s something unique about the adrenaline rush they get shooting clay targets every weekend.
Neuman and Abegglan are members of the Fall River trap shooting team. The group, comprised of middle and high school students, are completing its first season. After gauging interest from Fall River students, coach Mark Mickelson formed a squad and joined the Wisconsin State High School Clay Target League this spring. Fall River’s conference features eight teams from mostly smaller schools across Wisconsin. Fall River is in the league’s second division.
For the past several weeks, the 12-member team has practiced at Fall River Rod and Gun Club. Neuman, a Fall River eighth-grader, joined the club’s youth league last year and jumped at the chance to join the shooting team.
“I just love the adrenaline,” Neuman said. “I grew up shooting clay so I’m used to it.”
Abegglan, a ninth-grader at Fall River High School, said trap shooting is relaxing and helps take his mind off other distractions.
“It’s fun to come out and do this as a weekend activity,” Abegglan said. “It’s nice to come out and just relax and be able to shoot along with some of your friends.”
Throughout Wisconsin, youth trap shooting clubs have grown steadily in the past decade. Mickelson said there are about 80 teams in the state. While adult trap shooting leagues have been popular for decades, the sport didn’t reach the youth level until the 1990s. Trap shooting gained steam in Minnesota and the state formed a youth league in 2001. Since then club teams have formed in 15 states.
More locally, Rio, Randolph and Cambria have also formed a combined shooting team. Mickelson said shooting provides a safe, fun activity that participants can enjoy well into adulthood.
“We learn all about safety out here,” he said. “Since the league’s inception in Minnesota, there has never been an accident.”
In recent years, the gun club has made efforts to attract more children to the sport. Mickelson said the Fall River youth league, combined with an annual shooting event, served as catalysts for the club team.
“The club members out here have always wanted a high school team, it was just a matter of doing it,” Mickelson said. “It took us a whole year to get things going and join the league. If you watch these guys, they have so much fun doing it.”
Mickelson plans to take his entire team to the state tournament in Rome, Wisconsin.
Since trap shooting is primarily a weekend activity, team members can compete in other spring sports. Both Abegglan and Neuman play baseball during the spring and Neuman also competes in track and field. If they go 0-for-3 at the plate, they can vent frustrations on clay targets every Saturday.
Shooters compete in two 25-target rounds at a time, trying to blast as many clay discs as they can within 15 minutes. Between rounds, shooters take breaks to ease their shoulders and refocus, mentally preparing for the next round. Each week, Fall River has focused on improving marksmanship. Mickelson has enjoyed seeing his first-year shooters gradually improve every weekend.
“They started out shooting maybe four or five (targets per round), now they’re hitting in the teens,” Mickelson said. “That’s pretty impressive for how far they’ve come. They’re pretty good with hand-eye coordination. They seem to pick it up pretty quickly.”
Before the season ends, Neuman and Abegglan want to become sharper shooters. Both plan to continue trap shooting through high school and beyond.
“I want to shoot 18 out of 25 (targets) consistently,” Neuman said. “That was my high score last year and I hit a 19 a couple weeks ago. I just want to maintain that.”
“My goal is to try to maintain a 17 or 18 average for the season,” Abegglan said.