The Caldwell Gun Club will host the 2019 Idaho State Trapshoot, a three-day state championship that will bring together trapshooting enthusiasts from around the northwest to test their marksmanship and compete for trophies and prize money June 28-30. It is an annual event organized by the Pacific International Trapshooting Association, one of two governing bodies that oversee trapshooting in the United States.
Clayton Brown, vice president of the Caldwell Gun Club, says the state championship is one of the biggest annual trapshooting events in Idaho, drawing shooters from states as far away as California.
“For three days, this place is going to be a little bit of a madhouse,” said Brown, adding that all skill levels and ages will be represented.
Participants will square off in eight events over the course of the championship. The events cover three standard trapshooting categories or “games”— singles, doubles and handicap.
The registered events are only open to PITA members, but members of the public are invited to participate in an easygoing “buddy backer shoot” Friday, June 28. The shoot starts at 6 p.m. and the entry fee for each team is $20.
Brown said there will be some vendors selling merchandise over the weekend and attendees can look forward to free pizza on Friday night.
Brown, whose father introduced him to trapshooting as a kid in California, started competing in local shoots in Caldwell and Boise in 2016 after taking a decades-long hiatus from the sport to raise a family and work in real estate.
As his interest in trapshooting expanded, he began putting more of his time into the Caldwell Gun Club.
“The more I got involved here, the more I started caring about this gun club, and I just saw a lot of things I thought could be improved on,” he said.
Brown says his theme as vice president is “members serving members.” He’s actively working to introduce more people in the Treasure Valley to trapshooting, which has a long history in Idaho.
Kent Harris, a retired junior high school teacher who started trapshooting in the 1950s, knows a lot about the history of the sport. He’s served in a variety of leadership roles in the Boise Gun Club and PITA, and sometimes shoots at the Caldwell Gun Club.
A trapshooting history buff, he’s involved in running the Idaho Trapshooting Hall of Fame, and is currently raising funds to build the Idaho Shotgun Sports Museum in Boise.
Trapshooting has long been intertwined with American gun culture. Although the sport began in England, Harris said it quickly made its way to the United States.
The first recorded competitions date back to the 1830s in Ohio. At that time, marksmen shot at glass balls or live birds released from boxes.
Harris said he’s found evidence of an Idaho state shoot in 1897.
“Goes back a long way,” said Harris. “I had a picture of guys shooting at the old Boise fairgrounds in 1904. I thought maybe that was the first state shoot.”
In 1930, Idaho became a founding member of PITA, which was created to govern trapshooting in the west.
The first state championship organized in Idaho by PITA was held in 1931 at the Boise Gun Club.
“You’ll see to start with, Boise is one of the big ramrod gun clubs, and they held the state shoot for a number of years, but it’s moved all over. And now, after a long period of shuffling around, we have four gun clubs that rotate our state shoot,” said Harris.
Harris said that trapshooting has gained popularity around the country as a high school sport, and gun clubs have realized the importance of reaching out and engaging youth.
“A lot of the gun clubs, a lot of the trap clubs, are getting more and more involved with youth groups,” said Harris.
The Caldwell Gun Club has taken an active role working with youth organizations around the Treasure Valley, including partnering with a high school marksmanship club from Rocky Mountain High School in Meridian.
The club, which welcomes students from schools around the Treasure Valley, practices each Tuesday night in Caldwell.
Members of the club will be competing in the state championship.
Mike Strong, the club’s coach, said his student athletes compete all over Idaho and the northwest each year, and they’ve taken home numerous trophies and prizes.
“We probably shoot 10 or 12 competitions in Idaho, Washington, and Oregon,” said Strong. “Traveling is a big part of it. The moms and dads are very supportive of us.”
Harris said trapshooting offers students a mix of tangible and intangible benefits. Dedicated shooters learn the value of hard work and grit. The best shooters can parlay their skills at the sport into college scholarships and a chance to play at the collegiate level.
“It’s like any other organized activity for youth, it teaches them discipline and it teaches them focus; it teaches them things that you have to do to be successful,” said Harris.
As in most sports, success requires a lot of practice, including not only shooting clay targets ad nauseum but also developing an unwavering attention span.
Brown calls trapshooting a head game.
“And that’s where a lot of us kind of fall short, because it doesn’t take much to lose just a little bit of concentration,” said Brown.
At the state championship, the competition will be fierce. But for a lot of enthusiasts, the people are just as important as the game.
“You look forward to shooting, you look forward to the competition, you hope to win, and you say, I’m gonna see a lot of my friends and I’m gonna have a good time,” said Harris. “So there’s a lot of camaraderie that goes along with the sport.”