TPWD Launches Shotgun Sports in Schools Pilot Program

Steve Lightfoot, 512-389-4701,

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AUSTIN, Texas —The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department announced it is this fall piloting a target shooting program similar to its popular Archery in Schools initiative.

The Clay Sports in Schools pilot, designed to introduce 6th through 12th grade level youth to competitive shotgun clay target shooting, will be offered in selected schools throughout the state, beginning with the Wildlife Management and Recreation curriculum in high schools.

“I have no doubts there are some potential international clay target shooters sitting in our classrooms and a program such as this could be the key to discovering those gifted athletes,” said Steve Hall, TPWD education director. “The thing about competitive clay sports is you don’t have to be the strongest or the fastest athlete to be successful, which means it’s more accessible to more kids.”

Hall points to the department’s Archery in Schools program, where in less than two years more than 300 physical education teachers have received training in archery target shooting and more than 400 students have competed at two statewide competitions.

“Texas has a strong dove and quail hunting heritage,” said Hall. “Clay target games simulate the flight of these popular game birds, so a program like this is a natural fit.”

Similar programs are growing in popularity in other states, such as Tennessee, where participants are receiving extra-curricular recognition lettering in clay target sports. Some students are advancing toward national and international competition, with an eye toward college scholarships in clay target sports and a possible berth on the U.S.A. Shooting Team.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Commissioner John Parker of Lufkin learned of the Tennessee program about a year ago and believes the concept will be successful in Texas, too.

“I think the potential is there,” he said. “We have a dedicated group of folks working together to make it happen and I support the effort enthusiastically.”

The Texas Clay Sports in Schools pilot will focus initially on professional educators who already teach hunter education in schools, specifically in the high school agriculture science curricula. TPWD’s Charlie Wilson, who introduces newcomers to clay sports through the department’s mobile five-stand sporting clays system, came up with the idea for the pilot and received approval from the Texas Agriculture Science administration to implement the trial program at their annual conference this past July.

Pilot schools will be tasked with putting together teams or clubs interested in shooting trap, skeet and/or sporting clays. During the current school year, participants will focus on developing trapshooting skills.

TPWD will be looking to expand shooting range facilities that accommodate the school teams, offering incentives to those ranges that provide access to these young shooters through its federal grants program. At its Aug. 23 public hearing the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission awarded three shooting range grants to facilities that are compatible with youth clay sports recruitment.

In addition to the Clay Sports in Schools pilot, TPWD will continue to support existing youth clay target programs, the Texas Cooperative Extension's 4-H Shooting Sports program, the largest program of its kind in the nation, and National Shooting Sports Foundation Scholastic Clays Program, which already has a successful chapter in Texas.

Looking ahead, TPWD is also planning to launch in 2008 an introductory program to youth clay sports, called Junior Clays. This initiative is a similar after-school program, whereby youth that are relatively new to shotgun sports can enter "hunter class" competitions already held at many of the ranges throughout Texas and sponsored by various state and national shooting sports organizations. The effort will stress opportunities for families new to shooting to come to ranges to enjoy the shotgun sports.

Wilson, who currently reaches 6,000 shooters annually with the mobile sporting clays range operation, has been tasked to initiate the two new programs, with the assistance of regional and statewide hunter education staff and volunteers.

For more information about these programs, contact TPWD’s hunter education staff at (512) 389-4999 or toll free at (800) 792-1112; ext. 4999.