The outdoor sport of trapshooting is quickly becoming a popular spring activity for area middle school and high school students. In fact, the Williston Coyotes Clay Target League has more than doubled in size in just one calendar year.
This season, which begins at the Northwest Gun Club on Wednesday, April 24 for the Coyotes, the clay target league will have a total of 72 students from 7-12 grade participating. By comparison, there were 34 students from grades 9-12 participating in league competition last spring. Students from Williams County Public School District No. 8, as well as students from Alexander High School will also be among this year’s roster of Coyote shooters.
According to Williston firearms instructor Penny Slagle, who has taught gun safety since 2008, she credits this year’s spike in participation numbers to the rural North Dakota lifestyle which many children are already familiar with. “This area is known for hunting, so lots of kids were exposed to guns at an early age,” Slagle tells the Williston Herald. “Hunting pheasants and other birds, and hunting deer is pretty common here as well, so kids already have an interest in firearms.”
In addition to having its inaugural spring league last year, the Williston Coyotes Clay Target League also had a fall season in 2018. While the spring league is designed for competition between schools, the fall league serves as an exhibition season to improve the skills of current team members, as well as to recruit new shooters who may be interested in joining the team. Slagle said the fall league was instrumental in adding to the club’s participation numbers.
Currently, the Coyotes clay target league is not a part of the North Dakota High School Activities Association. However, Slagle said support from many local businesses and individuals have helped to provide necessary equipment for the Coyotes during the early stages of the team’s development. “We have gotten so much assistance from Wayne Kittleson at the Northwest Gun Club, the Mule Deer Foundation, and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation just to name a few. They have helped us out tremendously with donations, and we are extremely thankful,” Slagle added.
Interestingly enough, the Coyotes firearms instructor also served as the head coach for the Williston State College Tetons women’s basketball team for 16 years. A native of Alamo, Slagle says regardless of whether a competitor is shooting clay targets or shooting baskets, the mindset remains the same. “You’ve got to maintain that mental focus no matter what,” she continues.