The 122nd Montana State Trap Shooting Tournament starts this coming Wednesday, July 6th at the Helena Trap Club. I’ll be competing in all the events. This is a 1300 registered target tourney and there is also the Butte Rod & Gun Club competition consisting of 40 non-registered targets. The “Butte Medal” competition just might be the oldest, longest running contest in Montana. Only Montanans can compete and one does not have to be an ATA member. It will be held on July 9th. I’ll give you a report on the state shoot in my next column. If you are in the Helena area this week stop by and enjoy the best trap shooting competition the state offers.
Here is a bit of a rerun; a short history of trap shooting.
Today, when we think of the clay target sports, visions of colored disks, mostly orange, come to mind. But the roots of the clay target sports were vastly different. The oldest shotgun sport is trap shooting or simply trap. Trap had its beginnings in the 1700s in England and the targets were live pigeons. The bird was placed in a spring loaded “trap” or it was dizzied” and placed under a hat. When the shooter was ready, he would call “pull” and the “puller” would jerk a cord that would release the bird from the trap or yank the hat off of the bird. If the shooter hit the bird, it was counted as, obviously, “dead.” If the bird escaped, it was considered “lost.” The terms “pull, puller, dead, and lost” are still used in today’s trap nomenclature.
Trap shooting in the US began in the early 1800s. The first recorded trap shoot in the US was held in Cincinnati, OH in 1831. Like in England, live birds were used as targets and the sport quickly spread around the country, especially in the Ohio and New York areas. While PETA didn’t exist then, there were plenty of non-hunters whose grumbling about the sport caused one state after another to introduce laws outlawing the use of live birds as targets. The extinction of the passenger pigeon has been partially attributed to live bird tourneys.
Trap shooters needed a new target; that target came mainly in the form of glass balls. Charles Portlock invented a throwing machine that heaved the ball into the sky. The problem was, the balls were tossed straight up. In 1877, American Adam Bogardu perfected a catapult style thrower to launch the glass balls at shooting shows. The term “ball trap” was adopted.
Today’s modern trap tournaments with hundreds, even thousands of competitors became possible only because of the invention of George Ligowsky of Cincinnati, OH. Ligowsky developed a flat target made of clay and pitch, and then improved a machine to throw the targets. There were a few drawbacks with the Ligowsky target; they were often too hard or too soft, and the pitch was poisonous to hogs. (I remember the boxes of targets we had in my youth had warnings about danger to swine on them.) Ligowsky’s little disk was truly a game changer and opened the door to today’s modern clay target sports games.
Tomorrow is our collective birthday, the 4th of July. As usual I’ll start my day by reading our Declaration of Independence, a 50 plus year tradition for me, then enjoy the day doing whatever I choose. I hope you all do the same.
And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor. Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776.
Be safe and good shooting.