Carroll High student Dakota Boyer (right) takes aim at a fast-moving clay target at AVAD Hunt Club east of Dedham on Monday in a practice session for Olympic trials on Saturday. Brett Beyerink (left) watched the shots to help the shooter know which way he missed — if he missed.
Carroll High student Dakota Boyer (right) takes aim at a fast-moving clay target at AVAD Hunt Club east of Dedham on Monday in a practice session for Olympic trials on Saturday. Brett Beyerink (left) watched the shots to help the shooter know which way he missed — if he missed.
May 15, 2014



DEDHAM

"Pull!"

A neon orange clay pigeon flies into the air at a speed between 65 and 75 miles per hour.

The air cracks twice, and the clay splits at the impact of the first bullet, raining bright orange shards down to the ground where they join countless other pieces scattered across a rain-muddied hill.

John Beyerink ejects the spent shell casings and moves to the next of five trap-shoot stations at AVAD Hunt Club - located just south of Dedham - as Maverick Gregory loads two bullets into his own gun, plants his feet and leans forward, lifting the rifle to his shoulder.

"Pull!"

Beyerink, Gregory and Dakota Boyer will join 17 other individuals from the Midwest this weekend for the area's first Regional Trap Junior Olympics competition, to be held at AVAD.

Though the participants began learning to shoot at young ages, Olympic Trap "can be a very humbling sport," said AVAD Hunt Club owner Royce Stangl.

Olympic Trap is the next step up from the American Trap system shot by the club's high school program, which encompasses all five Carroll County schools.

In American Trap, there is one thrower at each of five stations at a fixed height. Clay pigeons travel roughly 40 miles per hour, varying only 17 degrees from center.

An Olympic trap bunker has three throwers at each of five stations - their height can range from 1.5 to 3 meters high each match. The pigeons are made of a harder material and reach speeds of 65 to 75 miles per hour. The outer throwers can send the pigeons 45 degrees right or left, while the middle thrower can vary 10 degrees right or left of center.

"There is a lot of talent in trap shooting in Iowa. Olympic Trap is a way to expand the horizon," Stangl said. "It's definitely more challenging."

Beyerink, Carroll High School graduate and resident of Dedham; Gregory, Glidden-Ralston senior; and Boyer, Carroll High School sophomore, began practicing Olympic trap about two weeks ago, said Stangl. They are high scorers in American Trap - Beyerink has become a coach since he graduated, but still meets the 1994 or later birthdate requirement to participate in Olympic Trap.

Those who score well enough at Saturday's shoot - such as hitting 24 or 25 of 25 clay pigeons - will move on to the National Trap Junior Olympics competition at Fort Carson, Col. - the first stepping stone for any individual who might want to consider becoming an Olympian down the road, added Stangl.

The AVAD Hunt Club installed the Olympic Trap bunker - 3/4 mile wide and filled with more than 80 yards of concrete - last fall using an Iowa Department of Natural Resources grant and donations from local organizations. It is the only Olympic Trap facility in the area - the nearest east is in Ohio, the nearest west in Colorado, and the nearest south in Missouri.

"It's challenging - it makes you work for what you get," said Beyerink.

Gregory, who is at the club five times a week to shoot Olympic Trap, American Trap, skeet, sport clays and pistols, cited the "mental game" and outdoor environment as pros of shooting sports.

"Don't be afraid to miss," Gregory advises beginners. "And don't plan to become an expert."

It's common to use more than 100 bullets in a couple hours of practice, he added.

All three athletes participate in AVAD's high school trap program, which was started in 2009, a few years after the club opened.

"Our main goal is to provide training for athletes to be safety conscious when handling firearms," said Stangl. "Scores are secondary."

But as the sport's popularity has boomed - participants in Carroll County have increased from a low of 24 during the program's first year, to a high of 85 last year - so has the competition. Athletes must hit 49 or 50 of the clay pigeons to win, compared to 44 or 45 a few years ago, said Stangl.

Out of the five meets his program participated in this year, the Carroll County team took first place at three.

"They're better than me," he said.

He hopes the regional Olympic Trap meet will become an annual event.

"It's fun," Stangl said of the sport. "You can do this all your life. And there is a lot of camaraderie between shooters."