High school trap shooting is the fastest-growing sport in Minnesota. Owatonna High School does not offer the activity, but several local teams shoot at the Owatonna Gun Club.

About 8,600 student athletes are registered in the clay target league this spring, up from 6,000 participants a year ago. About 275 schools across Minnesota support a team. The sport began in 2001 with three teams and 30 shooters. Generating business for gun clubs was one of the reasons behind the formation of the league. After slow growth for the first 10 years, it has taken off over the past few years.

This spring, Winona and Rochester have added trap shooting. The three Rochester public schools have combined for a single team of about 40 shooters. Faribault, Austin and Northfield are the other Big Nine schools that have a team. Blooming Prairie, Triton, Medford and New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva all have trap shooting teams. Teams include boys and girls participating side by side.

Safety is a strong point of emphasis for the league. Since 2001, the Minnesota State High School Clay Target League has no reported injuries. All shooters are required to have completed the firearms safety course.

The league hosts an open tournament in Alexandria, Minn., each June. This year's event is expected to draw more than 5,000 student athletes, which will make it the largest sport shooting event in the world. Last year the Minnesota State High School League sponsored a post-season tournament, becoming the first in the nation to promote trap shooting as a high school sport. In 2014, Buffalo won the state title. The top individual, from Dassel-Cokato, shot 99 out of 100. NRHEG had a pair of state qualifiers: Collin Christenson (90/100) and Kyle Bartz (85/100).

The season began in late March. Several weeks of practice will be followed by five weeks of competition. Each round consists of shooting two 25-target rounds for a total of 50 targets. The shooter stands 16 feet from the trap house and shoots five shots each from five different stations.

A Twin Cities television station recently did a report on the sport.

Minnesota DNR awards second round of trap range grants

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources recently issued its second round of grants to gun clubs, with the main goal of enhancing youth opportunities. The Owatonna Gun Club received a grant of more than $18,000. Shooting ranges in Pine Island, Winona, Morristown and Montgomery also received money. More than 20 clubs received grants.

This round of grants from the DNR totaled more than $800,000. Last year $400,000 was issued. The Minnesota Legislature appropriated more than $2 million for the grants last year.

Trap shooting as a spectator sport

My son is a trap shooter. He is in his third year of the spring league and also shot in the fall league the past two years. I am not much of a shooter and our family does not hunt. But Aaron has had a passion for target shooting ever since his time in Boy Scouts. Trap shooting is a perfect fit for him. I think it is worth noting that many of the shooters also participate in other sports. Some are even in track or baseball, which is also a spring sport.

I have found it to be a great spectator sport. I enjoy watching how each shooter takes their own approach to their shot. Each has their own lead up and follow through. Like fans of most sports, I've also got all the answers from the sidelines. There is even an occasional scoring dispute when only a small piece comes off the clay target.

Each competition is a virtual event. Teams shoot at their designated weekly time and their scores are submitted and compared to the others in their conference. Teams don't shoot alongside their opponents. As a fan, you are simply rooting for your team, and not cheering against anyone. Trap shooting takes place in nearly all weather conditions. Teams shoot in cold, wind and rain. Only lightning causes a delay.

Aaron shot in a driving rain in Alexandria in 2013, and had his best score of the season. 
trap shoot at state in Alexandria