Trying to hit a target 30 feet away with a shotgun is tough enough.
Trying to snipe the same target traveling up and away at speed? Near impossible for the average shooter.
About a dozen shotgun shooting proteges at the Snowshoe Gun Club in Kenai were blasting almost every single disc out of the sky on a recent sunny afternoon, and making it look easy, too. For the group of young shooters, it’s all part of the lifestyle.
“If you’re not good at basketball or can’t carry a football, then this is a great sport to take up,” said club director Jim Trujillo. “These kids can shoot the snot out of everything.”
Shotgun shooting differs from rifle shooting in that competitors must hit moving discs, compared to stationary targets with rifles, and the amount of shots in official competition move from four or five in riflery to more than 200 in shotgun shooting.
The young shooters, ranging from sixth-graders to high school seniors, make up the Peninsula Shooting Stars. The success of the club — three straight state championships and dozens of individual crowns — has netted two of its members college scholarships.
SoHi senior Emily Books and home-schooled senior Bailey Horne both recently earned scholarships to shoot at Midland University in Fremont, Nebraska, an NAIA school. Both shooters are among the best in the state-contending group at the Kenai-based club. Books has collected over 45 individual medals herself, while Horne has won national competitions.
“I was kind of surprised at first,” Books said about hearing of her scholarship offer. “I was looking at colleges, and wasn’t hearing from anyone. Then they called me.”
Books is a three-time state champion in trap, skeet and sporting clays, and said she has practiced up to six hours a day to reach her current level of shooting.
Growing up with her father, Aaron, an avid hunter, Books caught the bug from age 11, when her dad took her out to the range to see how she would fare.
Using a shotgun she had never fired before, Books went 5 for 5 on targets, effectively sparking her shooting career.
“After that, it was always, ‘Let’s go to the range,’” Books said.
Books said she plans on studying criminal justice at Midland.
Last Saturday’s scholastic clay shoot, the fourth of four competitions on the Kenai this spring, was a registered shoot for the Amateur Trap Shooting Association, in which all results are submitted to the National Trap Association. It is what helped get Books and Horne the exposure that resulted in collegiate opportunities.
Horne has been shooting competitively for six years, and said when he began going to scholastic competitions in Anchorage, it pushed him to strive for better results, and the more trophies he won, the more it appeared he found his calling.
“Time flies,” Horne said. “It goes fast.”
Horne hit a jaw-dropping 199 out of 200 shots at a West Regional Championship event in Sparta, Illinois, in 2016, and the same year won a state championship at a clay target program in Birchwood, Alaska.
Describing himself as being home-schooled at “Horne Elementary,” Horne said in his experience shooting, the one constant has been the variety of competitors he has met.
“I learned people are different flavors,” he said.
Snowshoe committee member Dean Glick said the youth shooters have taken the team to new heights that has left the clubhouse with trophies jamming the windowsills and walls. Glick said kids typically approach the sport as a new challenge and end up becoming hooked.
“It’s for the sport,” Glick said. “It’s (about competing) against yourself.”
Glick, Trujillo and the rest of the club coaching staff have been part of the club since its beginnings in 2011. In that time, the Shooting Stars have risen to become one of the state’s top clubs, beating out as many as 19 teams to win the state team title.
Glick said the club stresses safety, schooling and shooting as the top priorities, teaching safe gun handling, personal responsibility on the range, at home and at school, and they teach it as a lifelong hobby that will bear rewards and a sense of accomplishment.
The club holds open shoots on Wednesdays and Sundays, and Glick said he invites all ages to check out the clay shooting and pistol ranges.