Fun Is The Target State Trapshooting Championships Bring Out The Best In Shooters

For the past four days, several hundred men and about 30 women looked down the long barrels of shotguns and blasted the bejesus out of small, flying disks.

It was the Amateur Trapshooting Association’s Washington state championship at the Spokane Gun Club’s range in Greenacres.

Trapshooting is a competition of concentration and lots of noise. It is a sport where cheating is a bad idea since the other players have guns.

“Trapshooting in my mind is the most individual sport,” said Mark Kurruk, who has been competing for 12 years. “Nobody makes you miss a target. A big part of these competitions is what you can do - doing personally better than you’ve done before.”

The 370 contestants came from as far away as Alaska, Alabama, Pennsylvania, and Arizona for their chance to hurl lead into the sky, and hopefully hit some targets.

There is no cheering, no official’s whistle, no halftime horn in trapshooting. Aside from the storm of blams, booms and ka-pows, only one other sound really characterizes a trapshooting competition: The shooter’s call.

It is the command given when a shooter’s concentration is focused to a fine point, ready to blow some flying quarry to smithereens.

With a gun at her shoulder, a shooter says “pull” and an unsuspecting orange disk flies from a low-set concrete bunker into peril’s way.

Most just say pull.

But some say it with authority: PULL! Some say it coaxingly: Puuuuuull. And some shooters don’t say pull at all. They say HUP! and HUT! and HIT! One shooter just sort of made a high-pitched shriek.

“People say about everything in the world,” said Kurrukof Grangeville, Idaho.

During a competition, shooters will say “pull” 100 times as they rotate through four shooting stations. Though most contests involve 100 targets, there is a 200-target category.

Shooters who master their concentration and practice with a passion might become like Pat Gottberg, a veritable Jedi knight of the shotgun.

A short, amiable man with a prosperous girth, Gottberg hit 200 consecutive targets. Few people do that, said Kurruk, publisher of “On Target,” a trapshooting newspaper.

Gottberg has hit 200 a number of times.

“You just keep your head in the game. You can’t be thinking about anything but breaking the target,” said Gottberg, who has been shooting competitively for 20 years. “It takes a lot of discipline.”

But don’t get the idea Gottberg and company are a bunch of steely-eyed Rambo wannabes. Wander around without a gun and you’re likely to be approached by a broad-smiling man offering to give you a lesson - someone like Fred McPherson, president of the Walla Walla gun club.

Having shot all sorts of guns in all sorts of competitions, McPherson now ranks trap shooting as his favorite.

“In the sport of trapshooting you meet a lot of super-nice people out to have fun,” he said. “The camaraderie between most shooters is what I see. It’s great.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo

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