Breaking barriers on the range (with video)WORTHINGTON — Katelyn Walters didn’t know she’d be shooting clay pigeons when she registered for the wildlife and forestry class at Worthington High School, but she proved to her fellow students that she knows how to handle a gun.
By: Julie Buntjer, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — Katelyn Walters didn’t know she’d be shooting clay pigeons when she registered for the wildlife and forestry class at Worthington High School, but she proved to her fellow students that she knows how to handle a gun.
Taught by her father and grandfather, Walters hunts geese, pheasants and deer, and spends more time around firearms than some of the guys in her class.
What may have once seemed like a stereotypical sport is gaining popularity among females who are not only being asked to handle and fire a gun, but to learn that firearms — when used properly — should not be feared.
Walters’ prowess with a gun earned her a nickname among her male peers at the Worthington Gun Club, as well as some good-natured ribbing. She dished it right back, however, reminding the guys that she outlasted many of them in a knock-out contest Monday afternoon out on the range.
Starting last Thursday and wrapping up Monday, Walters and her fellow students in Cody Dvorak’s wildlife and forestry class tested their firearms skills at the gun club. There were 28 students in all —18 girls and 10 guys —in grades nine through 12. This is the first time the class has included a segment on trap shooting as part of an overall curriculum on gun safety, waterfowl, wildlife, hunting and forestry.
“We hope that by offering (trap shooting) in this class, they will be interested early on in hunting or being involved in trap club,” Dvorak said.
In recent years, only the “You and the Outdoors” class through the physical education track included a trap shooting segment. Dvorak said the class was often filled by seniors, some of whom realized they enjoyed the sport after it was too late to enroll in the trap shooting club.
Prior to visiting the range, students had training in the classroom on basic firearms safety, including where to point the barrel of the gun when not in use. More than a handful of students in the class had never shot a gun before, Dvorak said.
Among them was Sarah Machado, a ninth-grader. She shot about 10 rounds on Thursday, but opted not to shoot again Friday and Monday. Dvorak said he wanted every student to try shooting a gun and aiming for the clay targets at least once.
Machado signed up for the class because she likes animals and said she didn’t realize she’d be learning firearms safety and gun training.
“I liked it,” she said of the trap shooting.
Tenth-grader Joseph Gutierrez, who recalled shooting a gun just once in his life, proved that beginner’s luck — or perhaps natural skill — can be achieved on the gun range. On Friday, he broke 15 of 25 clay targets.
“It’s pretty fun,” he said, encouraging first-timers to breathe calmly, don’t get nervous and “just keep looking down the barrel” of the gun.
With earplugs in her ears, Janie Theppalad fit that description. Having had numerous opportunities to shoot in target practice, she was excited about her success after Monday’s shoot.
“I did way better than I’ve ever done,” she said. All it takes is to “focus, aim and shoot at the right time.”
Theppalad said anyone can shoot a gun if they have the skills.
“A girl can do as good as a guy,” she added. And the best part about being at the gun range: “Being out of school and shooting with my friends.”
Theppalad used a 12-guage shotgun for shooting the clay targets, but others in her class used smaller firearms, including the .410.
While Theppalad doesn’t anticipate using firearms for wildlife hunting or even being a part of the high school’s trap shooting team, there were students in the group who hope to be a part of the club.
Zach Bruns, a ninth-grader, topped his classmates on Friday with 19 of 25 targets broken.
“It’s fun and good practice,” said Bruns, who hunts ducks, geese, pheasants, deer, rabbits and Bigfoot — that last one added by his buddies in the class. Bruns said he’s been working to improve his aim, and the extra target practice helped.
The lessons in trap shooting were guided by Worthington Gun Club President Glen Lonneman and volunteers John and Geraldine Schneiderman.
“My main concern is safety,” said John Schneiderman. “If they’re going to shoot a gun, they should know how to handle it.”
He said it is especially important for girls to learn about shooting because they often don’t get the opportunity, or are perhaps intimidated by guns.
“A lot of these people have never shot a gun,” added Lonneman. “At first they’re a little reluctant to shoot. Firearms are safe and fun to use as long as they’re handled properly.”
The Worthington Gun Club hosts the local FFA members in a trap shooting contest each fall, and the outdoors class from the high school offers the trap shooting segment in the spring.
“Some of them do OK,” Lonneman said, adding that some may break just two or three clays, and then others will hit 14 or 15 of 25 clays.
“You’ve got to practice —stay at it,” he said.
Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.More from around the web