The Minot Gun Club is looking forward to another good year. The impressive facility that is home to area shotgunners is located north of Minot. Both trap and skeet shooting is available. In addition the club added a new twist - rather a wobble - to their shooting lineup this summer.
"We had two trap machines that were in need of rebuilding," said Mark Vickerman, president. "Rather than just do the rebuild we had an upgrade on them to incorporate a wobble as an added feature."
Unlike standard clay target throwers that move from left to right, a wobble trap incorporates oscillations that often throws clay targets at much higher angles. The varying trajectories means trapshooters must make rapid adjustments at the line.
"People are finding it's a real challenge," said Vickerman. "It's the same clay, the same 25 birds, but an added challenge. All a person has to do is ask to shoot a round of wobble and we'll get them out there on the line."
League shooting got under way at the club this past week. League shooting consists of five-man teams that shoot 10 rounds of 25 clay targets over a 10-week period. The league season is divided into two five-week sessions. The format means teams can capture different placements in each half of the season.
"It's not only just a fun competition, it's the camaraderie," said Sharon Reistad, manager. "The people out here are so friendly and there is so much fun. It's a family-oriented place and the people are very willing to help."
Mark Vickerman, Minot Gun Club president, left, and Sharon Reistad, manager, say they welcome newcomers to see what the club has to offer. Both trapshooting and skeet are available at the club for men, women and youth shooters.
Members of the Minot Gun Club relax and converse during an evening of shooting at the facility north of the city.
A shooter shatters a clay target thrown from one of the voice-activated traphouses at the Minot Gun Club.
Shotgunners do not have to be a member of a team to shoot at the Minot Gun Club. Shooters are welcome at the shooting line Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings from 5:30 until sundown and on Sundays from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. Family and individual memberships are $50 per year. Again this year, the club hosts "steak night" each Thursday, where participants can shoot and enjoy a meal from the grill.
"We're always looking to increase membership," said Vickerman. "Anybody who wants to come out and shoot is welcome. That allows us to improve the club. We're not for profit."
Non-members are allowed to shoot at the club two times before membership is required. That allows prospective members ample opportunity to experience what the club has to offer before committing to a membership.
Regular shooters at the club include men, women and youth. The junior shooting program, which is funded entirely by grants from the Friends of NRA, is regularly conducted Monday evenings. The program has expanded to include ages 12-23 with the addition of Academic Integrity in Marksmanship, or AIM, the official youth program of the Amateur Trapshooting Association. AIM's purpose is to provide a safe and positive experience shooting experience for all youth from elementary school through college.
The junior program serves as a feeder program of sorts for the club too. Several juniors participate in league shooting, an example of the variety of shooters who enjoy what the Minot Gun Club has to offer.
"We've got two teams that are nothing but juniors, which is wonderful," said Reistad. "We've got one team that is all women. We're seeing more women getting involved."
Ladies-only shooting nights have proven to be very popular at the club. A Ladies' Night was held earlier this month and another is scheduled for August. Additional events scheduled at the Minot Gun Club this summer include a night shoot and the state trapshooting championship, meaning there will be something for every shooter regardless of ability.
Many Minot Gun Club shooters take aim at clay targets just to remain reasonably efficient with a shotgun and enjoy the company of other like-minded individuals at the club.
"People in the shooting sports want to share their passion," said Vickerman. "They want others to get involved in the shooting sports. They want to share with others just because they feel so strongly about it."
A number of shooters hone their skills on clay targets in preparation for North Dakota's fall bird hunting seasons. While trapshooting differs from upland game bird hunting in that clay targets slow down after thrown and flushed birds accelerate, the fundamentals of shooting remain the same.
"You can make yourself a better shooter and a better hunter," said Vickerman.
Not to be overlooked at the Minot Gun Club is the growing popularity of skeet shooting. Interest has led to the addition of a second skeet field to accommodate more shooters.
"With two complete fields you can run through way more people," said Tom Kelsh, Minot Gun Club. "We were shooting in February. If you come out on a Sunday afternoon, we'd have 20 people waiting to shoot."
While trapshooting throws targets away from the shooter, skeet offers an entirely different set of challenges. Most skeet targets are crossing shots or targets thrown toward the shooter, creating a much different set of angles than experienced on the trap range.
The number of skeet shooters at the club has seen highs and lows throughout recent years. However current interest is high, which led to the opening of a second skeet range. Further improvements, including new skeet target throwers, are planned for the near future.
Shotgun shells are available at the Minot Gun Club for minimal cost. Hearing and eye protection are required while at the shooting line.