by DAVE POND
Just minutes north of Rome, Wisconsin, stands the Wisconsin Trapshooting Association (WTA) Shooting Complex and Learning Center, a testament to Badger State trap shooters’ passion for the sport they love and a desire to build a centrally located facility accessible to students across the state.
The complex opened on the first day of the 2013 WTA State Shoot and has become a destination. In fact, last year’s shoot was the third largest in the country, attracting participants from 28 different states.
This facility boasts 30 trap fields that offer a wide variety of trap shooting experiences. There is American-style trap shooting as well as an Olympic bunker for international-style trapshooting. And in support of its mission to promote the sport and inspire the next generation, the WTA fully supports education and training of youth shooters.
During the 2018 spring season, 1,941 students from 78 Wisconsin high school teams participated in Wisconsin State High School Clay Target League (WISHSCTL) competition, which culminated with astate tournament held in June at the WTA Shooting Complex.
“Clay target shooting as an activity for Wisconsin high school athletes continues to grow by leaps and bounds,” said Jim Sable, founder of the USA High School Clay Target League. “The record-setting growth we’ve seen shows the demand for alternative high school activities related to Wisconsin’s longstanding outdoor traditions.”
This is the fifth consecutive year the WTA Shooting Complex has hosted the WISHSCTL State Tournament, which has grown considerably each year.
“The very first year we hosted the State Tournament there were 55 athletes,” said WTA President Fritz Thistle. “The second year we had 250 or so, and that grew to 800. Last year, we had 1,100 students, all competing in a single day.”
The crowds have been just as impressive.
“We probably had 5,000 people at the grand opening last year,” Thistle said. “Like any other big sporting event here in Wisconsin, family members and friends come out cheering in big numbers to support their athletes. It’s just a great time for everybody.”
The WISHSCTL State Tournament is the culmination of hard work, not only from the kids, but the coaches and the shooting sports community. “These kids come from cities all over the state to represent their schools,” Thistle said. “They’re being taught by veteran shooters and educators at one- or two-trap facilities, and they’re being taught the right way the first time. Everyone gets to participate, and I think that’s so important.”
Locally, the complex continues to draw students on site. In April, a local league team made up of students from Nekoosa, Lincoln, Port Edwards, and Adam’s Friendship schools held its first official practice at the WTA Shoot- ing Complex—its new home grounds. The combined team will host League competition on Monday evenings throughout the spring.
“There were 39 kids out here, and we’re so happy that they’re here with us,” Thistle said. “It’ll be a really good partnership for us. Obviously, we hope they’ll do well, and we’re going to do everything we can to help them be successful.”
In addition to its newly opened Learning Center, the WTA Complex also includes an on-site campground and RV park, with 104 pull-through sites with electric, water, and sewer, as well as restroom and shower facilities. With these enhancements and its central Wisconsin location, the WTA Shooting Complex will continue to be a can’t-miss destination for shooting sports enthusiasts of all ages.
“This is just such a fun sport,” said Thistle. “Students can do it with their moms, dads, and siblings. It’s a true family activity.”