Pull! The inaugural season of the Claybreakers

High school clay target teams are rapidly gaining popularity across the state and Ellsworth has joined the trend.

The inaugural season of the Ellsworth Rod and Gun Junior Claybreakers began with a bang (literally) last Wednesday at the Ellsworth Rod and Gun Club.

The Claybreakers are part of the Wisconsin State High School Clay Target League (WSHSCTL), which is an offshoot of the USA High School Clay Target League (a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to providing shooting sports as an extracurricular coed activity to students in grades six through 12 who have their Firearms Safety Certification).

The Claybreakers boasts 26 co-ed members in its first year, kids grades 9-12.

“We thought it was something we should have here,” said head coach Denton Achenbach, who is a co-organizer of the group along with Superintendent Barry Cain. “We’re a rural high school with a lot of people who enjoy hunting and fishing.”

Once a week for the six-week season, the team will shoot every Wednesday from 5-8 p.m. at the Ellsworth Rod and Gun Club, which is not charging the Claybreakers to use the facility, Achenbach said.

Ellsworth’s team is a member of the second-largest conference (schools are grouped in one of five conferences according to number of participants), which includes Prairie du Chien, Elmwood, Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau and St. Croix Central. Out of the Claybreakers’ 26 shooters, the top 17 scores will be recorded each week.

How are they scored?

According to the website wiclaytarget.com, this is how the process goes:

They will shoot 50 rounds each and their scores will be recorded online.

“Upon a start command from the scorekeeper, each shooter, in turn, will:

• Take proper shooting position.

• Load one shell.

• Close the gun.

• Clearly call “pull” or some other command for the target.

• Shoot at the target.

• Scorekeeper does not comment when a target is hit.

• Scorekeeper will say “lost” out loud when a target is missed.

• Discharge empty shell.

• Wait for next turn.

A shooter may close the gun only after the previous shooter has completed his/her turn. No shooter will turn from the shooting station before the shooter’s gun is open and empty. Each shooter should begin his/her turn within a few seconds after the last shooter has fired at a target and the result has been recorded. At the end of each round, the scorekeeper announces the scores for that round in firing order.”

Achenbach said the scores will be recorded online, so this is a virtual league. Students will not travel to other schools to compete. The Claybreakers will compete against other teams in its online conference, which will not be determined by geography, but by the number of people per team. The team will compete against teams similar in size.

A state tournament will be held on June 6 in Rome, Wis. Elmwood took top honors last year at the tournament.

Gaining popularity

Achenbach said the WSHSCTL has gone from having six teams last year (Elmwood, St. Croix Central, Potosi, St. Croix Falls, Frederic and Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau) to 23 teams this year with more than 500 shooters participating.

In the last 10 years, the sport has grown to include over 6,000 athletes in Minnesota, Achenbach said.

Cost to participate is $180 for the season, but that price has been reduced to $120 thanks to area sponsors, Achenbach said. Those sponsors include: Brenner’s Overhead Garage Doors, Musty-Barnhart Agency, Inc., Loberg Law Office, Ellsworth Funsters, Matt’s Electric Inc., M B & Boys Inc., Ellsworth Rod and Gun, The Outdoor Store, Pierce County Meats Inc., State Farm (Denton Achenbach agency), Plummer Concrete and Nelson Plumbing.

Achenbach said the Outdoor Store has provided clays and ammunition for cost to the Claybreakers, who use their own guns for the sport. Absolutely no guns will be brought to the school. The club is strictly organized as a community club. All shooting will take place at the range.

Four Hunter Safety certified instructors are supervising the Claybreakers: Scott McLeod, Lee Wright, Andy Thom and Dave Voelker. Brad Johnson runs the trap house, Achenbach said.

For more information about the Claybreakers, contact Achenbach at 715-307-2417 or Barry Cain at 715-273-3900. To learn more about the sport, visit wiclaytarget.com.


By: Sarah Young