Shotgunners on the swing

The Minot Gun Club is anticipating another busy shooting season. Based on early response, it could be a very, very busy season. League shooting began May 7 with one of the largest turnouts in club history.

“Oh my gosh! It’s fabulous already,” said Sharon Reistad, club manager. “The response this year has been overwhelming. People are having a great time. We’ve had to add another league category.”

Teams consist of five shooters. Shooters can shoot their league rounds of 25 clay targets whenever their schedule allows. The club is open Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Sundays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. All of the club’s traphouses operate by voice-activation, meaning shotgunners see targets fly from the traphouse on command.

The club continues to make improvements, not all of which are readily visible, said club president Mark Vickerman.

“We just completed upgrading of the trap line. Now all of the traps have automated turret machines. No longer do we have to hand load any of them,” said Vickerman.

Self-loading trap machines have been in use for several years at the club. The exception has been traphouses 1,2, 7 and 8.

“With the automated machines we can host the State Shoot on nine houses – eight for competition and one for practice,” explained Vickerman.

Although league shooting is a draw, so too is the opportunity for open shooting at the club. New shooters are welcome to visit the club, including shooting an introductory round of clays.

“We’re open to non-member participation on a limited basis to try it on for size,” said Vickerman. “Our yearly membership rate of $50 per family is one of the lowest in the nation.”

Ladies and junior programs are also available at the club. The first of two Ladies Nights is scheduled for May 17. In past years the ladies events have been very well attended.

“It’s a free night of shooting for the ladies,” said Reistad. “We’re trying to get them interested. We’ll have dinner, shooting and coaches. No men allowed and you don’t have to be a member. We’ll start at 6 p.m. and go until we’re finished. If they don’t have a shotgun we’ll supply one they can use.”

Bill Niemann is the chairman of the club’s youth shooting program. Nearly 100 youth age 12 to 18 participated in the program in 2012. Niemann says he expects a similar number this year.

“We started last Monday night. We’ve got about 80 right now but I know there is more coming,” said Niemann. “One thing new is that we have two lady instructors. They handle the girls. We’ve had a lot of good comments on that.”

Several coaches assist Niemann during youth events. The coaches introduce young shooters to proper etiquette and the finer points of shooting a shotgun. There is no cost for the program. Shotshells and targets are provided.

“No cost. Just come, bring a gun and have fun with an attitude to learn,” said Niemann. “We’ll get them going in a lifelong sport they’ll enjoy.”

Shotgunning at the club is not limited to the trap range where participants toe the line at various distances behind traphouses. Skeet shooting, where clay targets are thrown at a variety of distances and angles from high and low houses, has seen so much increased interest that an expansion is warranted. Current plans are to add a second skeet range by mid-summer.

“We have a very active skeet league,” said Vickerman. “Quite a number of people are interested in taking up the discipline. We’re collecting materials to get a second skeet range put together. It will be adjacent to the one we have.”

As the club continues to grow in membership and facilities, the demand for additional shotgun shooting sports is apparent. Under consideration at the Minot Gun Club is a discipline known as “5 stand”.

“In simplest terms, it is sporting clays on a skeet field,” said Vickerman. “We’re hoping to get some donations so we can accomplish that.”

A plus for shotgunners is that, unlike rifle and pistol ammunition, shells are readily available. The club maintains a supply of 12 and 20 gauge shotshells for sale to shooters who need an extra box or two while utilizing the trap range.