Youthful curiosity leads to trap shooting success for Hower

Aaron Hower IV takes aim during the PA State Trap Shoot on Wednesday in Elsyburg.

More than 1.3 million clay targets will be launched and fired upon over the next week as hundreds of the country’s best shooters converge in Elysburg for the Pennsylvania State Trap Shoot.

“I believe we will be well-attended this year,” said Skip Klinger, executive director of the Pennsylvania State Shotgunning Association (PSSA). “A lot of it will come down to the weather. If we get thunderstorms or extended rain, it can put events in jeopardy. The key to a good shoot is the one thing we have no control over — the weather.”

The festivities kicked off this weekend with the Colonial Classic, featuring competitions for the youth shooters via the Scholastic Clay Target Program yesterday and the AIM program — developed by the American Trapshooting Association — shooting today.

“These shoots bring 350-plus kids each of the days this weekend. They help determine the state championship for each organization and helps them develop teams for the national competition in Sparta, Illinois,” said PSSA President Mike Schuler.

The state trapshoot begins Monday and runs through next weekend, with 17 different specialized shooting categories and competitions spread out over the week.

“This whole event is like a credenza,” said Klinger. “It starts with the Keystone shoot in May and then works its way through the state trapshoot events this week escalating to the Krieghoff Challenge on Friday.”

The Krieghoff Challenge usually draws the biggest field of shooters — and spectators — each year, as competitors vie for a nearly $20,000 Krieghoff K-80 shotgun ACS combo.

Another draw for many at the state shoot is Vendors’ Row, a collection of shooting-related vendors offering a wide variety of wares.

“Some people come out to stock up on shooting supplies, others want shooting-inspired clothing or other items,” said Schuler. “I know of several people who come each year just for Vendors’ Row.”

The full event is also a summertime staple for many high school students looking to earn a few extra dollars by helping keep score and reload trap machines.

“We brought in 70 new loaders and scorers, many of them 14-15 years old,” said Klinger. “Starting back in early April, we’d train two hours a night on Mondays and Thursdays for five weeks. If someone works the full nine days, they could log upwards of 80 to 90 hours. Most won’t do that, but there is definitely opportunity for these young people to do well.”

While the state trapshoot won’t veer too far off of the standard set in previous years, the PSSA executives do have a huge announcement to share concerning the future of the Valley Rod and Gun Club in Elysburg. The group is in the midst of a $4 million renovation on the grounds with the ultimate goal of opening a 365-day per year facility dubbed the “Northeast Shooting Complex.”

“Things have really begun moving on this vision. We have gone from a silent phase of research and fundraising to an active phase. We have commitments from our executive members and are looking for public support,” said Schuler. “We are looking into a recreational grant through the state and are open to collaborating with corporations for naming rights. The first thing will be to requisite the proper permits before a shovel goes into the ground.”

One of the main focuses of the complex, which will include a variety of different shotgun shooting layouts (skeet, 5-stand, etc.) will be an active sporting clays course – this actually is part of the first of seven phases planned for development.

“Most shooters coming into the sport currently seem to be drawn to sporting clays — in fact, research shows that seven out of 10 new shooters are gravitating toward that instead of ATA trapshooting,” said Schuler. “Sporting clays offers a unique shooting experience where four or five or six guys can go around together like a round of golf, chatting, talking and not standing on a trap line where everyone is quiet and doing their own thing.”

The complex will ultimately include the new sporting clays course, a sporting clays clubhouse, renovations to the main clubhouse to help facilitate year-round usage, 10 skeet fields, 15 additional full-service campsites, improvements to the roadways and parking, a new target building, permanent vendor buildings and eventually the purchasing of additional acreage.

Schuler, Klinger and the rest of the PSSA team will hold an informational session about the new complex during the upcoming week — at 6 p.m. Wednesday.

For more information about the PSSA, the upcoming state trapshoot or the proposed Northeast Shooting Complex, visit pssashotgunshooting.org or contact Klinger directly at sklinger@pssashotgunning.org or 717-867-4269.