RMEF Grant, Volunteers help Potosi Youths
By Denise Kieler, Chair, River Bluffs Chapter
Elk don’t recognize state borders, and RMEF volunteers don’t tend to pay them much heed, either. Earlier this year, a group of volunteers from the River Bluffs Chapter in Dubuque, Iowa, took their support of hunting and outdoor programs for young people across the border into Wisconsin to help launch a new trapshooting club at the Potosi School District.
Potosi, population 700, is a tiny and tight-knit community. This spring, the school district decided to join the Wisconsin High School Clay Shooting League. The program welcomes youth grades 6-12, with the only stipulation being they hold a hunter safety certificate.
The Potosi team consisted of 10 participants, including seven boys and three girls. After rounding up support—which included an RMEF state grant, donated use of the local Southwest Wisconsin Sportsmen’s Club, local gun dealer and RMEF volunteer LaVerne Lehman reloading shells at cost, and many personal donations—the team began shooting in late April. Each team member shot 50 clay targets every Thursday night and some Saturdays at the sportsmen’s club for nine weeks, wrapping up their season in late June.
Six adults volunteered to coach the team, including Don and Nancy Johnson (owners of the sportsmen’s club), Gene Kieler and Ed McKenzie—all from the River Bluffs Chapter. Some of the kids had been shooting for years while others were just beginners. The coaches taught them the basics of shooting safety and helped with marksmanship.
Sometimes the smallest adjustment from a coach made a huge difference. For instance, one boy had too large a gun, so McKenzie loaned him one from his personal collection. The boy improved his shooting by 25 percent the very next round and about 50 percent overall by the end of the season.
Another boy kept hitting only a couple of clays per 25 without improvement. Don Johnson checked to determine his dominant eye, found he was right-eye dominant, switched shoulders and the boy instantly went from one or two hits out of 25 to 8-10, and was shooting 15-18 out of 25 by the end of the season.
Sportsmanship, respect and courtesy are also important aspects of the program. One parent commented that she was amazed that a group of 6th-12th graders could get along so well and be so helpful to each other.
When it was all said and done, the team earned spring league awards for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place for highest state girl league shooters, 1st and 3rd place for highest state boy league shooters, 1st place in the conference, and 1st place for highest overall average shooter. They attended the High School State Tournament in Rome, Wisconsin, on June 13, where the girls earned 1st and 2nd place.
“Not every kid has the physical ability or desire to play baseball or football,” says Nancy Johnson. “In trapshooting, there are no bench warmers. Everyone gets to shoot and participate the same amount of time as the next person. It is up to the individual how far they want to take it and how much they are willing to improve.”
It certainly seems like the Potosi trapshooting team is shooting for the stars.