A FEW SHORT YEARS AGO, the town of Boscobel in rural southwestern Wisconsin was little known in the way of high school athletics. The formation of Boscobel High School’s Bird Dogs trap shooting team changed that in a hurry, exceeding expectations for participation and winning state in its first year of competition.
“This is a rural farming area. Just great kids and that, but they’ve have had no success in sports,” said Randy Lange, who coaches the team with fellow volunteers Greg Plotz and Dave Schoettler. “It turns out we just didn’t have the right sport for them, really.”
FILLING A VOID
Lange said the team, which competes in the Wisconsin State Clay Target High School League, came about two years ago with the help of a school board member who pushed for it. Lange’s son was a sophomore at the school at the time, and the coach said he already knew all of the students and had an “in” with them. Plotz was a wiz with the paperwork and bookkeeping, Lange said, and Schoettler taught hunter safety and was a natural fit.
“So by fluke the three of us got together and all covered what we needed, so no one guy had to do everything,” Lange said. “It really worked out well.”
The group secured the Boscobel Sportsmen’s Club for shooting and got the backing of the club in the process. Lange started recruiting students over the lunch hour at the school, which has a total enrollment of about 400. Hoping to get 25 members for the inaugural team, he ended up with nearly 40. Many of the members had been shooting in some fashion for years already and were eager about the opportunity to put the skill to use in a competitive sport.
The team went through some brief growing pains during its first couple of weeks, Lange said, but then caught its stride and never looked back, winning state in 2015 in front of a sea of red-clothed supporters.
The shooters, a good mix of boys and girls from sixth through 12th grade, rode fire trucks through the town that night in jubilant celebration, a tradition for championship- winning teams in Boscobel, Lange said.
The team passed 50 members the next year and has won four straight conference titles. The Bird Dogs took third in the state tournament last year.
“We’ve had incredible success, never expected it, and it’s been fantastic for our kids to have success in something because our town is just not known for sports teams,” Lange said.
The trap team shoots on Sunday afternoons and Monday nights. Sundays, traditionally a family day, were a hard sell at first, Lange said. But that has changed thanks to outstanding parent involvement. The team lists 15–20 assistant coaches and every Sunday and Monday has become a community event.
“On any given Sunday, we’ll have 50 parents out watching and most of them agree that if it wasn’t for that, they might not be spending time with their kids on a Sunday afternoon,” Lange said. “I’m included.”
And on any given Sunday, he says, the team can turn it on, get in a groove and produce some incredible shooting. The town as a whole has rallied behind the team, supporting it through fundraisers, attendance and participation. The team has about a dozen seniors currently, so Lange expects a small dip in members next year, but he knows the team’s success has sparked interest in younger shooters eager to go through hunter safety training and get involved.
“Everybody’s really taken to it and it’s been a joy to work with the kids and have some success,” Lange said. ✪