Shooting for Pigeons

A spent shell is ejected from the shotgun of Taylor Derry during a shoot last week at the Cedar Valley Conservation Club.  Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

A spent shell is ejected from the shotgun of Taylor Derry during a shoot last week at the Cedar Valley Conservation Club. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

When Paul Jenkins, Doug Bathke and Sue Thorpe recently helped start up a clay shooting club for Austin students, they hoped it would go well.

It certainly has.

In its second year, the Austin clay shooting team is thriving as there are 59 participants on the team ranging from sixth grade to 12th grade. Jenkins said the team gives plenty of students who may not play other sports a chance to compete on a team.

William Grunewald waits to see his score as Bill Adams tallies during a competition shoot at the Cedar Valley Conservation Club.  Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

William Grunewald waits to see his score as Bill Adams tallies during a competition shoot at the Cedar Valley Conservation Club. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

“What’s come into light for us is that about half of them aren’t your typical athletes,” Jenkins said. “This is a sport that anyone can participate in, even if they’re not 250 pounds and bench pressing 300 pounds. We have 75 pound kids, 300 pound kids and everything in between.”

The team was initially hoping for 15 or 20 participants when it started, but many more came when the team was formed. The shooters are also improving at a rapid rate.

At a recent practice, eighth-grader Jackson Hollund went 50-for-50 on shooting targets for the first time in team history.

“Very few of them had experience before and now they’re really coming on,” Jenkins said. “This year we have team spirit and everybody is getting to know each other. They’re always cheering for each other. The older kids look out for some of the little kids and some of the little kids are out-shooting the older kids.”

The team will compete in two big tournaments in June. The state championship tournament will be held June 9 in Alexandria and the first ever MSHSL clay shooting championship will be held June 14 in St. Paul.

Shooters take part in a competition at the Cedar Valley Conservation Club. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Shooters take part in a competition at the Cedar Valley Conservation Club. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

The Packers, who are coached by Gus Maxfield, are currently in third place in their eight-team conference, but the biggest thing the team has learned is how to handle themselves correctly.

“We’ve got the best kids in the state of Minnesota,” Jenkins said. “They’ve been perfect. I hear some horror stories from around the state, and we haven’t had one bad thing happen.”

There are more than 6,000 participants in the clay shooting league in Minnesota this year. The league holds a fall and a spring season.

Rocky Hulne can be reached at sports@austindailyherald.com

 

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