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Oct. 16, 2017 La Grande, Ore. – A full parking lot and packed clubhouse on Gun Club Road attest to the popularity of one of Eastern Oregon University’s fastest growing student groups.
Trap Club assembles each Wednesday at the La Grande Gun Club to practice their skills and engage with peers in a welcoming and supportive environment. First-time shooters stand alongside veterans of the sport as they take aim at clay pigeons flung into the darkening sky.
President of the La Grande Gun Club Pat O’Reilly said the club goes through about seven times as many clay pigeons when EOU students are present.
“We love to see a young crowd out here,” O’Reilly said. “It’s nice to see the diversity — a lot of these kids have never shot a firearm before.”
O’Reilly said Trap Club members pitch in at community events and partner with the gun club to keep score and clean up each evening.
He’s watched the student club grow exponentially since it began in November 2015. Trap Club exemplifies the thriving university community fostered at EOU, and has plans to expand to two practices per week to accommodate its rapid increase in membership.
Trap Club practices are free to EOU students thanks to club fundraisers and a prestigious grant from the Friends of the NRA Foundation. The nationwide organization supports educational and public service programs related to shooting sports, and has awarded more than $335 million in grants since 1990.
Club Advisor John Shorts helped apply for the grant last spring. Loaning guns to new shooters and always keeping an emphasis on safety, Shorts has hosted shooting sessions with EOU athletic teams as well.
“We had to show that we’re attracting new shooters to the sport, which you can see each week we are very clearly doing,” Shorts said. “Having women involved is a big draw — about a third of our members are women, which is a lot compared to the average.”
The grant awarded EOU’s Trap Club 800 boxes of shotgun shells, worth $4,540.
Madisen Garlie, Trap Club president and a senior from May, Idaho, started trap shooting when she transferred to EOU from Oregon Institute of Technology.
“We recruit a lot of high school students because they hear about Trap Club and want to come to EOU,” said Garlie, a math major who also plays volleyball for the Mountaineers. “The additional shells make it possible to keep the club membership shooting for free this year, which encourages first-time shooters to give it a try.
After receiving the grant in May, Trap Club has gone through about 400 boxes of the donated shells. Ty Hodder, a freshman from Klamath Falls, Ore., said the low cost and inviting atmosphere attracted him to the club.
“I grew up hunting and heard about Trap Club from John [Shorts] at Mountaineer Day,” Hodder said. “It’s a lot of fun, and it’s nice that we can come out and do this for free.”
Garrett Martens, a junior from Union, Ore., has been involved in Trap Club since its inception and has been shooting since he was 9 years old. Now he’s a top shooter within the club, and said it provides a relaxed setting where new students can fit in and get to know one another.
“A lot of the people we see here have never shot a gun before,” Martens said. “It’s not like any other sport.”
Martens and Garlie have their sights set on formalizing Trap Club into a full-fledged collegiate or club team. Garlie said they anticipate adding skeet shooting and sporting clays to the club’s repertoire so they can participate in a wider range of events. The step up begins this year with sending a contingent of Mountaineers to nationals in San Antonio.
For more information about Trap Club and other student organizations at EOU, visit eou.edu/clubs.
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