MDC supports youth trapshooting program based at Adrian

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Kansas City
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Adrian, Mo. – Friendly competition and fun with shotgun skills brought more than 80 high school students to league trapshooting this fall at the Settle’s Ford Trap and Skeet Range near Adrian. This FFA league has utilized a partnership between the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC), the private gun club and the city of Adrian for 15 years.

Conservation Agent Donald Tiller helped start the program at the range 15 years ago and remains a key coordinator. Some competitors have shotgun experience from hunting, but for others it is their first experience handling firearms. Tiller has taught many students the basics of handling firearms and trapshooting techniques. Then he’s watched them improve or even excel at breaking clay pigeons on the range. He especially remembers newcomers who embrace the sport.

“This provides an opportunity for kids to learn a lifetime sport and learn gun safety,” Tiller said. “It’s a great way for them to connect with the outdoors.”

This fall’s league competition drew 12 FFA trapshooting teams from schools in Bates, St. Clair, and Cass counties. Those teams will compete in district and state FFA trapshooting tournaments next spring. The fall league rounds also included a homeschool team from the area. Besides the fall FFA league, the gun club hosts team practices, plus youths who shoot trap in the Missouri 4-H competitions. Trapshooting teams include both young women and men. The sport can accommodate competitors with mobility challenges.

“One of the biggest things is that for the kids who are not out for football or basketball, this gives them a sport to participate in and a team concept,” said Mark Allen, FFA advisor and coach for the Miami R-1 High School team at Amsterdam in Bates County. “This gives them individual goals to work on as well as team goals.”

Trapshooting’s outdoor setting with space between shooting positions enabled league matches to continue this fall with COVID-19 precautions in place.

Each participant shoots a round of 25 targets with rotation between the five shooting positions on the 16-yard line behind the trap house. Clay pigeons fly from the trap house at various angles to challenge the shooter’s skills. Then competitors move to the club’s second range and shoot another round of 25 targets. The coaches take firearm and trapshooting training, too.

Harrisonville High School’s FFA team had 30 participants at practices this fall and the top five made the varsity team for league competition. Other schools have similar programs. Some FFA chapters sponsor two teams in the matches.

“We’re practicing good range safety,” said Jason Dieckhoff, FFA advisor and coach for the Harrisonville High School team. “At matches, it is a team score, but you can still be in it for the individual scoring. Right now, we’ve got a lot of kids interested. This is an activity they can do outside.”

Matches draw spectators, too.

“This gives the kids something to do besides sitting in front of a TV,” said Rusty Roach, whose son Tucker Roach is a sophomore on the Ballard R-II High School FFA team in Bates County. “It creates a life experience. It’s competitive, but it’s a friendly competition.”

Tucker Roach said he enjoys the challenge.

“I enjoy shooting shotguns,” Roach said. “It’s something I’ll enjoy a long time and continue to do.”

The Adrian A-squad was the top team in this fall’s FFA league competition, followed by Rich Hill and Cass Midway. The Settle’s Ford homeschool team also participated in the league. Senior Hunter Nissen from that team had the high individual score among all competitors, hitting 242 targets out of 250 thrown. The top three FFA trap shooters and their scores were Clifton Bridgewater, Rich Hill, 223; Rains Craft, Butler, 218, and Tyler Giddings, Sherwood, 207.

Trapshooting, Nissen said, “makes me better at hunting, and I love to hunt. And, this is a whole lot of fun.”

For more information about MDC’s shooting sports programs, contact Eric Edwards, MDC education programs coordinator, at