When it comes to trap shooting, Sam Schimmel, 12, has the technique down.
The soon-to-be seventh grader rarely missed a clay target during a recent practice for the Peninsula Shooting Stars at the Snowshoe Gun Club in Soldotna.
His prowess is a small-scale reflection of the success the fledgling club experienced during its first state level competition for the Scholastic Clay Target Program in Wasilla at the Grouse Ridge Shooting Club.
Six middle school and high school athletes shot against teams from Wasilla, Anchorage, Eagle River, Ketchikan and Homer in skeet, trap and sporting clays and for a team whose first meeting was April 24, coach Dave Kerkvliet said they did an outstanding job.
He grinned when discussing the results and said his daughter Katelynn Kerkvliet won the award for female high overall in the competition.
Of the more than 35 prospective members who have shown up at the gun club in recent weeks, trying their hand at shooting, 16 have ultimately joined the club and signed up through the Scholastic Clay Target Program.
"We've had quite a few of them come out that had never shot a gun before and we took them up to the line and put a gun in their hands," Kerkvliet said. "Some of them were pretty nervous but they got real comfortable real fast."
Schimmel is the youngest in the group and Kerkvliet said the club wouldn't normally allow anyone younger than junior high aged students to join, but Schimmel's experience spoke for him.
Rene Schimmel, Sam's mom, said he'd been shooting since he was five.
Sam has a simple explanation for his love of shooting, and prowess with trap shooting.
"My dad, he bought me a bb gun before that for target practice and I liked birds, liked eating birds. He's at work all day so he can't go get them," Sam said.
His favorite birds to shoot are ducks and pheasants although he prefers to eat pheasant, he said. His preference also explains why he's good at trap shooting and struggles with skeet and sporting clays.
"[Trap] is like pheasant cause the pheasants jump and they go pretty much straight," he said swinging his arm to point up and away from himself.
Trap requires hitting a target that moves up and away from the shooter while skeet requires swinging from side to side and the target moves in front of the shooters instead of away from them.
Sam said he wanted to get better with a different style of shooting and needed something to do until the hunting season.
"It's fun cause hunting doesn't open up until August 10 so I can't go hunting except for rabbits and they don't taste that great," he said.
Kerkvliet said the camraderie and responsibility fostered by the club was inspiring and he hoped to see more kids participate.
The club was started with community grants and the Snowshoe Gun Club helps defray costs by giving them practicing space and selling the clay pigeons at cost.
Participation in the competition in Wasilla meant the club qualified for a grant through the Scholastic Clay Target Program and Kerkvliet used the money to buy several new guns for club use.
Sam said he'd keep working to improve his technique because his relatives, many of whom are subsistence hunters on St. Lawrence Island in the Bering Sea, out shot him in several areas.
He described going seal hunting with his uncles and being unable to hit anything.
"That seal is going up and down and up and down in the waves and you'll be aiming at it with the scope and the thing is that the with the scope you only get about two feet so you're like 'I can't see the seal,'" Sam said. "You're trying to hit a target that's probably about the size of a clay pigeon. Imagine a target on a wave and the waves keep moving, that's your seal target. Well, that's the kill zone, the size of about three inches, to make it float you aim at a spot that's about the size of a quarter."
Sam said he'd recommend the club for anyone, but wasn't sure how to explain the benefits.
"I'd be like, 'It's really fun, you get to shoot a whole bunch of stuff and destroy it,' 'cause that would probably be the thing that would get them to come," he said. "Not the other stuff like you can actually get better shooting and quicker reflexes."
Rashah McChesney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org