Shooters take craft seriously, but not too seriously

Shooting bull or shooting clay - it's all part of the fun at the Kamloops Shotgun Sports Club.

Such was the case over the weekend, when the club - also known as the Kamloops Trap and Skeet Club - played host to the B.C. Sporting Clays Challenge.

Somewhere between 50 and 60 shooters took part in the challenge, the main event of which featured a 300-point competition, meaning there were 300 clay targets at which to shoot, with one point awarded for each hit clay.

And although shooters came from all over B.C. and Alberta, there was a sense that a lot of these people showed up for reasons other than competing.

Maybe they came for the camping - most of the out-of-towners (and some locals) set up trailers right on the club's grounds on Lac Le Jeune Road - or maybe they came for the scenery of the club's 80 acres. But it mostly boiled down to one thing - hanging around with a lot of like-minded people.

"There's a lot of support for each other," said Doug Harvey, who came from Calgary. "A lot of these people just like being around each other and like having a chance to shoot."

Trap and skeet have been around for a long time, and the KSSC has facilities for both.

But the weekend's event, sporting clays, has only been around for 15 years, maybe 20. But it is becoming more and more popular, and Harvey should know - he's trying to set up a Canadian National Sporting Clays Association.

"We're going to use the executive from the Alberta Sporting Clays Association to run the Canadian national to start with," he said. "We're putting on the first ever national sporting clays championship in Brooks (Alta.), Sept. 2-5. I want it to be a nice kickoff for the national association."

While trap and skeet are set in relative small spaces, sporting clays takes full advantage of natural obstacles, like trees, valleys and hills.

The Kamloops club has a lot of those on its 80 acres, which it leases from Afton Mines.

"This spot that they have to work with is probably the best piece of land for sporting clays in Canada," Harvey said. "The contours and the great clubhouse . . . and there's a great core of people working to put it together."

The game or sporting clays features stations - there were 15 on Saturday afternoon, but the number can range between 10 and 18 - where shooters take aim at clays flying or rolling past.

It's actually quite similar to golf - there are groups of four or five, driving around on golf carts or ATVs from station to station, taking aim. Like golf, hitting a birdie is good - the flying clays are called birds, while the bouncers are referred to as rabbits.

Like golf, the top competitors make a very difficult skill look quite easy.

"I work pretty hard at this," said Kamloops shooter Dave Clem on Saturday, a day before being crowned overall champion after hitting 257 of 300 targets. "This is my happy spot out here."

The constant theme of the competition, aside from the sounds of gunfire from every direction, would be camaraderie.

A lot of the shooters are retired, and most of the younger shooters take things seriously, without getting too competitive. The club doesn't abide by bad apples - who would want to hang around with a moody fellow carrying a shotgun?

Even then, a lot of these guys take it seriously enough to invest a lot of money in it - some of the guns used on the weekend range in value from a couple of thousand dollars to more than $10,000. They argue that it's not unlike a golfer spending lots of money on equipment or trips.

"I've always been competitive," Clem said. "I've never really been a social animal, but for me, this is a social thing.

"You meet so many good people, have so much fun, there's good food, good company."


Some of the other winners from the weekend's competition were:

l Chris Cherelenko, who shot 256 to win the masters flight;

l Willie Russell, who shot 145 to win the junior flight;

l Val Morrow, whose 169 score won her the ladies flight;

l Paul Tromnier, who shot 249 to win the AA flight;

l George Squires, who fired 217 to take the senior veteran flight.

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