LOCATED IN THE SMALL, RURAL TOWN OF KECHI, KANSAS, Ark Valley Gun Club has seen explosive growth as a result of the Kansas High School Clay Target League.

The club was founded in the early 1980s and moved to its current location in 2001 because of residential growth, says club president Shawn Perkins. About 260 regular members call the club home and it had been doing well on its own, but got a shot in the arm when it opened its trap fields to four high school teams in 2016.

That year, nearly 140 students made use of the range three days a week, and it hosted about 160 students at the 2016 State Tournament. In 2017, the number of high school trap teams using the range grew to nine, totalling about 260 students, who now shoot at the club seven days a week. At its second State Tournament last June, student participants topped 500.

“We didn’t expect it to grow this fast,” Perkins says. “And the way they’re talking right now, they’re expecting two to three more teams next spring.”

The club recently installed all new trap houses to help the facility meet the increased demand. The old bunkers could only fit about 30 cases of targets, Perkins says. The new ones can accommodate two pallets of targets, making reloading far more infrequent. All of the range’s machines were rebuilt as well, and plans are in place to revamp the parking lot and repaint the club house.

One trap field at Ark Valley is dedicated to members, some of whom have started helping out students and coaches. Perkins says many high school athletes have also become regular club members.

“The League helps get them hooked on it, so now they’re coming out and joining our leagues,” he says.