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ND Clay Target League Hopes to Rebound with Expanded Offerings


Following a down year with the pandemic restricting a number of schools in North Dakota from participating in the state’s high school clay target league, the North Dakota State High School Clay Target League (ND CTL) is eyeing a rebound in numbers of participants and banking on expanded offerings to get more shooters involved in the safest and fastest growing sport in the nation. According to ND CTL State Director Joe Courneya, interest is picking up as the program approaches the start of its spring

season on Mar. 28.


“We’re seeing a lot of interest, we’re seeing some new teams coming on, I’ve got a couple over here on the east side of the state and a couple on the west side of the state that are signed on, so it’s good to see,” Courneya states, adding that growth goes beyond the number of teams, but also new disciplines being added, “one of the exciting things is we’re adding more disciplines to the clay target program; we’ve been pretty much trap shooting, and we’ve added some skeet programs where there were skeet ranges, and now we’re looking at five stand and sporting clays.”


Last year, the ND CTL hosted approximately 700 shooters in its spring league and saw a drop off in the number of schools which could compete due to restrictions at the local level and distance learning being the norm. This spring, with pandemic conditions subsiding and a more flexible schedule for participating teams, Courneya is optimistic that the program will return to more than 1,000 participants and get back to the level of 58 registered teams across the Peace Garden state. With the majority of other sports,

including close-contact activities like wrestling, football and hockey back in full swing, it is likely that shooters will once again come out in greater numbers for the ND CTL spring season.


“The teachers, the principals and the coaches I’ve been talking to are excited to have their athletes getting outside, getting some activity and getting together,” Courneya relates, “hopefully we’ll hit that 58 team mark again and start surpassing that, and bounce back from where we dropped off,” he concludes.


The addition of the two new disciplines of five-stand and sporting clays expand the offerings and the environment in which young shooters learn safe and competent shooting skills in a variety of situations to mimic field encounters with birds and other game. In the instance of five-stand, a variety of throwers are set in a stationary field in front of the shooter and a volley of different targets are launched in singles, pairs and report pairs. Like trap, after every five targets the participant moves to a new station,

until the round of 25 targets is complete. With sporting clays, participants travel around a course which sets up a variety of shooting scenarios such as targets mimicking income geese, flushing ruffed grouse and even rolling targets that bounce and jump across the ground like a fleeing rabbit. According to Mark Sandness, owner of Capital City Sporting Clays in Bismarck and volunteer coach for the area’s six high school clay target league teams, the expansion of offerings works on two different levels.


“The adding of five stand and sporting clays to the league will help each participant develop into a better all-around shooter,” Sandness states, adding, “the excitement for these additional programs comes from building more camaraderie in the school and its clay target program by providing more options, giving students an expanded opportunity to find their niche,” he concludes.


The ND CTL spring league starts at the end of March, and schools can start a team throughout the month. In those schools where teams already exist, interested students in grades six through 12 with hunter’s education can contact staff to learn more and register for their local programs. For more information, visit ndclaytarget.com


By: Nick Simonson

The North Dakota Wildlife Federation is a grassroots organization, which protects and enhances North Dakota's wildlife, wildlife habitat and access to that habitat. NDWF promotes hunting, fishing, trapping and other wildlife related activities through education, programs, and on the ground projects. 

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