Right On Target

Clay Target Student and CoachBethany is set to make history as the first four-year college in Southern Minnesota to add the sport of clay target to its co-curricular program. Clay target involves shooting a firearm at cylindrical flying objects known as clay targets. Hitting the target requires skill, timing, and hand-eye coordination. Clay target competition is conducted through high school programs, at local clubs, national and international competitions, and all the way through to the Olympics where it’s known as skeet shooting. The sport is safe, exciting, challenging, and fun. Competitive clay target participants generally obtain their state’s hunter education certificate and complete the Student Athlete Firearm Education (SAFE) Certification program.

Minnesota is known as the national leader regarding youth involvement in clay target sports (Gregory, Time Magazine, 2019). In 2008, the Minnesota State High School Clay Target League (MNSHSCTL) was started with three teams and thirty student athletes, and it’s grown quickly. Recent numbers show over 12,000 high school students and 450 schools participating. The MNSHSCTL Championship is regarded as the largest sport shooting event in the world. With the Minnesota league’s popularity, neighboring states inquired about joining. As a result, the USA High School Clay Target League (USAHSCTL) was incorporated in 2012 as a non-profit organization geared towards duplicating Minnesota’s remarkable success in the sport. By the end of 2018, nearly 26,000 students on over 800 teams in twenty states were participating in USAHSCTL programs. Also in 2018, the League began to expand its offering to post-secondary institutions beginning with the Minnesota College Athletic Conference (MCAC) which features competitive shooting sports at thirteen technical and community colleges. While four-year colleges and universities in neighboring states are already competing, the Bethany clay target program is groundbreaking in Southern Minnesota collegiate ranks.

Bethany’s Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. Ted Manthe will oversee the development of the start-up program and he is welcoming the new activity. 

“Observing the growth of clay target and trap at high schools throughout Minnesota, Bethany is excited to form a collegiate clay target team. We’re eager for what collegiate clay target sports will bring to our campus and to our community here in Southern Minnesota. The sport provides competitive opportunities for both men and women alike to participate on the same team while continuing to enjoy and compete in a life-long activity,” said Manthe.

The Bethany Clay Target Team will be a competitive sport team and will consist of a co-ed roster of 20-30 participants, and will likely grow into two squads (Varsity/JV). Competitors are eligible to earn up to $2,000 in activity scholarships depending on individual qualifications. Bethany will look to join a competitive college league such as the USA Clay Target Association (USACTA). 

The clay target season will be a 19-week season (nine weeks in the fall and ten weeks in the spring) with the top varsity competitors traveling and participating in live clay target events.  The entire team will likely take part in virtual competitions, meaning the participants will run an event at their home club while competing against other teams in a virtual situation. 

Bethany has reached an agreement with the Caribou Gun Club and Hunting Preserve in rural Le Sueur County to use the facility as its home practice and competition site. The club was founded in 1953 by Earl Voss and is owned today by his son, Randy Voss, an international trap competitor. The Caribou Club features skeet, sporting clay, and trap stations on its 750-acre site. Caribou is considered to be one of the premier shooting competition destinations in North America. The facility hosted the 2012 U.S. Open Sporting Clays Competition and the 2015 World Federation Internationale de Tir Aux Sportives de Chasse’ (FITASC) competition. FITASC is an international form of sporting clays and enjoys a following the world over. The Club most recently hosted the 2017 National Sporting Clays Association (NSCA) North Central Regional Championship in 2017. 

Manthe mentioned, “We’re thrilled to be able to compete at a world class facility. It’s exciting to call the Caribou Club our home field and range.”

The Bethany Clay Target Team will conduct weekly practices during the season at the Caribou Club and will also hold virtual practices in an on-campus team facility that will feature a virtual simulation space to augment range time. The space will have a virtual simulator, study area, social area, and team lockers. Kenn Mueller, a ten-year clay and trap coach at Minnesota’s Sibley East High School, will lead the team.