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New sport comes in with a bang in Blackduck

Zach Meland hits a clay pigeon during practice on Monday. Photo by Jillian Gandsey. 1 / 2
Pictured are members of the Blackduck trap shooting team at Monday’s practice. From left to right are Hattie Nosch, Julianna Fernandez, Hunter Wilcowski, Lucas Reiplinger, Brian Denny and coach Shannon Eickstadt in the back. Photo by Jillian Gandsey. 2 / 2

A new activity through community education has been a literal blast for students at Blackduck High School.

Trap shooting is a sport that’s catching on across Minnesota and nine students in Blackduck have chosen to participate.

In competition, groups of five participants line up and each take turns shooting at clay pigeons that will fly through the air in front of them. After each student shoots five times from one position, they rotate one spot for another five shots.

One round consists of 25 total shots and they do two rounds when competing. Each time they hit a clay pigeon, they earn a point.

When shooting is complete, the scores are recorded weekly to the Minnesota State High School Clay Target League and within conferences the schools compete. Blackduck is in Class A Conference 2.

The group of three girls and six boys meet at the North Beltrami Sportsman’s Club on Mondays. During the second week, eighth-grader Lucas Reiplinger shot a perfect 25 during one of his rounds, earning himself a spot in the 25-Straight Club.

“You start to get a little nervous,” Reiplinger said of his state of mind when he’s shooting. “You want to get to 25.”

Reiplinger has been hunting duck, geese and deer since he was young and said that he was excited for the program to come to Blackduck. He also plays baseball in the spring, but the two activities rarely collide.  

Community facilitator Ryan Grow first looked into the Minnesota State High School Clay Target League and eventually brought it to the Blackduck School Board for consideration. He said that he approached the activity through community education because of expenses and also didn’t want to mix school transportation with guns and ammunition.

“A lot of parents just bring their children out there, which has worked out great because now the parents are involved and that’s what we like,” Grow said.

After the School Board approved, he began looking for grant opportunities. Trap shooting received local donations from the Upper Red Lake Area Association, the Legion Post in Northome, the Ruffed Grouse Society in Blackduck and the Firemen’s Relief Association in Blackduck. The activity also received a grant from the Friends of the National Rifle Association.

Grow said his biggest task was to find someone to coach the team, but he eventually found a perfect fit: Shannon Eickstadt.

Eickstadt was a state champion in high school and also participated in a national competition with his team was ecstatic about the opportunity to coach.

“It’s been amazing what he’s done for the kids,” Grow said.

And not to mention he does it without pay. “To find somebody like that to make that commitment is what you call a true volunteer,” Grow added.

Jillian Gandsey

Jillian Gandsey is the Multimedia Editor at the Bemidji Pioneer. She is an Iron Range native and a 2013 graduate of Bemidji State University. Follow Jillian on Twitter and Instagram @jilliangandsey. Contact her at 218-333-9786, 218-996-1216 or at 

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