By Nick Simonson
As the USA Clay Target League (USA CTL) expands across the country, new opportunities open for participants to represent their schools and compete against other kids, and while it is best known for its spring season, which last year had over 17,000 participants in 24 states, including 900 in North Dakota, growing interest in the league’s fall season – which kicks off Sun. Sep. 17 – is keeping young shooters on stand almost year-round.
While about a quarter of the size of the USA CTL’s spring session, the fall season still has considerable draw, especially in North Dakota, where over 200 students, including 48 from Bismarck schools, will compete in a shortened program designed to keep shooters sharp and give those who might not be able to participate in the spring an opportunity to get involved in the rapidly-growing activity. Open to teams that enrolled in the previous season, the fall program consists of a Reserve Week and five League Weeks. The competition is virtual, with participants logging their rounds at a local gun club, which are then entered by their coaches into an online system and participants are ranked and scored against competitors from other similarly-sized teams from schools from around the state. This eliminates the need for travel, and keeps costs low for participants, schools and clubs.
John Nelson, Vice President of the Minnesota State High School Clay Target League, states that over the past several years, the fall league, nationwide, has grown at about the same pace as the spring league at around 30 to 35 percent, though the fall season typically has less participants due to conflicting school schedules, different sports and other events in autumn, but it still serves an important purpose.
“[The fall season taps] a new crop of kids at school, and kids in conflicting spring activities can participate in fall,” Nelson stated, adding that this year’s fall season will engage about 4,400 students in five different states.
As opposed to spring, the fall league faces the challenge of decreasing daylight, which is part of the reason for the shorter season and no Championship Event at its end. However, conference competition is still high, and awards are given out to the top performers and top teams at the end of October. The league is open to all shooters in grades six through 12 who have completed firearms safety, and stresses those tenets of safe firearm use, having fun, and improving marksmanship as its core goals.
The North Dakota State High School Clay Target League (ND CTL) started in 2015 and currently has 38 teams. The USA Clay Target League is expected to top 20,000 participants nationwide next spring, and be represented in more than 30 states. For more information on the USA Clay Target, visit their website or find them on Facebook, and learn more about the ND CTL, visit the league online at www.ndclaytarget.com.