The fastest-growing sport in Minnesota has come to Red Wing.
More than 10,000 students across the state have taken up a shotgun to participate in the spring trap shooting season.
“There’s more numbers in this than in hockey — and this is the state of hockey,” said Scott Kosek, trap coach and high school teacher.
“It’s really a new thing for Red Wing to put in, because there are a bunch of cities around us that are doing this and it’s just something that we haven’t done yet, so it would be a good thing to start up for Red Wing,” said trap shooter Sam Kelly.
In its first year, the team has 35 students, and Kosek said he expects that number to grow in subsequent years.
“We’d like to see our team grow not only in size, but in gender,” Kosek said of his team, which currently has two girls who participate, “because there are a lot of girls that enjoy the outdoors.”
One difference between Red Wing’s trap shooting team and others is the link between the club team and the school.
“It’s rare to have people in the school, like myself,” Kosek said. “The most, almost all the clubs, do not have any contact with anybody in the school, and that’s unfortunate, because then, as a club, you feel like a little bit of an outsider, and we want to make sure everybody in our school knows what we’re doing.”
Kosek said that defeats the purpose, in his view, of what a school club should be about.
“The whole idea of being in an activity is to develop relationships with students and also for them to get better at what they’re doing,” he said. “It makes it more fun for me, too.”
Students agreed, and said it has helped bring people together who wouldn’t in other situations.
“I just shoot at home,” said William Meacham, adding one of the positives of being on a team is the shared knowledge and working on technique.
“Yeah, like a lot of people I don’t talk to at school, once we get to trap it’s like making a new friendship with other people and just getting to know them better,” Kelly said.
The idea began to get traction about a year ago, Kosek said, and it was something he wanted to do for the students.
“It has to be a group of people who are invested in the time and effort of helping our youth in the outdoors,” he said. “That has been falling by the wayside immensely.”
One of the positives, Kosek said, is the safety training for everyone who wants to participate — a firearms safety certificate is the minimum requirement.
“Our safety training exceeds that certificate times 10,” Kosek said. “Kids will walk away from this season, they’ll be able to be mentors to other kids about safety and they’ll be able to mentor even their own parents.”
The mentorship that comes with a team is something else the kids take away, according to Kosek.
“These kids are going to hunt and shoot anyway, but now we have a group and they can do it together, have fun together,” he said.
A community effort
Kosek said the community has rallied around the team. The Red Wing Wildlife League, Frontenac Sportsman’s Club, Pheasants Forever, Struss Optical, Four Seasons Sports and others have donated time, money or supplies to the team. Anywhere from 16 to 19 volunteers show up to help out every Sunday as well, he added.
“All these places have stepped up to the plate and helped us,” Kosek said. “There’s guys that are just, they want to help out.”
According to Kosek, one aspect that’s still missing — a shotgun range.
“We need to develop a shotgun range with probably four to five houses that will not only serve our school team, but also serve our public,” he said. “We want this place to be within five or six minutes of Red Wing. We won’t be in city limits, because we need at least 10 acres to develop a shotgun range that’s burmmed and protected and safe.”
Kosek said the recently proposed gun range within city limits would not fulfill their need.
“So we’re just hoping we can get the community more behind us to help us build the facility, because that’s what we need,” Kosek said.
The team currently shoots at the Hampton Sportman Club on Sundays, usually from 1 to 5 p.m. All the scoring is done online, so teams don’t need face-to-face competition. Currently, Red Wing ranks second in its conference, which includes Mountain Lake, Triton, Coon Rapids, Fergus Falls, New Ulm and Montevideo high schools.