Give it a shot: Craig Trap Club Polar Bear League offers winter shooting season
Trapshooting group emphasizes safety, welcoming environment for beginners
To the unprepared, a round of anything outdoors in the wintertime takes a lot of effort to brave the cold. Those in Northwest Colorado are rarely too put off by the chilly climate, and some even relish the chance to get out and practice their shooting.
And, “ready, aim, fire” sounds a lot better than “shiver, sniffle, freeze.”
Craig Trap Club has begun its new season of the Polar Bear League, a twice-weekly outdoor shooting program that runs through March.
Sessions take place Sundays mornings starting at 10 a.m. and Thursdays beginning at 6 p.m. at the club’s headquarters on Moffat County Road 64 off US Highway 40 west of Craig. Daytime shoots involve fluorescent orange targets, while evening activities use white targets under spotlights.
In existence for decades, Craig Trap Club has been registered with the Colorado Secretary of State since 1993 as a nonprofit corporation and its membership includes some talented marksmen.
Dick King has been involved in the sport since the 1970s and was also inducted into the Colorado State Trapshooting Association Hall of Fame in 2012inducted into the Colorado State Trapshooting Association Hall of Fame in 2012, boasting two grand slams at the time, a feat which includes shooting 200 consecutive targets from the 16-yard line, 100 consecutive targets from the 27-yard line and 100 consecutive doubles., boasting two grand slams at the time, a feat which includes shooting 200 consecutive targets from the 16-yard line, 100 consecutive targets from the 27-yard line and 100 consecutive doubles.
inducted into the Colorado State Trapshooting Association Hall of Fame in 2012, boasting two grand slams at the time, a feat which includes shooting 200 consecutive targets from the 16-yard line, 100 consecutive targets from the 27-yard line and 100 consecutive doubles.
Over the years, he’s shot in many kinds of conditions, but wintertime is its own unique bird, largely due to the purely white landscape.
“The background and the lighting make a big difference because it’s an optical illusion sometimes,” he said.
King added that the temperatures that force everyone to bundle up even more than usual also factor into it.
“The biggest difference is wearing a lot more clothes it makes it tougher, and usually the scores aren’t as good in the winter, but we’re all just out here to have fun,” he said.
With subzero forecasts at certain times of the year, the Polar Bear League is not for someone who gets goosebumps reaching into the refrigerator, but it’s also not an activity that’s only for serious shooters.
Across the years, Craig Trap Club’s winter shooting sessions have seen as few as five participants on a given day to more than 100, all of whom have different backgrounds with firearms.
Karen Mack said she married into the sport and began shooting three years ago as a result of watching her husband and wanting to join in the activity.
“It’s not really a spectator sport,” she laughed. “It’s much better to be out there just trying it.”
The challenge each time someone comes up to the line is “putting all the elements together,” she said,
“There’s the step, the stance, putting the gun up,” she said. “Once you do, it’s really pretty easy.”
Mack said the people are the biggest draw.
“I go to trap meets in Wyoming, Utah, of course Colorado, and you meet people from all over — Alaska, Canada, all 50 states,” she said.
Mack added that CTC members are a particularly welcoming group, especially toward beginners.
“I asked for help and I got it,” she said.
Polar Bear sessions are open to individuals and families with a $60 registration fee for the league, with practice rounds $5 for club members and $6 for non-members.
A full league shooting includes 300 total targets — 100 from the 16-yard line for handicap classification, 100 more from either the 20- or 25-yard line and another 100 from 16.
Shooting can be done all in one day or throughout the season.
CTC can help newcomers with equipment, though shooters need to buy their own ammunition as well as have proper ear protection, safety glasses and ammo pouches.
Tom Gilchrist serves as the current secretary and Larry Neu the club president, and both emphasize the welcoming atmosphere of the organization in addition to the emphasis on correct gun safety and handling to ensure everyone who puts their finger on the trigger knows what they’re doing.
“No pressure, we’re here to help any way we can,” Neu said.
He added that the first time hitting a target dead-on is hard to forget.
“It feels good when you break one,” he said.
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