Author: Bryan Unsell

Shoot Off!

When it comes to gunning for the national title in Handicap Trap, it’s one of those ‘been there, done that’ situations for the North Scott Trap Club. North Scott took the title last year, one of the five national titles the team from Eldridge, Iowa claimed.

This year it’s a slightly different story. After breaking 881 of their 1,000 targets, North Scott had to go to a shoot off. But the odds were definitely in North Scott’s favor considering the shoot off pitted North Scott’s Red Squad against their Gray Squad.

According to Coach Eric Long, this too was a ‘been there, done that’ situation as his shooters have often faced each other in both individual and team shoot offs throughout the season.

“It’s something we run into once in a while,” Long explained. And though he admitted having two teams in the shoot off for the national title is awesome, he conceded it’s also “kinda bittersweet” watching one of his squads defeat another in head-to-head competition.

Coach Eric Long of the North Scott Trap Club looks on as two of his squads once again face each other in a shoot off.

So how did the shoot off go?

After the flip of the coin the five member Red Squad took the field to face their 125 targets, dropping 15 to finish with 110.

Then it was the Gray Squad’s turn. After three rotations and just 10 targets left to shoot, the Gray Squad had dropped 12 targets. Then the official’s “lost bird” call put them 13 down with just seven targets remaining.

Then another “lost bird” call came, putting the Gray Squad four targets from the title, three from another shoot off and anything less put them second, handing the title to their teammates.

With the title on the line the Gray Squad took four shots and broke four targets, giving them a final count of 111 targets and, most importantly, the 2017 SCTP Varsity Division National Handicap Trap Title.

Annie Get Your Gun, You Too Taylor

SSSF-Thu-Taylor-1Participation by women – in this case perhaps girls – here in at the SCTP and SASP National Championships is, well, high. Girls account for nearly 1 in every 5 shooters with 19.3% of the total. By sport the numbers are more interesting.

In the shotgun sports of SCTP the girls make up 17.7% of the shooters. But when it comes to the pistol and rifle sports of SASP, girls are now 30.7% of the total shooters.

2016 Gender Participation

One of those girls helping to drive up participation is 11-year-old Taylor Diener of the Union Grove Shooting Club in Wisconsin.

Taylor started shooting trap two years ago and just this past March made the leap into rimfire rifle competition in preparation for this year’s SASP Nationals. On the range she’s hard to miss, unless of course she’s surrounded by a cluster of adults who all tower over her. Cute and confident she seems totally unfazed by either the flood of attention given to young new shooters like her or the pressure of competing at the national level.

Even when her rifle magazine has a feeding issue, a world ending disaster in the minds of many competitive shooters racing the timer, Taylor calmly keeps working the action and pulling the trigger.

A lot of the young shooters, and several of the young girls shooting, demonstrate this same poise under pressure. And after, rather than voice any frustration or disappointment, Taylor focuses on the future, as in next year when she plans to add doubles trap, maybe sporting clays and even rimfire pistol to her shooting schedule.

No wonder participation by girls – and of course women – continues to grow in the shooting sports.

Tennessee Beats Wisconsin…

When it comes to who has the largest number of shooters here at the 2016 Scholastic Clay Target Program National Championships, the Volunteer State is once again dominant. This year Tennessee accounts for 23% of all those competing in the shotgun sports.

SSSF-16 Top 5 SCTP States


SSSF-Blog-First-1Add the name Jacob McInturff to the history books of the Cardinal Center in Marengo, Ohio. The 18-year-old shooter from Johnson City, Tennessee, had not broken 100 straight in skeet in a few years but that didn’t seem to phase him as he took to the brand new skeet fields and ran not just 100, but 200 straight, ensuring his place in the history books as the first shooter to do so here at the facility.

Earlier in the competition Raymond Nagro of Gurnee, Illinois left his own mark as he claimed the honor of being the first shooter to run 100 straight.

McInturff is here with the Unaka Shooters and back home is a regular on the skeet fields at the Unaka Rod & Gun Club where is he frequently outguns his elders. They sometimes resort to a little good humored gamesmanship to get in McInturff’s head, hoping to throw him off his game. Sometimes it works, and sometimes, the young shooter admits, he gives as good as he gets.

When it comes to head-to-head competition club members might not be pulling for McInturff to win, but when it comes to representing the club in the Scholastic Clay Target Program (SCTP), there is no mistaking their support.

“They’ve been very good to the team,” says Mark McInturff who is both Jacob’s father and the team’s coach.

When the senior McInturff talks about the Unaka Rod & Gun Club it’s clear how much he and the team appreciate the support they get. It’s support he hopes to repay with future leaders. McInturff  sees SCTP not simply as a youth shooting program but also as a training ground to develop and prepare young men and women to someday take over the management of their home shooting clubs, and eventually return to the SCTP Nationals with new shooters and new teams.

This long term view probably explains why the current Unaka Rod & Gun Club president jokingly refers to Jacob as the ‘future club president.’

For now though, he’s just the guy sitting atop the leader board with the only perfect 200 score in skeet…and he’s OK with it staying that way through the rest of the championship.

Amber Rasmussen, Ironwoman

Amber Rasmussen
Amber Rasmussen shoots a lot, something like 200 rounds a week during the season and about 5,000 rounds annually. She competes on the Union Grove Broncos Shooting Club team, out of Union Grove, Wisconsin, where her father, Wayne, is an assistant coach.

She started out shooting trap in 8th grade, picked up sporting clays and skeet her sophomore year and added handicap and doubles trap her junior year. In her freshman year she also found time to shoot pistol.

This past spring Amber graduated and is headed to Carroll University in Waukesha, Wisconsin, where she plans to study physical therapy. This made her final round of trap at the National Team Championships a bit tough.

“I started crying before my last round and by the time I was done I was a mess,” said the 18 year old describing her last day shooting in the Scholastic Clay Target Program with her high school team.

While her Union Grove career came to an end, for Amber it most certainly did not go gentle into that good night as Dylan Thomas might note. No, Amber went out with a bang – over 1,000 of them the be specific.

Amber, along with her fellow Union Grove teammate Michael Kopecki, are members of a small group here at the nationals that compete in every championship event. She took on sporting clays, skeet, trap, doubles trap and handicap trap shooting 200 targets in each. In doubles trap she finished 3rd Ladies Varsity in individual competition helping her team take 4th place.

She also shot 100 rounds in the Scholastic Pistol Program event. And, she even faced off in Friday night’s Last Competitor Standing shoot were, facing off against several hundred shooters, she managed to win a $1,000 scholarship courtesy of the NRA.

At the end of a long, hot week of competition, Amber was thankful her Union Grove team shot as much as it did through the year. But as for the reason for shooting so many events Amber pulls no punches, declaring emphatically, “Because I can.”

There’s No Stopping Stu

Stu Wright
Stu Wright is a man on a mission, and that mission is his 32 athletes here competing in the 2015 National Team Championships. Nothing is going to keep him from watching them take a run at the title…not even Stage 4 pancreatic cancer.

Stu is the head coach of the Pinckneyville Community High School shooting program. The owner of Wright’s, a gun shop he opened in the mid 70’s which caters to the clay target shooter, started his high school coaching career back in 2002 when he was asked to coach the school’s FFA squad.

At the time there were just five shooters, enough for a competition squad. Today his program has 32 solid shooters competing in trap, skeet and sporting clays. Here at Nationals he has six seniors who have been with him from between four and seven years, and missing their final run at a national title isn’t something that he’s going to miss.

On Thursday, the first day he could get out of bed after chemo, Stu made it to the World Shooting & Recreational Complex to watch his kids compete in sporting clays. He showed up not knowing where they stood or if they even had a chance at a title. When he found out how they were shooting, well, as Stu put it, “there’s no getting me out of here.”

Led by senior Andy Opp, who was the only high school team shooter to post a perfect 100 on Wednesday and followed that up with 95 on Thursday to claim the individual High Overall title, PCHS Shooting Sports finished as the first place high school team, with 562, and second place among all teams. That made Thursday a very good day in Stu’s book.

Five months ago, back on February 6, Stu Wright learned he had cancer. On February 10 Andy and the rest of his team, the coaches and parents got the news, too.

“It was rough getting the news but then everybody stepped up,” said Opp in describing how the close knit group took the news.

Up until last year Stu Wright was the coach of the team, carrying most all of the responsibility with help from assistant coach Donny Nehring who coached the sporting clays shooters and traveled with the team to major events.

But last year there were 22 team shooters and this year there are 32, a big jump for a community of just 2,500. Stu realized he needed help and built a team of assistant coaches for this season.

“Now I have four fine guys that picked up the torch,” says Wright. And picking up the torch is exactly what was needed since February. Chemo takes a lot out of a person, even one with the drive and enthusiasm that Stu Wright seems to have an endless supply of. On those days, the bad days as Wright refers to them, he refuses to be around the kids because he doesn’t want his cancer to be their burden.

Wright’s motto is ‘Fun With A Gun’ and that’s why he won’t get in the way of his kids’ fun with his cancer. Opp describes his coach as “one of a kind” and says, “Nobody’s going to be like Stu. He’s strict but fun and we always seem to be laughing.”

Going into today’s American Trap finals, Stu’s kids, the boys from that small, tight community of Pinckneyville, Illinois, are ahead by 34 targets after breaking a 482 in their quest for the high school team title, making Coach Wright a very happy man.

With no hope of hiding his pride in their first day’s performance Stu gushes, “That’s totally over our head.” And then he says of his cancer and recent round of chemo, “I have no side effects. I’m on top of the world and it doesn’t get any better than this.”

And that’s why there’s no stopping Stu Wright.

Trap, It’s A Family Thing

Carter Kramer only started shooting trap this past October. But the 12 year old from Quincy, Illinois, was already an active hunter. And while he hunted duck, dove and rabbit whenever the opportunity arose, he has fallen hard for those small orange clay disks.

“I love it because it’s a challenge,” said Carter about his foray into trap. And it’s a challenge the young shooter continues to rise to.

Though very new to trap he has already logged his first 25 straight, and yesterday, armed with a Remington 870 Wingmaster, Carter added another 87 targets to his career total when he and the rest of his Quivering Clays team shot their first 100 of the SCTP American Trap Team Championship.

Though his first 50 still alludes him, Carter is determined to reach that next trap milestone and move on to his first 100 straight this year.

Young athletes like Carter don’t get into trapshooting, and all the way to Sparta, Illinois, and the National Team Championships, without some family support. And for the Kramer family, it’s not just some support but a lot.

Carter’s father Dan started shooting clay targets at the age of 9 using an old spring loaded hand trap and is happy to see his oldest son getting into the sport. Younger brother Austin, 10, is ready to join Carter on the shooting line next year while 5 year old brother Kayden is still a couple years away from joining the Kramer squad.

The Kramers road tripped south to Sparta in force. Joining dad and the boys are mom, granddad and, of course, grandma Donna Lohmeyer who helps herd the boys when Carter isn’t shooting and the sights and sounds of a bustling national championship venue seem to pull them in every direction all at once.

Clearly trapshooting is, indeed, a family event.

Young Women Make Up 18.4% Of Athletes At Nationals

A 2013 research report from the National Shooting Sports Foundation entitled Analysis of Sport Shooting Participation in the U.S. 2008-2012 found that not only were new shooters likely to be younger with 66% falling in the 18-to-34-year-old age group, but they were also likely to be female. NSSF’s findings showed that 37% of new target shooters were women.

Looking around the grounds of the World Shooting & Recreational Complex in Sparta, Illinois, it’s clear that young women are a fast growing segment of both the Scholastic Clay Target Program and the Scholastic Pistol Program.

At this year’s National Team Championships those young ladies with shotguns slung over their shoulders, and those with a pistol tucked away in their range bag, make up 18.4% of the total 2,800-plus athletes in attendance. Among the 2,466 shotgunners they are 17.6% while on the pistol ranges they account for nearly a quarter (24.3%) of the 345 competitors.

Gender Participation
If the broad smiles exhibited during Wednesday night’s Opening Ceremony are any indication, the number of young female athletes participating in the shooting programs of the Scholastic Shooting Sports Foundation is likely to grow.


Top Five States At The 2015 Nationals


Participation at the Scholastic Shooting Sports Foundation’s 2015 National Team Championships is broad reaching with 28 states represented. Nearly three quarters (74.1%) of the 2,800+ shooters come from just five states. Here’s how athletes from the SSSF’s Big 5 break out.

Tennessee (25.3%)
The Volunteer State accounts for 25.3% of all athletes with 601 competing in SCTP (24.4%) and 109 (31.6%) in SPP.

Illinois (18.6%)
The home of the World Shooting & Recreational Complex, the Land of Lincoln sent 484 (19.6%) of shotgunners and 40 (11.6%) of the pistol competitors.

Wisconsin (14.9%)
The Badger State athletes came to shoot with 371 (15.0%) in SCTP and 47 (13.6%) in SPP.

Iowa (8.1%)
The Hawkeye State rolled in with 200 (8.2%) of the SCTP athletes and 29 (8.4%) of those in SPP.

Missouri (7.2%)
The Show-Me State showed up with 202 (8.2%) SCTP competitors, and despite not having any shooters in the SPP Nationals they still hold down fifth overall on this list.


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