Samantha Foppe shoulders her shotgun, leans slightly forward, and yells, “pull.” The instant the word escapes Sam’s mouth, an orange saucer flies out of a concrete box and streaks away at 42 miles per hour. If you could examine the saucer, you’d see it’s about 4 inches wide, Frisbee-shaped, and made of clay. But you wouldn’t have time, because half a second after the saucer is airborne, Sam squeezes the trigger on her shotgun and blasts the saucer to smithereens.
In trapshooting, people of all ages and abilities compete against each other. To hit the flying saucer, which trap shooters call a “clay bird,” you need pinpoint accuracy, lightning-quick reflexes, and Zen-like concentration. Sam has all three, and the 15-year-old from High Ridge has become one of the best trap shooters in the country.
Sam’s been around guns her whole life. Her dad took Sam deer hunting when she was 2. When she was 4, Sam shot her first gun, a youth-model .22. When she was 5, she got a compound bow and practiced with it for weeks so she could hunt deer. When she was 6, she shot her first deer with a rifle.
Jan and Gwen Morris, who coach trapshooting at the Conservation Department’s Jay Henges Shooting Range, heard that Sam liked to hunt and encouraged her to try trapshooting. Sam hit 13 out of 25 clay birds her first time on the trap field. She was hooked, and soon joined Team Henges Trapshooting Club.
It was tough at first. “I was 9, and my gun was taller than I was,” Sam says. “It was heavy and hard to hold steady.” But Sam worked hard. She practiced bringing her gun to her shoulder, sometimes 50 times a day, until it felt automatic. She exercised, watched what she ate, and lifted weights. Soon, her work started to pay off.
Trapshooting has three events. In singles, you shoot at single clay birds launched from 16 yards away. Doubles is similar, except two clay birds are launched at once, and you try to hit both. In handicap, the better you shoot, the farther away you must stand from where the targets are launched.
When Sam was 11, she became the youngest girl in the country to hit 100 clay birds in a row in singles. When she was 12, Sam beat 773 other shooters to win the Missouri High School Shoot- Off, breaking 174 out of 175 clay birds and beating seven senior boys in the finals. When she was 13, Sam became the youngest person ever to shoot from the farthest-back position in the handicap event. Now, she’s the second best shooter in the country in her age division.
Coaches from the U.S. Olympic Team have phoned to ask about Sam’s plans. For now, she isn’t interested in the Olympics. Sam wants to shoot for a college team so she can earn a degree.
“I’m just happy to be on a trap field,” Sam says. “The only other place I’d rather be is in a deer stand.”
Nichole LeClair Terrill