hone their shooting skills at the first Mizzou Trap Academy. During the
three-day camp, the participants, all juniors and seniors in high school, shot
300 rounds and received instruction from expert shooters.
But it’s about a lot more than shooting, says David Vaught, chair of the
Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism at the University of Missouri.
“There are a lot of things going on beside the shooting itself,” Vaught says.
“When they’re out here they’re learning teamwork. They’re learning
leadership. They’re learning focus and concentration, and skills like goal-
Vaught says the Mizzou Trap Academy is also designed to encourage
students to attend college, whether at MU or some other institution, and
for students to learn about their personal strengths and interests and how
these might guide career choices.
It also teaches patience. The first day at camp takes place on the MU
campus, where participants engage in team-building exercises, socializing
and activities providing physical and mental challenges.
Campers have to wait until after lunch on the second day to begin shooting
at Prairie Grove Shotgun Sports, a shooting range and gun club several
miles east of Columbia. Then it starts raining, so campers have to wait even
longer, but the rain tapers off before too long and it’s finally time to shoot.
Trap shooting is a form of clay target shooting similar to skeet shooting. The
airborne targets are ceramic discs, about 4 1/4 inches in diameter and
typically painted bright orange. From within a low, concrete-block
structure, a device called a trap machine launches the targets at about 50
mph. The machine rotates back and forth, sort of like an oscillating fan, so
shooters can’t predict the exact course of their target.
The train has stopped but erratic winds make the shooting more difficult.
“The wind is a good challenge,” Vaught says. “Any good shooter would
struggle in this wind.”
“It’s very challenging, but it’s fine. It makes it fun,” says Breeann Vieth, a
senior from Washington, Missouri.
Vieth—aka “Breeann Jean the Shooting Machine”—shoots for an American
Legion team in Franklin County.
“I couldn’t do other sports because I have bad knees,” she says. “But my
dad said I had to pick a sport, so I tried trap shooting. The first time I picked
up the gun I got 14 out of 25.”
In basic trap shooting, the shooters stand 16 yards behind the trap house.
When you’re ready, you call out “Pull!” and one of the instructors uses a
remote control to launch a target. If you hit the target, the clay disc is
Trap shooting appears to be as much a mental discipline as a physical skill.
“We’re trying to get the kids to think about what they’ve got to do,” says
Vaught. “We want them to not think about things around them, not be
distracted, not let anything around them influence their ability to do what
they know they can do, and that is hit the target.”
Missing the target can be frustrating, but getting frustrated will only make
you even more likely to miss.
“Don’t be negative,” Vaught tells one group of campers as they get ready to
shoot. “If you miss, don't think about it. Move on. Dial everything out.”
The names of most legendary trap shooters aren’t household words. An
exception is John Philip Sousa, famed composer of military marches. In the
early 1900s Sousa founded the American Trapshooting Association, which
continues today as the Amateur Trapshooting Association.
For Sousa, to “dial everything out” meant even banishing music from his
head. “I learned to leave my music at home,” he has been quoted as saying.
“Let me say that just about the sweetest music to me is when I call ‘pull,’
the old gun barks, and the referee, in perfect key, announces ‘dead.’”
Vieth says she experiences similar feelings when she’s shooting well.
“Butterflies in your tummy. You get all smiley and you just feel like, ‘You did
it! You dared yourself to do it and you did it.’ It’s just overwhelming.”
The Mizzou Trap Academy is sponsored by a grant from the MidwayUSA
Foundation, which supports education in shooting, hunting, firearms safety
and outdoor skills through endowment funding. Additional support was
provided by the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources,
the MU School of Natural Resources, and Prairie Grove Shotgun Sports.
In addition to Vaught, coaches and presenters at the Mizzou Trap Academy
included Terri DeWitt, a veteran of the U.S. trap shooting team at the 1996
Summer Olympics in Atlanta; Mark Brownlee, an internationally known
shooting coach and consultant on mental and physical skills development;
and Brian Thompson, who as an MU undergraduate in 2005 was an
intercollegiate clay target shooting champion.