(Reggie Beehner)

By Jerry Sudduth

Did anyone at the Powell Building notice a group of men sitting across from the Student Government Building last Wednesday around 5 p.m.? Those men are the Eastern skeet and trap team, and, as far as club sports go at Eastern, the skeet and trap team flies under everyone’s radar.

“Nobody knows about us,” said senior Chris Green, the team captain.

The team, founded in 2003, hasn’t had a lot of success, publicity, money or participation. But its members are out there preaching gun safety and having a good time.

At this point, you might wonder what exactly is skeet and trap. Skeet and trap is the sport of shooting clay pigeons. Skeet and trap are two different events.

In skeet, the shooter is at a fixed position in between two towers. These towers release a clay pigeon, or “bird,” for the shooter to engage.

The towers are set up so the bird either comes out from a high or low position. If one is released from a high position on one tower, the second is released from the low position on the other tower. The shooter aims in a semicircle to get his pigeons.

In trap, a player shoots a clay pigeon released from at least 16 yards in front. The bird can move left or right.

To win as an individual, a shooter must hit the most targets. The number of targets in a given match varies, but the most common are either 50 or 100 targets.

A team wins when its five-man squad has the best overall score.

Equipment is an essential part of this sport, particularly the type of weapon and its ammunition. Gun makers sponsor some shooters on other teams. Those who do receive shotguns valued between $5,000 and $15,000. But most collegiate shooters don’t have sponsorship, so it’s up to the individual as to what they shoot.

Junior Justin Taylor uses a Remington 870 pump action valued at $300 that is available most anywhere people sell guns.

His gun is unique in the sport, as most people use semiautomatic or over-under shotguns. A semiautomatic weapon can be fired as fast as the person shooting it can squeeze the trigger. An over-under has one barrel on top of the other. Green uses a Franchi over-under.

Ammunition is also important. The best rounds for this sport are Remington STS Target Load Premier Light or Winchester AA rounds. These cost around $6.50 to $7 a box and when a team uses between 14 and 18 boxes a match, it isn’t cheap.

Money is a determining factor in what the Colonel Skeet and Trap Team does. Campus Recreation gives the team $2,200 a year and the NRA gives them about $1,200.

With all the cost involved, these donations aren’t enough and the team members routinely kick in around $150 per meet to pay expenses. Members on better-funded teams pay less than half that. The money that Campus Recreation game them was a $1,000 less than what they asked for.

“Campus Recreation doesn’t understand the costs,” Green said.

The Club Sports Council of Campus Recreation doles out the cash to the different teams. They base their amounts on participation and attendance of events.

Since the team has been unable to field a complete roster or make it to many events, they didn’t receive the full amount.

All but one of the meets the Colonels attend requires a drive of six hours or more. And despite all the ammunition and entry fee costs, travel is the biggest expense the team faces.

As a result, cost limits the team to what meets it attends. The members try to get to as many meets as possible. Still, not every member can make every meet.

That hurts the overall team score. The team is based off five, and if a member is missing, then those targets and those points are lost.

But this year’s team has 12 members. With that many members, Eastern can field a team that has two full squads for the first time in the team’s history.

“We’re going to be better,” Nathan Hansel said. “We’ll have a full squad. It’s pretty tough to compete without enough people.”

But with the larger numbers come bigger expectations.

“I’d like to see us shoot at least a perfect score in at least every event we shoot,” Green said. But that isn’t why these guys go out and shoot.

“It’s pretty much just a hobby,” Taylor said.

Green said the goal of each meet is to have a good time and winning is a bonus. Safety is also important, he said.

“We’re not only here to compete, we’re here to promote gun safety,” Green said.

He added the team accepts people who want to shoot regardless of skill level as long as they practice gun safety at all times.

The goal of each year is to get to nationals, which is held in San Antonio. Where a typical meet normally consists of between five and 10 teams, 32 show up for this one.

Eastern finished 14th out of 32 teams last year. The team hopes to improve, but there are several good teams out there.

Purdue, Texas A&M, Missouri and Lindenwood are considered among the best teams. They are all club teams, but their members have sponsorship and the potential to do this professionally or in the Olympics.

These teams have more resources available to them than Eastern’s team, which includes the amount of time these teams have for practice.

“We try to go out and practice,” said Hansel, “but you shoot when you can.”

So now, when you see them in the Powell Building, you’ll know that you are in the presence of the Eastern skeet and trap team.