Wyoming Life: Trap And Skeet Shooting With Cheyenne East High Clay Target Shooting Team

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By Mark Heinz, Outdoors Reporter
Mark@CowboyStateDaily.com

At the Cheyenne trap and skeet shooting range Monday afternoon, Jace Cox forlornly protested the impending destruction of his favorite hat.

“This is my best one,” he said. “I usually have a spare, but today I forgot it.”

Brad Smith, coach of the Cheyenne East High clay target shooting team, reminded Cox that rules are rules.

“You wear it, you shoot it,” he said.

One of Cox’s teammates, Brookelynn Bryant, was eager to proceed.

“Oh, yeah!” she responded, when asked if she was ready for the hat shooting.

A few minutes later, Smith tossed the hat into the air, a clay pigeon target tucked inside of it for ballast. It was met with a fusillade of shotgun blasts.

Later, Cox surveyed the damage, noting that he’d paid $35 for the cap.

It was all in good fun and team spirit. It’s the team’s tradition that during practices, any shooters who score perfect rounds of 25 hits must offer up their headgear for a hat shoot.  



Skill And Concentration

The team, coaches and some parents gathered at the shooting range Monday for a regular practice session. The Cheyenne East High team welcomes sixth through 12th grade students from across the city. It’s one of several student clay shooting teams that have formed in communities around Wyoming since the sport was first established here in 2019.

The Cheyenne team competes in matches with other squads from Wyoming and the surrounding region. Some of its members also have qualified to go the High School Clay Target League’s national championships, hosted every July in Michigan.

Team member Destin Palluck said he took up trap shooting about three years ago and has loved it.

“I like it mainly just because it’s fun,” he said, adding he also likes the focus the sport demands.

“Every time you miss a shot, you get even more pumped up for the next shot,” he said. “It’s like you tell yourself, ‘Get it this time, get it this time, get it this time!’” he said.

One trick Palluck’s discovered is to line up the muzzle of his shotgun with the edge “trap house.” That’s the low-set box-shaped wooden structure in front of the shooters’ positions. It houses the mechanisms that fling the disc-shaped clay pigeon targets into the air.

Aligning with the edge of the trap house allows a shooter to quicky adjust to the angles at which the targets take flight, bettering their chances of a hit, Palluck said.



Hugely Positive

Destin Palluck’s father Tom said that joining the clay target shooting team has been a hugely positive experience for his son.

“This is great for the kids, it teaches them gun safety and allows them in a sport that anybody can participate in,” he said. “Now, when he (Destin) gets off the school bus at the end of the day, he’s doesn’t want to just sit and play video games. He can’t wait to get out here to the range.”

Destin, 13, also frequently works at the range, helping to keep things cleaned up and organized, his father said. For now, Destin’s too young to be paid for it. But he’ll soon turn 14, and have the opportunity to make it his first paying job.

Fun Without The Politics

Jace Cox, a member of the Cheyenne East High School clay target shooting team, learned the hard way that a perfect score in practice comes with a price. The team’s you wear it, you shoot it rule claimed his new $35 hat. (Mark Heinz, Cowboy State Daily)

The elder Palluck said he’s been coming out to shoot at the trap and skeet range for years, and he’s happy to see the high school league attracting so many young people to the sport.

Other members of the trap team agreed that clay target shooting is a great and unique sport.

“It’s fun. It’s interesting and it’s different,” Cash Christie said.

“It doesn’t have all of the politics and fighting that comes with some of the other sports,” Cox added.

Smith’s son Brody said he enjoys the fast pace of the action and the noise of the gunshots – while wearing proper ear protection, of course.

Brody’s sister Bailee said that for new participants, the skill required, pace and noise of the sport can be “overwhelming” at first. But the rewards are great for those who stick with it.

“For me, it relieves a lot of stress,” she said.

Brad Smith said he’s enjoyed watching his children and others gain skill and confidence through clay target shooting, and he’s eager to see where the team can go from here.

It’s also become a community effort, he added, because many parents and other adults volunteer their time to make it work.

“Not a bit this would be possible without each and every person involved,” he said.

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