BELLE FOURCHE — The sound of popping guns fills the air as Bronc Bird Busters shooting team members engage in a Monday afternoon practice.
Members watch the flight of round clay targets and attempt to time their shots with the target’s anticipated location. A successful effort results in a target’s shattering, with red pieces flying to the ground.
Team members started shooting in mid-March, with the regular season to end in late May. State tournament action is slated for June 12-13 in Aberdeen.
This season’s Bronc Bird Busters team features 23 members in grades seven through 12. All compete in Trap Shooting, with seven also in the Skeet, 5-stand, and/or Sporting Clays disciplines. Sporting Clays and 5-stand events are new.
South Dakota Clay Target League members offered the new disciplines. Teams needed a minimum number of shooters to enter those; Belle Fourche met that requirement.
Aiken Crowley, Odessa Fletcher, Izzy Nicholas, and Alex Voyles represent the senior class. Juniors are Ryan Evans, Riley Newman, and Orin Olson.
Sophomore team members are Brayden Carbajal, Thomas Forbis, and Caden Thomsen. Daniel Krajewski, Brenna Leitner, Carter McKenna, Jonah Musilek, and Trey Smeenk are in the ninth grade.
Four eighth-graders — Payton Jackson, Alex Klocek, Soren Kopp, and Adeline Thomsen — are also on the squad. Seventh-graders Nathan Bowers, Hunter Brown, Ryan Evans, and Timothy Thomsen round out the roster.
Clint Crowley, Dave Hauck, Kelly Singer, Anthony Carbajal, and George King coach the shooters.
Registration ended in late March. Shooters must meet the school’s eligibility requirements and have taken a firearms safety course.
“In general, colleges are looking for an all-around shooter,” team administrator Stephanie Crowley said in describing the new disciplines. “They’re not looking just for trap shooters, someone to do skeet.”
Five team members are in all four disciplines. One competes in three disciplines; four others are in two.
Crowley was asked about early highlights and said, “The interest has been a plus. We weren’t sure how many kids would be interested in the multiple events.”
Trap shooting practice takes place Sundays and Mondays. Skeet and 5-stand practices alternate each week. Sporting clay’s practice is held every few weeks because of traveling.
Sporting clay’s events take place at Lakeside Sporting Clays, in Moorcroft, Wyo., with skeet competition in Hulett, Wyo. The Spearfish Rifle and Trap Club north of town hosts the 5-stand and trap disciplines.
Shooters provide their own firearms (12-gauge or 20-gauge), but the club has some available.
The club provides standard clay target ammunition, which a shooter’s fee partially covers.
Trap competition features one shot at a time. The other events (sporting clay, skeet, and 5-stand) require multiple shots.
Ideal firearms vary with the shooter. Crowley said the firearms must be the right weight, correct length, and provide virtually no recoil when shot.
Early practice sessions center on basics including proper shooting stance, being comfortable with the firearm, and sight alignment. Monday’s practice session featured cold wind, but that could prove beneficial.
“When we go to state, sometimes we have the same environment,” Crowley said. “It is an advantage to our kids by shooting in all types of conditions.”
Starting out in a sport is not really an issue for the youngest shooters.
“The (South Dakota Clay Target) league does a great job of having different divisions with novice, JV, and varsity,” Crowley said. “That’s based on your shooting averages.”
This division makes sure a novice shooter does not have to go against those with considerably more experience, Crowley said.
Novice shooters hit between zero and 14.99 targets per 25 attempts on five scored rounds of 50 apiece.
Junior varsity averages are between 15 and 18.99, with varsity from 19 to 25.
Crowley said the state looks at the averages at season’s end.
Club members keep track of practice rounds, but those are not figured into the final average total.
Team members shoot at their home range, among themselves, during a season.
Crowley said things have always been done in this manner.
Shooting sports lend themselves well to social distancing, according to Crowley. She said club members try to limit their time inside the clubhouse.
Three things will mark success for this season, Crowley said. She cited camaraderie, a willingness to learn, and improving scores.
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