ELCO – Most of the time when the words “kids” and “guns” appear in the same sentence, the connotation is not something good.
But the Roscoe Sportsmen’s Association has been doing something to combat that.
The Roscoe Sportsmen, located in Elco, has hosted a youth trap league for the past dozen years, with an astounding 35 kids shooting in this year’s league, which wrapped up its schedule last Sunday. The league is generally for ages 10-17, though some shooters are even younger.
“It’s a great bunch of kids,” said one of the league’s organizers, Mike Hela. “We teach them safety, first and foremost, but we also make sure they have fun. This is not a classroom-type thing. The kids really enjoy it.”
For those unfamiliar with trap shooting, competitors use a shotgun to shoot at clay “birds” propelled from a single house or machine in front of them from five stations. They get five shots at each station, with the targets being propelled away from the shooter to mimic the flight of a game bird.
This year’s league champion, 13-year-old Kyle Scrip, scored a 197 for the season, which lasts 12 weeks. The league counts the top 10 scores for each shooter, discarding their worst two weeks, meaning Scrip averaged nearly 20 out of 25 targets each week.
That’s not bad for someone who joined the league three years ago.
“He’s constantly shooting,” said Scrip’s father, Chad. “He really loves it.”
As the regular season champion, Scrip wasn’t shooting Sunday as the league’s other competitors tested themselves in four groupings to take home this year’s trophies. They were broken into groupings based on their skill level.
Unlike the regular season, when parents are encouraged to help their children with the shooting, they were not permitted to coach them for the championships – though some exceptions were made for the shooters younger than 10.
“They all take this very seriously,” Hela said. “They all really want to win.”
With the help of grants from the National Rifle Association and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, the league has been able to keep shooting costs at a minimum.
The grants pay for all of the clay birds, while the club has shotguns available for kids who don’t own one – though most bring their own. Their only expense is the purchase of shells – though as we all know, prices for those have risen greatly.
“We’ve been fortunate,” Hela said of the grant money the club has received. “When we’re done each year, we fill out a form and send pictures to show how the money was spent, where it went. The grants have really been great.”
And, at least on this day, the weather held out for the league’s championships – not that weather isn’t sometimes a factor.
The league is held over the winter so as not to conflict with spring and summer sports, allowing more kids to participate.
“There have been times where the snow has been coming down sideways,” said Chad Scrip. “The birds come out and are moving all over the place in the wind. But that’s realistic.”
And the kids don’t seem to mind.
“I’ve had kids out here in T-shirts and shorts shooting in a snowstorm,” said Hela. “They say they don’t like to shoot with a heavy coat on.”
The enjoyment is all the same for both the shooters and the club members.
“We’ve been really fortunate with the turnout we’ve had, not only with the kids, but with the club members who come out and help out,” said Hela. “There’s a lot of members who have worked hard to make this a great experience for the kids.”
Outdoors Editor F. Dale Lolley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.