Hot shots


More than 250 high school students set their sights high at the 2013 State FFA Trap Shoot competition Saturday, which was hosted by the Marshall FFA chapter.

Students from across the state of Minnesota had the opportunity to take part in three different contests – trap shoot, skeet and sporting clays – while at Redwood River Sportsman Club and Shooter Sporting Clays.

“It thought it went really well,” said Jason Kaare, Marshall FFA adviser. “It went a lot more smoothly than I thought it might. There are just so many variables involved, with teams coming in and with guns having issues, that it’s easy to get behind. But it went well. The kids shot for 12 straight hours.”

Kaare noted that the FFA Shoot was the second-largest FFA event in Minnesota, behind the state convention. Regardless of whether the student’s aim is to participate, compete or develop skills for hunting, it’s a positive use of time, Kaare said.

“There are skills they can learn that can help them in the future,” he said. “For some, it might be hunting in the future and for others, it might be something they can be proud of. Some kids might not be good at other activities, so this can be their time to shine.”

Tracy Area FFA adviser Paul Skoglund agreed.

“We have some kids who don’t necessarily hunt,” he said. “This isn’t just a hunting sport, it’s a competitive sport.”

Bill Klaers, who has been the FFA adviser in Wabasso for 24 years, expressed his appreciation for all the support the FFA clubs have received from local gun clubs.

“The state trap shoot has been around here for quite a few years,” Klaers said. “It used to be down in Tracy, but then they moved it to the Marshall area. We have a lot of support from the local gun clubs. It takes a lot of support to put something like this on. They volunteer their time, so we really appreciate the work they do for us.”

While participation and support was high on Saturday, that wasn’t necessarily the case with the scores that came in.

“The weather was not ideal because it was rainy in the morning and then when the rain went away, it got pretty windy,” Kaare said. “All those factors make it more difficult to shoot well. So the scores weren’t super high. A 46 out of 50 was the highest. I was expecting a few more kids in the 40s but with weather like that, it’s hard to be right on the dot.”

Kaare said he heard a number of conversations throughout the day regarding the difficult elements.

“Kids would come in after they were done and say, ‘that one bird just dipped at the last second, and I just missed it,'” Kaare said. “I heard a lot of comments like that. But that’s just how it goes. Out hunting, the animals aren’t predictable either.”

Despite the challenges, students seemed to enjoy the experience.

“The kids had a really good time,” Kaare said. “I got a lot of e-mails from advisers who told me that. And it’s not just about the shooting contest. The contest is fun and important, but a lot of what you remember is the bus ride there or the times in-between. That’s where a lot of friendships are built between students and teachers.”

Along with participation and enjoyment, safety is also a high priority at a shooting event like the one on Saturday.

“The safety factor is a pretty big deal,” Kaare said. “But most of these kids grow up hunting, so it’s automatic for them. Most know how to use the equipment properly.”

Other advisers were quick to praise the students for their attention to detail and efforts to take matters seriously.

“It’s a very safe, controlled atmosphere,” Skoglund said. “The kids are on the line with all their guns down. They use one shell at a time, and nobody puts that shell in until they’re told it’s their turn. It’s a very orderly system for shooting.”

Klaers pointed out that the competition format included a five-person team and that individuals scores were also kept.

“They take the top four scores for the team competition,” he said. “They have team trophies and then individual pins for the top shooters. Last year, we had the top trap (Brian Swedzinski) and top skeet (Matt Zeug) guy, but it’s a lot windier this afternoon than it was this morning, so I think the best scores are going to come from the kids who shot this morning. The wind is something else out here.”

Marshall placed second in the state skeet shoot, while Tracy Area took third. While the two teams also compiled a score of 64, Medford won top honors after coming out ahead in the tiebreaker process.

“I was really happy with how we did,” Kaare said.

Marshall’s Spencer VanOverbeke was the top skeet shooter, recording a 21 out of 25, while Tracy Area’s Blake Salmon shot a 20.

“Spencer does very well,” Kaare said. “He works at the Redwood River Club, so he gets to practice more than other kids. That’s one of the reasons why he was so successful. It was a good way for him to end his senior year.”

Troy Trost took seventh place for Marshall (score of 17), while Minneota’s Clark Davis was eighth (17). Minneota finished in seventh place as a team, while Wabasso was eighth, Westbrook-Walnut Grove ninth and Russell-Tyler-Ruthton 11th.

Wabasso junior Brian Swedzinski didn’t score well in his first state skeet competition but enjoyed participating.

“I’ve never shot skeet before, but I’ve shot trap for a few years,” Swedzinski said. “My gun is a semi-automatic, and it’s got a magazine instead of a normal shot gun, so it’s really easy to work with. It’s better, though, with a high-powered round instead of a trap load.”

Swedzinski had some issues with his gun early on in the competition but kept at it.

“The hardest part about skeet is that they’re shooting two at a time for some of them, and they’re moving really fast,” he said. “They’re also a lot closer than most trap things. But I try to start at one house and then work my way to the other and just stay in front of the bird as it’s flying.”

A total of 268 took part in the trap shoot competition, with Redwood Valley claiming top honors as a team (160). Canby was sixth (144), while RTR was seventh (138), WWG 11th (132), Marshall 13th (128) and Tracy Area 15th (127).

“They can choose to shoot all three categories, but most of the kids just shoot trap because that’s what they shoot in 4-H or at home,” Klaers said. “It gets a little more specialized with the equipment for the skeet and the sporting clays.”

Canby’s Andy Lefkin shot a 42 to earn 11th place, while Zeug collected a 17th-place finish after recording a 40. Walker Christians took 18th for WWG (38), while Michael Peterson was 20th for Canby (38).

“I got 40 out of 50 trap shooting,” Zeug said. “I just started last year. I thought it would be fun, so I thought I’d try it. It’s going good. It’s fun.”

A total of 198 participated in the state sporting clays competition, with Medford taking first place (166). Tracy Area was fifth with a 144, while WWG was seventh (138) and Marshall 10th (134).

“Sporting clays is really kind of different,” Klaers said. “They come from all different angles, and they actually roll a few on the ground that you have to shoot to simulate like a rabbit. It’s really a different way to shoot.”

Salmon shot a 39 to earn 12th place for Tracy, while Marshall’s VanOverbeke was 15th after recording a 38. Jake Kern also shot a 38 for Tracy to finish in 19th place.

For Wabasso home-schooled students Thomas Turbes and Maria Turbes, the FFA competition is like an extension of their participation in Minnesota 4-H Shooting Sports.

“I just got my driver’s license, and it sounded fun,” Thomas Turbes said. “I could have done better, but it’s pretty harsh in the wind. But it’s fun.”

Like others, Maria Turbes also struggled a little with the wind, though it did not prevent her from enjoying the overall experience.

“I like shooting sports because there’s just so many things you can do with it,” she said. “I can use it for hunting and other things like that. It’s just good practice. I love the outdoors, too. I live on a farm, and I’m always outside.”