Since Alice Kerkvliet gave sport shooting a shot three years ago, it has grown into an addiction.
She first learned the game at the Snowshoe Gun Club in Kenai and found trap shooting to be a great family activity to share along with her husband Dave and their two children.
Recent success and vigor from the Peninsula youth trap shooters has rubbed off on the parents and more people became interested in shooting sports, Kerkvliet said. Now a regular at the club, she said a couple parents had inquired about having an introduction clinic to shooting sports so they can participate in their kid’s interest.
“They didn’t want to learn in front of their kids because (the kids) shoot really well,” she said. “This way we can bring parents up to speed and they can all shoot together as a family.”
Last Sunday, 16 people came out for a trap and skeet-shooting clinic at the Snowshoe Gun Club on Shotgun Drive for an introduction to gun safety, handling and shooting games. For two-hours, four coaches were on hand to emphasize shooting range etiquette and offer pointers to people new to the sport.
Annalee Lott became interested in learning gun fundamentals after her son got involved with the youth program. Her son JT comes to the gun club Tuesdays, Saturdays with the youth team and now on Sundays with the general public.
Kerkvliet said Lott jokingly blames her for how much money she spends on ammunition to keep up with her son’s hobby.
Trap shooting is a simple game, see the target, point and pull the trigger, said Stu Goldstein, a gun club volunteer.
“If you over think it, you will miss,” he said.
Goldstein and Jim Trujillo went over the proper ways to handle a shotgun and made sure all the participants were comfortable in checking the chamber before loading the weapon.
“Safety is the most important thing,” Goldstein said. “Check the chamber every time and always assume it’s loaded.”
Trujillo is the head coach of the Peninsula Shooting Stars, a youth trap shooting team, sponsored by the Alaska Scholastic Clay Target Program. The team competed at the Alaska State Junior Olympic Qualifier in Eagle River on March 23. Nick Edwards of Soldotna finished third, and qualified for Nationals where he will compete in the Junior Olympic Championships in Colorado Springs this July.
Trujillo said a steady core group of 10 youths are at the gun club shooting every Saturday while the team has about 25 members. He said it is great to see the kids having fun with a sport they enjoy.
“A lot of kids come here and have never handled a gun. We teach safety and how to shoot to beginners and encourage kids to come out here and learn,” he said. “The look on their face when they break a target for the first time is great.”
After the safety briefing, Goldstein, Trujillo and Russell Morrison, a club volunteer, split the group up at three stations with a coach for each group. At each station, three people shot a round of five clay discs, one at a time, with only one gun loaded at a time to eliminate the potential for a mishap.
Goldstein instructs the shooters who are right-eye dominant to keep both eyes open, use the proper stance with one foot bent forward, place the butt of the shotgun firm on the shoulder while following the target with the shotgun barrel.
“Head on the stock, eye on the rock,” he said. “The farther the shot, the less likely to buck.”
At Goldstein’s station, the first group made up of two fathers and a teenager, stepped up and quickly caught on, hitting several targets. The next group, made up of three guys who didn’t have much shooting experience, had difficulty hitting the target at first, until they received a helpful reminder from their coach.
“With 350 pellets in a buck, just a close shot will hit the target, Goldstein said. “When you hit the target, remember how that felt and keep doing it.”
Soldotna resident Shawn Hutchings was one of the beginners who wanted to learn the sport. He said he had never tried trap shooting before and decided to take it up.
“It was a little frustrating at first because I couldn’t hit anything,” he said. “Then I learned I was left-eye dominant so as soon as I closed my left eye, I hit the next two.”
He said after a few rounds he started getting a feel for it and started having fun.
“It is entertaining like a game,” he said. “With the weather getting nicer I could see myself coming back here. Its just a fun way to spend a few hours outside.”
The club is open to the general public on Sundays. The cost is $5 for members and $7 for non-members. One-year membership cost in $150 and everyone who joins the club is required to go through a safety seminar, Goldstein said.
He said a couple coaches would be on hand the first Sunday of the month during the summer to offer beginning instruction on clay target sports while promoting the gun club. The club is run on a volunteer basis, keeping machines maintained and stocked with clay targets.
“I want to see people enjoy shooting sports safely,” he said.