Cornhusker Trapshoot turns small town into booming trapshooting mecca

2011-04-28T23:45:00Z 2012-05-01T15:26:47Z Cornhusker Trapshoot turns small town into booming trapshooting meccaBy JORDAN PASCALE / Lincoln Journal Star JournalStar.com

DONIPHAN -- Guns outnumber the population of Doniphan this weekend.

Each April, more than 1,900 Nebraska junior high and high school students flood the town of 844 off I-80 south of Grand Island -- each shouldering his or her own shotgun.

It's called the Cornhusker Trapshoot, the state championship of the sport.

It's grown every year, this year attracting 300 squads and 8,000 spectators.

It's a 35-year tradition in Doniphan, home grounds of the Nebraska Trapshooting Association.

At any given time, 110 shooters can be taking aim and firing on 22 different traps. The overall champion takes home the Cornhusker Cup, the largest of the numerous gold trophies.

Out in the parking lot, it feels like a tailgate. Each school has its flag flying and grills going. Family and friends gather around.

But out on the shooting range, it's loud. Not a casual place at all. Not a moment passes without the pop of a shotgun.

"It smells like gunpowder," said Renee Dalton, a mother of three trapshooters from Malcolm.

It's her first time at Doniphan watching her sons Greg, James and Thomas.

Her husband usually takes them, but he's out of town.

"It's great to see the camaraderie," she said of the Malcolm team. "Everyone out here is hoping to get 100 out of 100."

With 1,900 kids taking aim, surely someone will do it -- and it's not just for the rural kids.

Last year, Zach Bryant of Lincoln Southwest High School won the Cornhusker Cup with 196 out of 200. He's now on scholarship for trapshooting at Lindenwood University near St. Louis.

Lincoln schools, including North Star, Northeast, East, Southeast, Lincoln High and Pius X bring dozens of shooters. Most are club teams that pay their own way for what can be an expensive sport.

Creighton Prep brought 100 kids. Northwest, a Grand Island school that didn't have a team until recently, fielded a team of 75.

And the shooters come in all shapes and sizes.

"Anyone can do it," said Dick Mavis, who has coached since 2005 and brought 57 shooters from Lincoln Southwest. "That's the beauty of the sport."

Even a 5-foot-4, slight-framed seventh-grader can shoot a gun well.

Alexis Philson, a tiny-voiced Scott middle schooler, sported flip flops, glittery eye makeup and a neon pink shirt reading "I can shoot like you ... only prettier."

She's never done anything like this in her life, never even touched a gun until a year ago. But her best friend and neighbor wanted to try it out, and her dad's a hunter. She gave it a shot.

"I was afraid of the gun at first," Alexis said. "But I just did it, and I really liked it. More girls should do it."

Mavis thinks a combination of background and interests gets kids involved in the sport.

"A lot of them have hunting parents," he said. "But really, once you start, you can do it for the rest of your life, and most stick with it.

"It's not like football or basketball where you get bad knees or sprained ankles and can never play again."

Those who've never been around a trapshoot might fear for their lives with more than 800 middle school students carrying 12-gauges.

Not so, says shooting director Terry Brentzel of Nebraska Game and Parks, a sponsor of the event.

"It's one of the safest sports available to children," he said. "Safety is always our No. 1 concern. Everyone must be certified in hunter education."

There hasn't been an accident in the 42 years of the event -- and even the town's Wi-Fi network is named SAFETYFIRST.

"There's no mulligans in this sport," Mavis said, "and these kids know it."

 

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