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Howard family takes part in state trap shoot

August 17, 2012
By Sara J. Plum Benson County Farmers Press, Minnewaukan , Pierce County Tribune

The parking area at the Minot Gun Club was filled with campers and cars Saturday, July 21 as men, women and children gathered for the North Dakota State Trap Shoot competition being held there July 19 - 22.

Among the participants were 15 members of the Wilson and Rose Howard family ranging in age from 11 to 61. They were Darryl Howard, Jaycee and Blaine of Bismarck and Janelle Howard Engstrom of York and her son, Timber Morgan of Rawlins, Wyo.; Jim "Wishbone" Howard of Mandan and his son and grandson, Troy and Trevor Howard of Regan; Bonnie Howard Erickson and her children, Alyssa, Austin and Bryer, all of Graham's Island; and Norman Howard of Devils Lake and his children, Trisha Eisenzimmer and Zach Howard of Devils Lake.

The oldest member of the trapshooting Howards is Eugene Howard of Rugby, who was a long-time employee of the Tribune and North Central Printing. He began trap shooting approximately 46 years ago. According to his wife, Bernie, "George Vallier of Oberon got Gene into the sport and gave him a lot of support and encouragement."

She said family vacations were going to trap shoots with tents and coolers packed with food to save money for the registration fees and shells needed for competition. Eugene said his focus was winning the prize money so he could go to the next competition.

Eugene shot trap at the Maddock Gun Club and when the family moved to Rugby, was instrumental in forming the Rugby Gun Club. His son, Darryl was "in the hole" at the age of 10, loading clay pigeons onto the throwers and releasing them when shooters would yell "Pull!"

Bernie pointed out that Janelle always had to do what big brother did, so she also got her start "in the hole" at the age of 10. It wasn't too long before both were trap shooters like dad.

The youngest member of the group is Blaine Howard of Bismarck. This is his third year of trap shooting and he enjoys every minute of it. His cousin, Trevor, who is 12 years old, recently shot 91 out of 100 and Blaine said his goal right now is to shoot as well as his cousin. When asked if he wanted to shoot better than his sister, Blaine said he's got a lot of practicing to do because she won a clock on Thursday and has already shot a 24 out of 25. Jaycee said she received a brass "clay pigeon" clock for winning the Lady 1B on Thursday.

It's not easy interviewing 16 people, especially when most of them were busy with the afternoon competition, but Blaine was finished shooting for the day and happy to answer what questions he could. Since his dad, Darryl is part owner of the Gun Hutt in Mandan and a youth trap shooting instructor, Blaine had no problem explaining the sport to a novice.

What this novice gathered was that each participant shot 200 times in Saturday's competition. There are eight trap houses at the gun club with five shooters at each house. A trap house consists of a concrete bunker located 16 yards from the shooting positions. The trap house covers the "hole" the clay pigeons are thrown from. Each position has a wireless speaker mounted on a moveable stand. The five shooters take their positions next to a speaker and take their turns shooting, calling "pull" when they are ready to fire. The pigeons are thrown from inside the trap house and may come out straight ahead, to the left or to the right. The trick is to follow the pigeon and blast it before it starts its descent to the ground.

After five shots, the shooters rotate one position and do this until each has shot 25 times. They then take a short break, resume their positions and shoot another set of 25, rotating again after five shots. When they are done, they go to another trap house to shoot their next 50. On Saturday, all the competitors shot 100 rounds in the morning and another 100 in the afternoon.

The women shooters of the family have formed "The Broad Squad" and sport pink shooting vests. A couple of them also used pink-cased shells. Alyssa Erickson shot her first 25 out of 25 at the state shoot and her mother, Bonnie Erickson, shot her first 50 out of 50.

Trisha Eisenzimmer was shooting in her first registered shoot and Janelle Engstrom held her own throughout the day. She said, "I'm not the best shot of the bunch, but it's always a lot of fun!" Alyssa, Bonnie, Trisha and Janelle shoot league at the Devils Lake and Rugby gun clubs and Jaycee shoots at the club in Bismarck.

Most of the younger bunch have been trap shooting for two to four years.

Wishbone Howard said he got into the sport a couple of years ago at the urging of his son, Troy. Saturday Wishbone shot 96 out of 100 in the morning and was hoping to nail a perfect score in the afternoon for a chance against the other shooters in his division. He commented that many of them had shot 100 out of 100 that morning and that those numbers were not uncommon at trap shoot competitions.

Many of the Howard shooters won awards throughout the shoot, with the most noteworthy being Norman Howard, who won the State Handicap Champion.

The North Dakota Trapshooting Association website held some other interesting information.

Norman Howard is a board member of the association and Darryl Howard was the North Dakota state handicap champion in 2009 with a score of 96 out of 100, and the 2006 doubles champion with a score of 99 out of 100. The only results posted on the website for 2012 were from the Roughrider Shoot at the Capitol City Gun Club in Bismarck the weekend of June 22 - 24. Norman placed in the 22 - 24.5 yard handicap division on Friday and took first in that same division on Sunday.

Darryl commented anyone can compete at the state shoot no matter where they're from as long as they register with the Amateur Trapshooting Association. There are championship spots in each division and category for North Dakota shooters only and spots for the rest of the shooters.

Health issues have made it hard for Eugene to compete in the sport - he can only use one arm - but every once in a while the family sets him up at a station after a trap shoot and he blasts those clay pigeons out of the sky.

And even though he has fun shooting, Eugene has even more fun watching his children, grandchildren, siblings, nieces and nephews continue in the sport he has enjoyed for 46 years.



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