MT. VERNON – Bonnie resident Dave Schaefer was inspired to start Jefferson County's only youth trapshooting team after his son, Wade, became interested in the sport last year.
Wade was 9 at the time and enjoyed hunting and shooting clay pigeons in the backyard.
After a while, Wade told his father he wanted to compete in trapshooting, but Schaefer soon discovered that Jefferson County had no such team for young people. He then set about to change that.
“An individual can't get into scholarship programs, you have to be part of a team,” said Schaefer, a UPS driver. “My whole goal is, I want the kids to have fun and to get the opportunity to do this. It's a fast-growing sport. There are a lot of scholarships available.”
Schaefer founded the Waltonville Trapshooting Team this past May and the group meets for practice once a week at the Rend Lake Shooting Complex. The team will compete in roughly six to seven competitions a year.
There are currently 11 Waltonville kids on the team and two who are from Mt. Vernon. Two more young people are expected to join the team in the near future. Team members, including boys and girls, range in age from fourth grade to high school.
“I've always kind of loved to shoot. I feel like this is something you could do for the rest of your life,” said team member Daniel Dent, 15, of Waltonville. “You've really got to have a lot of hand-eye coordination. Those targets are moving really fast.”
Trapshooting is a type of competitive clay pigeon shooting where targets are launched from a single machine. It differs from the other two types of clay shooting – skeet shooting and sporting clays.
Typically, trapshooting teams are sponsored by schools or 4-H programs. Schaefer said he initially tried to get support for his new team from such groups, but they were not interested.
Schaefer was able to get his team off the ground, thanks in large part to a $2,000 donation from the Ashley Sportsmen's Club.
The donation allowed Schaefer to buy a trailer for the team. Schaefer sells ad space on the trailer for local businesses, which has raised more money for shotgun shells and other supplies.
Schaefer has a strong background in coaching. He used to be the president of the Waltonville Little League and has coached baseball and soccer. He said the trapshooting team seemed like a good fit for him.
“We just do it for the kids,” Schaefer said. “I've been coaching for quite a few years.”
Team member Madison Lewis, 14, of Waltonville had never fired a shotgun before joining the team. She said she greatly enjoys learning about the sport.
“There's always something new I learn at competition or at practice,” Lewis said. “It never stops.”
At competitions, the older participants often help the younger ones, giving them tips on how to improve.
“I think it's neat how the older guys help you out,” Lewis said.
Before joining the team, young people are asked to complete a hunter safety course if they haven't already. Teaching kids how to safely handle guns is another goal of the program, Schaefer said.
All the team's slots are filled for this year. However, there will be future openings.
Donations for the team are still being accepted. For more information, contact Schaefer at 237-1332.