Nevada Youth Trapshooting

Brian Ramos

Jim Borchers, Range Safety Officer and Coach at the Clark County Shooting Complex, teaches kids the importance of safety at the range. The Clark County Shooting Complex and the Nevada Department of Wildlife announce the launch of a new after-school spring youth trapshooting league for local middle and high school youth in grades six through twelve in Las Vegas, Nevada on Wednesday, February 21, 2024.

At the Clark County Shooting Complex in the far northwest corner of the Las Vegas Valley, a new youth trapshooting league is taking shape.

It’s for middle- and high-schoolers who have or want to develop discipline, focus and excellent aim as they break flying neon orange discs — clay pigeons — that are a little smaller than a teacup saucer, at a distance, whether the air is windy, calm, hot or cold. Competition begins in April, and practice is already underway. It’s the first time the county has organized a youth league.

Shooting instructor, range safety officer and coach Jim Borchers reminds his pupils that a sport shooter is an athlete — someone who trains, and at the most elite levels, can compete in the Olympics.

At 15, Orion Cooper is already one of the state’s best at any age.

The Spring Valley High School student started shooting four years ago, first with pistols before moving on to trap, which is done with shotguns.

Now, he said, he spends most any waking moment that he isn’t at school at the shooting complex. Last fall, the dedication paid off with the all-around title at the Nevada State Shoot.

When Cooper shoots, he clears his mind. The guiding mantra is straightforward.

“See the target, then shoot it,” he said.

He humbly said that there’s always room for improvement, and the challenge is constant when shooting trap.

The default shooting position is 16 yards from the machine that throws the clay targets; a handicap puts stronger shooters further back. Cooper’s handicap is 26 yards. He’d like to hit the maximum handicap of 27. He’d also like to make the Amateur Trapshooting Association’s All-American Team, again, and shoot for a college team.

His father Robert Cooper proudly pointed out that Orion has equipment sponsors — they’re who made his 12-gauge shotgun worth about $30,000. The custom stock is hewn from smooth English walnut, outfitted with a highly engineered recoil-absorption mechanism and a grip made from a mold of his hand.

Orion Cooper is a seasoned competitor, but no experience is necessary to join the new county league, which is co-sponsored by the Nevada Department of Wildlife. Competition starts on April 10 and will run from 3-5 p.m. every Wednesday for seven weeks. Participants are encouraged to form their own five-person teams. The league is for students in grades 6-12, and open to boys and girls.

Practice is also after school on Wednesdays. Shooters can walk in or register in advance. Six dollars covers a box of targets and $8 covers a box of ammunition.

Participants who need to borrow a gun can use one of the complex’s 12-gauge shotguns or a smaller 20-gauge for free.

Steve Carmichael, a senior management analyst at the shooting complex, said he’d like more awareness of the sport, especially as an option for students who don’t participate in traditional school-sponsored athletics. He started competitive trapshooting at age 12. It’s also an opportunity for college scholarships.

Safety is key at the range. Guns are carried with the action open, muzzle down and loaded only right before the shooter is about to call for the target – when they call out “pull.” Ear and eye protection are mandatory.

Grant Smith, a 17-year-old Arbor View High School student, has been shooting for about five years. He’s one of Nevada’s best too, winning the singles category at the last state shoot.

In Utah, where he used to live, youth programs could have 100-person teams, he said.

“It would be awesome to see that out here,” he said.

Trap hearkens back to a time, centuries past, when hunters used live pigeons, released from traps, as practice targets. Targets have long been humane clay discs, though they are still called pigeons or birds.

Modern sport shooters have 15 medal events in the Summer Olympics, using pistols, rifles and shotguns. In the Winter Olympics, rifle shooting is combined with cross-country skiing as the biathlon.

Borchers, a retired weapons instructor for the Nevada Department of Corrections who also coaches for a private youth program, the Silver State Claybreakers, grew up in Ohio, where he said shooting was a heritage sport that could be passed down through the generations.

“My father was a trapshooter, my grandfather was a trapshooter, my great-grandfather was a trapshooter,” he said.

At a recent practice, he took on two young sibling pairs. None of the children had pulled a trigger before. One of the younger boys hit his target.

The Clark County Shooting Complex is at 11357 N. Decatur Blvd. Carmichael can be reached at (702) 455-2005.

[email protected] / 702-990-8949 / @HillaryLVSun

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