Earlier this year, the owner of Joe Bob Outfitters, Joseph Boeckner, and the Fort Hays State University Shooting Club held a raffle for a set of engraved Browning Medallion Series A-Bold rifles, selling raffle tickets for $50 each.
The advisor of the shooting club prefers the assembly and goals of the FHSU team, compared to other in-state colleges.
“We are probably the most structured, organized group out there right now. We travel extensively, we compete extensively.” said Duane Shepherd, associate professor of health and human performance.
Kilee Hutchison, Lakin senior, believes the reason the team is so good, is because of how close all of the team members are outside of school and practice.
“What a lot of people notice about the team is that we’re like a family, we all have classes together, a couple of the boys live together, and we don’t live very far from each other, and we all run around together.” Hutchison said.
“We’re a close knit group, we have each other’s back.” said Josh Crankshaw, North Platte, Neb. freshman.
The team also participates and competes in many different types of shooting.
“We participate in basically all the shotgun sports: trap, trap doubles, skeet, skeet doubles. The international events that they compete in the Olympics: bunker and international skeet. We do sporting clay and five stand, just about all of them.” Damian Giles, graduate student. Hutchison said her favorite type of shooting is bunker trap, while Crankshaw and Giles enjoy shooting in the sporting clay category.
Although each team member enjoys shooting a different type of shotgun sport event, they are all encouraged to compete and try their best in all available events.
“The students that come and shoot for us, they’re all very, very good in two or three events, probably considered experts in two or three events, but our club philosophy is that all of our members shoot all events, so that has been our goal, we want everyone to be good, but competitive across the board. We function very highly on the team aspect,” Shepherd said.
The team has also traveled a lot to shoot competitively. Over the years, the group has traveled to Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico, Arizona, Oklahoma, and Texas for their national event. The Association of College Unions International national shooting events are held in San Antonio, Texas, each year. The team also travels to Sparta, Ill., to compete in the trap shooting national event, held by the Scholastic Clay Target Program.
While traveling, the team has enjoyed riding together and bonding in the van, but they said they are always excited to finally arrive at their destination. Competing at different places over the years, some members have discovered certain places to be their favorites. Hutchison said she liked to shoot at the Whittington Center in Raton, NM, while Giles and Crankshaw liked shooting at the range in Tucson, Ariz.
Due to the FHSU shooting team’s traveling and competing, many out-of-state students are beginning to notice and consider FHSU for their education and sports.
As well as attracting nationwide students, the shooting team has expanded internally over the past few years. The team began with five members, slowly made its way to nine members, and is up to 15 members this year. Shepherd said that as the team’s advisor, he enjoys watching them grow and be successful.
Nationally, 34 colleges were competing when FHSU first got involved, and now there are over 150 universities competing throughout the country.
As well as paying for traveling expenses, the team must pay for registration and entries into each meet and event. The team also has to keep their equipment updated, by purchasing new parts and supplies. The funding for these expenses is paid in part by the Midway Foundation, owned by Larry and Brenda Potterfield. The Midway Foundation was started as a way to promote shooting sports at colleges and universities nationwide. A portion of the money, from the raffle held earlier this year, was put into the Midway Foundation’s account, which the foundation matched. The team is able to withdraw five percent of the account’s balance each year, to pay for all of their event registrations, travel expenses, and equipment.
Each team member takes their time each week to practice the sport and better their abilities. Like other sports, the members record their shots and scores to keep a record of their progress.
The team usually practices on Tuesday nights at the Hays City Sportsman’s Club, and sometimes travel to Wichita to practice on different turf.
The Fort Hays shooting team was founded in the summer of 2005 by Shepherd and five FHSU students. The team currently has 15 members, made up of 12 men and three women.
The public is welcome to attend a recreational shooting practice nights on Thursdays at 5 p.m., where instruction is provided and people may come out and shoot at their leisure.