With five area schools calling the Watertown rod & gun club home, it’s apparent that clay target shooting continues to cement its position as the most popular high school sport in Minnesota.
Teams from Holy Family Catholic, Mayer Lutheran, Waconia, Watertown-Mayer, and Chanhassen-Chaska all sharpen their skills at the Watertown club, located just 30 miles west of Minneapolis, much to the delight of staff and club regulars alike.
“I’ve been managing the club for 23 years and really enjoy watching the kids learn,” said Gary Kubasch. “It’s amazing how some of them started out as very poor shooters have become pretty darn good.” Kubasch continues to and enjoyment in seeing newcomers of all ages and abilities—many of whom first visit the club in support of their classmates, siblings, children, or students—give trap shooting a try, and fall in love with the sport for themselves.
But of all those experiences, one stands out after Kubasch’s two-plus decades as club manager. Several years ago, the Watertown-Mayer clay target team included a team member who was both wheelchair-bound and relatively new to the sport.
“She really struggled at first,” he recalled, “but when she hit her first target, it was neat to see. It was one I’m sure she’ll remember, but it was a memorable target for me, too.”
After opening its doors in 1955, the Watertown Rod & Gun Club moved to its current location, just southwest of the city of Watertown, in 1963. The original clubhouse was an authentic
World War II surplus Quonset hut—an all-purpose galvanized steel building known for its semi-circular, arched design.
Today, the club consists of three trap fields, as well as an air conditioned and heated clubhouse that was added in 1990 in no small part to the generosity of many local community members.
In addition to student programs, the club hosts Sunday shoots and boasts a Wednesday night league featuring more than two dozen teams.
“Our club has really grown a lot because of the students,” Kubasch said. “Many of our league members took up the sport while they were in school, and now, continue to come out for league play.”
A simple scan of the trap fields shows the club’s continued popularity, a fact that’s backed up by the sheer quantity of supplies on hand.
“When I started managing the club, I’d say we went through one-third to one-half a load of targets every year,” Kubasch said. “Now, we’re well over a load a year, and still growing.”
Each load includes 22 pallets holding 64 cases of targets, which means Watertown’s trap fields see plenty of action. So, as it has since its inception, the club continues to focus on firearm safety as its highest priority, sponsoring firearms safety classes each year. Kubasch, along with many of the club’s senior members and other experienced shooters, are happy to help teach and mentor those who are interested in learning more.“I can’t speak for all of the clubs,” Kubasch said, “but at Watertown, we’d welcome you with open arms.”