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Trapshooting is becoming a varsity sport
CROP trap shooters
Instructor Dave Benzing watches as Wyatt Bausch and Jared Payne take aim at the target during the FFA spring trap practice.

Students from Seneca Schools will participate in a trapshooting league, which will include teams from Boscobel, Prairie du Chien and Westby as well. DeSoto is also interested, and may choose to participate in the fall.

The Seneca trapshooting team will engage in competition on August 2, 9 and 16, according to Dave Benzing, proprietor of Outback Shotgun and Sports in rural Seneca. Benzing provides a practice space for the Seneca team, as well as lots of enthusiasm.

“This is the season kickoff for a youth league in Seneca,” Benzing explained. “I am hoping this will provide an opportunity for young folk to get to know other youth shooters in the area, and to build enthusiasm for this sport.”

Benzing says he is hoping that they will be able to do another league, or a travelling league in the fall.

The league will start out with one squad, with five shooters per school.

“There will be 50 targets per week, per participant,” Benzing said.

Every week, the league will recognize the highest scoring shooter, the highest scoring team, and the shooter with the longest string of targets broken in a row.

Benzing noted that if there are interested students from North Crawford Schools or other area schools who don’t have a squad, he would like to encourage them to contact him about joining the Seneca team. Dave Benzing can be reached at 608-734-3533.

Varsity sport at Seneca

The trapshooting team at Seneca is now in it’s third year, working with the Wisconsin Clay Target League. Kally Baukenhauer, the school FFA Advisor, is the staff program lead from the school.

“We had an FFA team for four years since I’ve been with the school, but it didn’t give us much opportunity to practice, and we were only able to participate in a couple of events each year,” said Baukenhauer.

“Now our students have the opportunity to shoot for two months in the spring, and can make a season out of it,” Baukenhauer explained. “It’s an improvement because the kids really get to see themselves improving in that time.”

Baukenhauer reported that the program has doubled in participation for each of the three years they’ve had it, with four in 2014, eight in 2015, and now sixteen shooters expected to participate in 2016.

 “It works because we really only travel if we choose to practice together, and for the state tournament,” said Baukenhauer. The rest of the time we just enter our scores online each week.

At Seneca, the sport is open to both middle school and high school students. The sport is co-ed and open to both young men and women.

Student athletes shoot an assigned number of targets to compete in both individual and team events.

A student can letter in the sport, based on their scores. The athlete’s year-end average weekly score determines student athlete classifications. Classifications assignments include:

Novice: 0-14.99 average per round

Junior Varsity: 15-18.99 average per round

Varsity 19-25 average per round

2015 was the first year that the Seneca School System awarded varsity letters to trap shooters.

To be eligible for the Independent Provider Extra Curricular Lettering Program, the shooting sport student athlete must meet the following criteria:

The athlete must be a student of the school and home-schooled athletes in this school district are also eligible.

The athlete must abide by the Seneca Schools and Wisconsin State High School Clay Target League activity requirements.

The athlete must adhere to all school district rules, policies and requirements concerning student activities including, but not limited to, attendance, conduct, scholastic standing and other eligibility requirements.

The athlete must average 20 points or more per round in competition play at the end of the season.  The athlete must not miss any competition weeks during the season, and may participate in the State Tournament.

The athlete must participate consistently with the team for three years or more. If a student athlete fails to adhere to the Qualification and Requirements for Lettering, the athlete forfeits the right to letter for that season.

“The program has seen very good participation,” said Seneca School District Administrator Dave Boland. “We’ve gotten lots of positive feedback, and Kally really does a tremendous amount of work to make it successful.”

Boland explained that there is no additional cost to the school, and that all expenses are paid from fundraising events.

“In 2014 we did a (deer)hide drive fundraiser, and last year we had great success with a gun raffle,” said Baukenhauer. “There were 200 tickets at $10 apiece, and we had them all sold way in advance!”

Clay Target League

“This league continues to be the fastest-growing activity in Wisconsin schools,” said Jim Sable, Executive Director of the Wisconsin State High School Clay Target League (WISHSCTL). “Such high participation shows the continued demand for alternative high school activities related to Wisconsin’s longstanding outdoor traditions.”

The league’s co-ed and adaptive nature are key attractions to high schools in Wisconsin. The league is fully Title IX compliant with both male and female athletes competing on the same team. Additionally, it’s an ‘adaptive’ sport, which allows students with physical disabilities to take part.

“We take pride in that athletes of all types are able to participate in clay target shooting,” stated John Nelson, Vice President of the WISHSCTL. “Our ‘True Team’ scoring system is also designed so that everyone can compete, not just the top scorers on a team.”

The Wisconsin State High School Clay Target League attracts student athletes to participate in shooting sports, while creating a ‘virtual’ competition among high school teams throughout Wisconsin at no cost to the schools. Family travel costs are minimal because practice and competition are conducted at a shooting range near the school’s location.

The league is also the safest sport in high school, with no reported injuries since the inception of the league in 2001.

Conferences are determined by team size rather than geographic location for fair competition. Athletes earn ‘True Team’ scoring points as determined by their performance and ranking against all athlete scores within their team¹s conference. The team score and overall standings are calculated and posted on the league’s website. Athletes and their families may track their individual and team performance on their computer via the league’s website, and by the new ‘Shooter Performance Tracker’ mobile app.

The Wisconsin State High School Clay Target League is an affiliate of the USA High School Clay Target League, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.

The league is an independent provider of shooting sports as an extracurricular co-ed and adaptive activity for high schools and students in grades six through 12. The organization’s priorities are safety, fun, and marksmanship – in that order.

Each student is required to pass a comprehensive firearm safety education course prior to participation. Approximately 13,000 student athletes are currently participating in 12 state high school clay target leagues in the United States.

Boscobel has a very active Clay Target Shooting League, and historically North Crawford also had a league.

“It was part of my participation in FFA,” said Aaron Fortney, a current member of the North Crawford School Board. “We’d all bring our shotguns and .22 caliber rifles to school on the bus and check them at the principal’s office. Then, at the end of the day, we’d get them back, get on a bus, and drive down to Boscobel.”

“We shot trap and silhouettes,” Fortney recalled. “John Gibbs was our teacher, and he would drive the bus down there. I’m 100 percent in favor of trapshooting clubs in the school, and I am also interested in seeing a bow shooting club.”

Fortney shared that there is a national organization for bow shooting clubs similar to the trap shooting organization.

“They will provide clubs with bows and targets to help them get started, and after that the club is on its own,” Fortney said.

“I kind of look back at it and laugh a little,” said John Gibbs. “I’m pretty sure the kids couldn’t bring their guns to school anymore.”

Gibbs, the retired North Crawford Ag teacher, came up with the idea for the activity after talking to the agriculture teacher in Boscobel.

“I’m not a gun guy, and never have been,” Gibbs said. “That being said, I view trap shooting as a legitimate activity out here in the country where so many people hunt – it’s a logical thing to do. I’m okay with it, if it’s a sportsmanship thing.”

In Boscobel, the Bird Dogs trap team had great success in the 2016 spring shooting season. The team fielded 53 shooters, with some coming from outlying communities.

Their season began in April for scheduled practices and a reserve round. Into late April and early May, they shot their competition rounds.

The league in which they participated had 46 teams and over 1,000 students shooting in the state of Wisconsin, double the number from 2015.

Recently, Southwest Technical College (SWTC) in Fennimore has also gotten in on the growing enthusiasm for this sport.

Their board approved the formation of a trapshooting club and team during at its annual meeting on Monday, July 11.

The club will practice near Muscoda this fall, and hopes to practice near Bloomington next spring.

The school is contemplating construction of an on-site facility so that the college could compete in regional competitions like the colleges in Iowa’s community college system.