Shotgun more than sport for 14-year-old

Bradley Phelps raises his shotgun to fire at clay pidgins during a Scholastic Clay Target Program practice June 20 at the Snow Shoe Gun Club in Kenai. (Photo by Dan Schwartz/Peninsula Clarion)

“Don’t point it at anything unless you’re ready to destroy it,” one boy said.


“Before you move make sure your firearm is empty and your action is open,” said another boy wearing a black mesh Browning vest.

Bobby Cox, a Peninsula Shooting Stars assistant instructor, nodded at each safety suggestion as the seven children waited to leave the Snow Shoe Gun Club’s club house June 20 to shoot skeet.

“We’re not just out there as the public; we’re a shooting family,” Cox said, ending the discussion. “Number one is safely handling the firearms. Anybody have any questions?”

Nobody did.

The Scholastic Clay Target Program team, about a year old, returned June 2 from a State Championship Shooting Tournament in Wasilla. Of the 12 that attended, 14-year-old Bradley Phelps hit the most targets of his team — 211 of 300. The young team members every Thursday afternoon practice trap, skeet and sporting clays shooting at the Kenai gun range.

“I’ll shoot anything that takes bullets if I can, but not completely just for fun,” Bradley said. He has been shooting shotguns for about two years, and he is part of the team for several reasons.

Without the young shooters, the program would not survive, head coach Dave Kerkvliet said.

That’s part of reason Bradley is on the team, the young Soldotna resident said.

“I think that we are the next generation of shooters,” Bradley said. “We have to teach our children otherwise the tradition’ll die.”

And he enjoys shooting guns — all kinds of guns — but the team provides more than the visceral thrill, said his mother, Betty Phelps. Betty is a singe mother, and her son is often without male role models.

“It’s awesome because him having a single mom, he needs something like that to have good role models around him,” Betty said.

With Kerkvliet, Cox and other male instructors, Betty said her son is less likely to misbehave or get into trouble.

The shotgun sport has also motivated Bradley to save his money, he said. Because he wants a shotgun of his own, he’s saving money. A Browning Cynergy — the shotgun he wants — is $4,800 new, but he thinks he’ll buy it used. Betty said he’s collected odd jobs this summer to save up.

She said also, now that her son is in his teenage years, he needs incentives.

“If he doesn’t get all these chores around home (done), he doesn’t get to go shooting,” she said.

And when some team members show up to shoot, the instructors will ask them if they have had any bad reports. If they do, they don’t shoot, Cox said.

But on June 20 there were no bad reports and the team walked out to the range, shotguns in hand, and lined up.

“Pull,” said Bradley, when his turn came.

An orange disk shot across the sky, Bradley’s shotgun popped, his shoulder shuddered and the disk exploded.

“I shoot them way faster than you,” said his 14-year-old friend, Capra Edwards-Smith, after Bradley had walked to the back of the line.

Bradley smiled. “I shoot them more accurately,” he said.


Dan Schwartz can be reached at


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