Thompson Falls Trap Club experiences ‘youth movement’

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GUNNER SWANSON, of Noxon, is part of Thompson Falls Trap Club’s initiative to generate interest among younger shooters. Swanson is holding his award he received for the top junior shooter in the Big Sky Trap Shoot outside the Thompson Falls Trap Club building. (photo courtesy of Digger Powell)

Thompson Falls Trap Club President Digger Powell noticed an existing pattern that started to take shape with the Thompson Falls and Noxon Trap Clubs.

Powell said the clubs, which have existed for more than 50 years, began to dissolve primarily because of a lack of interest. The number of younger shooters was declining, so Powell took a proactive approach to help rejuvenate the interest among younger shooters.

Powell and the club began to organize tournaments designed to attract younger contestants.

“The Big Sky Trap shoot, actually located in Eastern Montana, ran for several years over there and we found out the Thompson Falls Trap and Noxon Trap Clubs were in the process of dissolving,” Powell said. “Everyone had gotten so old that most of the people involved in the club started to drop out. They approached me, a lifetime member of the Noxon Trap Club, and asked me if I would take over the program. I told them that ‘I would take it over and run it for two years when I was in Noxon and Thompson Falls. I’ve been running as part of the Thompson Falls Club and handled everything.”

Powell said the main objective of developing some of these clubs geared towards younger shooters was to have the older shooters and younger shooters working together in order to sustain the long-term interest of the sport. To further bolster interest in the current youth participants, several top shooters in the area will receive awards at 2:30 p.m. Thursday at the Plains Trap Club.

“That is the main purpose is to not only have an event for the older shooters but also have an event where youth and teenagers are involved,” Powell said. “It peaks the interest in the sport. We really like to have more and more youth shooters and that is our goal with our website. This past year, the Elks Club had a triathlon with trap shooting out on the range and we had 12 new kids that came out and shot well and took an interest.”

One avenue Powell and company utilized in order to diversify its audience was fundraisers.

“We hold a raffle to raise money for targets and shells for the kids and the kids get a round of trap, including their shells for $5 dollars,” Powell said. “The price of the round is unheard of anywhere else in the United States. We also hold an Open House in September and the first part of October, and try to open up the trap range for any youth in the area from Sanders and Lake County that wants to come out and shoot a couple rounds of trap for free. We provide a free hot dog lunch and really try to get them interested in participating at their local trap shooting range and start shooting.”

According to Powell, the number of kids that participate each year “varies,” and this year, Trap Shooter Litia French stood head and shoulders above the rest of the 54 competitors.

“This year, we had 54 total kids shooting in the tournament and Litia (French) won her division beating out the other 54 kids that were competing,” Powell said. “That is the biggest criteria is that if you don’t shoot every week, your score is going to go down the tank because you will get a zero in participation. That really ensure that the kids shoot every week.”

Powell said he felt the Trap Club’s initiative is “beginning to work.”

“We are starting to see some repeats, which is a problem everywhere, and we always have to compete with football and basketball,” Powell said. “The kids get to decide what they like best. They can either come out and shoot with us, or since they like football, they can also go play football.”

According to Powell, opportunities with Trap Shooting can arise well beyond just a hobby. There are several opportunities to receive collegiate scholarships and even possibly go to the Olympic games.

“Organizations like the National Shooting Foundation, when they notice someone is truly interested and has the ability, offer scholarships to go to college,” Powell said. They can apply to receive a shooting scholarship. There are a lot of colleges that offer trap team, shoot standard trap, European trap, doubles, handicap, and all aspects of the shooting industry.”

For the kids with exceptional talent, the Olympic Games is also an option, according to Powell.

“There is an Olympic team and International Shooting Competition, and these shooters get an opportunity to travel all over the world,” Powell said. “They are a member of the Professional Trap Shooters Association and there are lots of opportunities. Even the Amateur Trap Shooting Association travels all over in all of the states and competes in events all summer long.”

Powell said he felt Trap Shooting is a constructive way for kids to spend their time.

“We are trying to keep the sport growing, get the kids interested and keep them off the streets,” Powell said.

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