The Devils Lake School Board may decide today whether to add a high school trapshooting team to its school activities.
A group promoting the team wants the students to be part of a new North Dakota High School Clay Target League, which supporters say should begin competition this spring.
“The group is asking to participate using the Firebirds name, to be allowed to earn a letter, and to get recognition in the school yearbook, at no cost to the district,” Superintendent Scott Privratsky said.
All shooting is conducted at local firearms ranges, and no guns are allowed to be brought onto school property, said James Wang, one of the team’s organizers.
The sport, which is open to boys and girls from the sixth to 12th grades who have earned firearm safety certificates, is self-supported, with volunteer coaches.
Student athletes or their families provide the shotguns and pay for participation. The teams also raise money for other costs, such as uniforms and travel.
Wang, who is the Benson County state’s attorney, based in Minnewaukan, N.D., said more than 30 youths already participate in local 4-H shooting sports programs.
“It’s a marvelous thing for these smaller schools, where they can’t stand up huge programs,” Wang said. “In shooting sports, everybody participates.”
The popularity of clay target shooting -- which includes trapshooting -- has been exploding in recent years.
For instance, the Minnesota State High School Clay Target League, which started in 2008 with three schools and 54 student participants, grew to 380 schools and more than 6,100 participants in 2014, according to the league’s website. Officials are expecting as many as 8,000 participants this year.
Northwest Minnesota teams involved include East Grand Forks, Fisher, Crookston, Marshall County Central, Lincoln High School in Thief River Falls, Warroad, Roseau; Badger-Greenbush-Middle River; and Lake of the Woods, with others joining this spring.
Other states, including Wisconsin and Nebraska, also are experiencing fast-paced growth in their programs.
Devils Lake is among several local gun clubs and other groups organizing teams to compete in the new North Dakota high school league, which plans to begin competition in April.
Among them are Grand Forks, Fargo, West Fargo, Bismarck, Minot, Central Cass in Casselton and Dickinson, and possibly others, according to Mike Kempel, Fargo, who is president of the North Dakota Trapshooters Association.
Jon Secord, a Grand Forks resident and state director of AIM (Academics, Integrity, Marksmanship), the Amateur Trapshooting Association’s youth shooting program, said its members will be encouraged to register when they meet later today.
While AIM membership ranges from ages 12 to 23, those between the ages of 14 and 17 are the most likely to join the high school league.
“Every one of those would jump on it,” he said.
Secord has not approached local schools for approval as a school activity, but he is hoping either Grand Forks Central or Red River would be interested in it.
Oak Grove High School in Fargo already has approved a team, said Kempel, whose children attend the school. He said it’s possible that Fargo could have as many as three teams.
Privratsky, the Devils Lake superintendent, said school officials have had to consider several issues, including the fact that the district recently eliminated some sports and activities in a cost-saving effort. Other activities still are being monitored.
Other factors are insurance and whether approval could be seen as supporting guns in school.
“The coaches would be volunteers, and we run all of our coaches through background checks,” he said. “I think we can balance that out.”
So far, he has received comments from four people, all of whom supported the proposal.
Still, he said Tuesday he was continuing to gather information and that he had not decided yet whether to recommend approval of a Firebirds shooting team.
For more information, go to: http://ndclaytarget.com.