Oakdale Gun Club responds to growing popularity of trap shooting

The Oakdale Gun Club celebrated the new trap shooting field Sept. 17. North High’s Dan Peterson tries out the new trap shooting field.

Kathy Kohner, writer of a grant request to the DNR, had the honors of cutting the ribbon.

High school trap shooting teams have grown in popularity. Tartan’s Joe Pickett and Jeff Munter as well as North High’s Antonio Vandal and Dan Peterson were on hand for the ribbon cutting of the new trap shooting field at the Oakdale Gun Club Sept. 17.

The Oakdale Gun Club, located at 10386 10th St. N. in Lake Elmo, was founded 51 years ago.

Four high school teams will use club’s new fields

“High school trap is the fastest growing high school sport in the nation,” said Charley Ames, chief instructor and board member at the Oakdale Gun Club located in Lake Elmo. “This year Minnesota fielded 10,320 students.”

The 51-year old gun club struggled to keep up with the growing interest in trap shooting because it only had one trap range — until now. 

On Sept. 17 the club dedicated two new trap fields and opened them for member and school use. The club is a member-owned, nonprofit corporation, and has a large facility located along Tenth Street North, just south of the Lake Elmo Regional Park Reserve.

The club was awarded a $40,000 grant from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to help offset a $110,000 total project cost, according to Kathy Kohner, a member of the club’s trap expansion committee. 

Ted Nemetz, who is charge of trap operations, said the project took about a year and a half. “It is good to have this open; we’re really looking forward to using this now.”

At the dedication, Kohner cut the ribbon and the cremated remains of the gun club’s late president Dean Bogie were fired over the field to dedicate it in his memory.

“I am sure he would be proud to have his ashes distributed here,” Ames said.

The ceremony was completed with the Trap Expansion Committee firing a round across the field.


Local schools benefited

“We added this to give us greater capacity. We, in the past, only could host the Tartan Trap Team,” Ames said. Spring 2017 will be Tartan’s seventh year shooting at the Oakdale Gun Club.

Jack Thomas, a Tartan coach, said that the Tartan team has always shot at the Oakdale Gun Club, and due to the increased interest among students, the team has had to have tryouts the last couple years. He said that unfortunately, the team has capped out at around 20 participants.

“With the new ranges we might be able to do a little bit more,” he said.

“This last spring we also took in North High School and Hill-Murray High School, and they will continue with us throughout next year,” Kohner said.

“We are able to host other schools now that we have three ranges,” Ames added.

This year the Stillwater Clay Target Team will be switching from a gun club in Hudson, Wisconsin, to the Oakdale Gun Club, according to Kohner. Nemetz noted that this will be the largest team so far to practice at the Oakdale Gun Club.

“We hope to add more as time goes on,” Kohner said.


The sport of trap shooting

The Minnesota State High School Clay Target League website describes trapshooting as one of the three major competitive clay target shooting sports with a shotgun. The other common shooting sports are skeet shooting and sporting clays.

Kathy Kohner, an Oakdale Gun Club member, pointed out that not only is trap becoming incredibly popular in high schools across the state, it is a sport where both girls and boys compete equally. 

“In trapshooting, the targets are launched from a single ‘house’ or machine, generally away from the shooter,” states the league website.

Students must supply their own gun, and are allowed to use any type of smooth-bore shotgun, including semi-automatics, as long as their caliber does not exceed 12-gauge. Most participants use 12-gauge shotguns, though smaller caliber guns are allowed. 

“A practice or competition event will consist of shooting two 25 target rounds for a total of 50 targets from the 16-yard station,” states the league website. 

According to Dan Peterson, a member of the North High School Trap Shooting Club, the scoring is out of 25 and each time an individual hits the clay pigeon it counts as a point.

“Typically what North does is that we do two boxes a day for a total of 50 rounds, and your total is out of that 25,” Peterson said.

The Minnesota State High School Clay Target League distributes patches to the different teams at the beginning of each year, according to Kohner, who is also a volunteer for the Tartan Trap Team. She explained that the patches are given to kids who meet scoring goals of either 25 or 50. Many students sew the patches onto their team vest.

Although the scores are calculated individually, as many as five shooters, who together are called a squad, occupy the stations on the trap field and shoot one at a time down the stations. 

“Every five shots you move over one position,” Peterson explained. This gives the shooters the opportunity to take five shots from each of the five positions.

The local schools compete during the spring, roughly March through May.

“They [practice] every Monday for about three weeks, and then the season actually starts, and that’s five weeks,” explained Lori Pickett, the mother of Tartan trap shooter Joe Pickett.

Each season there is one main competition — the state tournament in Alexandria.

Safety first

Joe Pickett was a freshman with no previous hunting or shooting experience when he first began shooting trap for Tartan.

His mother, Lori Pickett, said students must take a gun safety class, and “everything has to do with safety first.” 

She added that the students who participate have to maintain good grades to be able to shoot, and that this policy is strictly enforced, another aspect she appreciates.

While some folks might be wary about the public schools sanctioning a sport involving guns, supporters say the students are carefully monitored and there’s always an emphasis on gun safety. 

Lori Pickett added,  “It’s also fun to watch, so I’m OK [with Joe shooting],” she said, though she noted that the family has allowed Joe’s grandma to continue to think he shoots nerf guns.

“[High school trap is] growing by leaps and bounds and there are no injuries,” Ames said. “We are an asset to the community. Many people who are not shooters don’t understand that, but we provide firearms training certification to youth.” 

He estimated that about 750 kids go through firearms training each year at the Oakdale Gun Club. A DNR required part of the certification process is practice at a range, so the gun club provides that space for their groups as well as outside groups.

“I’ve not yet seen a kid [at the club] who doesn’t respect the firearms or an adult,” said Michael Gerster, a board member at the Oakdale Gun Club.

“The more kids shooting responsibly, the less kids shooting irresponsibly,” Ames added.

Ames said he believes the general public is afraid of guns because they only see or hear about criminal acts involving guns. He believes if young people are taught how to properly handle firearms in a safe and respectful way, they wouldn’t be misused. 


It’s not just for kids 

Adults interested in trap shooting are also able to pursue the sport at the Oakdale Gun Club, but according to Nemetz, the club is only open to members for the majority of the year. Kohner added that the two new trap fields are intended to be used by club members and school groups.

“They will not be open to the public for the most part unless we have enough safety officers and the other field is extraordinarily busy,” she said. “We always need to have three safety officers on the field when we are open to the public.”

Between Sept. 20 and Nov. 22 the Oakdale Gun Club will be open to the public daily from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and the original trap shooting field is still available for public use. 

The Oakdale Gun Club also hosts Wednesday Novice Trap starting at 4 p.m., and according to Nemetz there are coaches available during this event to help answer questions and work with beginners. 

For those with more experience, the club also offers Thursday Night Open Trap, which also starts at 4 p.m. The non-member fee for any of these events is $7 per round, which equals 25 clay targets.

For more information visit www.oakdalegunclub.org.


Aundrea Kinney can be reached at 651-748-7822 or akinney@lillienews.com.

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