The Fertile-Beltrami trap team started a couple of years ago but didn’t have a home range at which to shoot. However, that will change as the Polk County Commissioners approved a conditional use permit last week for a new shooting range southwest of Fertile.
Shawn Ramsey is the Fertile-Beltrami trap team coach and talked about how they got the team off the ground. “We started two years ago this spring,” said Ramsey. “I coached in Detroit Lakes. My kids go to school in Fertile and wanted to shoot trap, but there wasn’t a program there. They were able to go to another school. I grew up in Detroit Lakes, so my kids were able to shoot there, and I was coaching there. We were able to get the program approved through the school board and started our team here in 2019. Then, of course, last year was messed up by COVID, and we didn’t shoot, but this will be our third year.”
The young program has taken off with good participation numbers in its infancy while being hosted by a neighboring gun club. “Our first year, we had 27 kids,” said Ramsey. “We had 40-some on the roster last year before the virus shut us down. This year it looks like we’re going to be in the 30s. Red Lake Falls was gracious enough to host us and have been wonderful in helping us get our program rolling.”
Ramsey said it’s a great sport that reaches many students who don’t participate in other activities for various reasons. “It’s a fast-growing, good sport for kids that have to help at home with work, farm, or helping with younger students,” said Ramsey. “We only require that they be there one day a week. And you don’t have to be 6’ 4” 240 pounds and run like a gazelle to shoot trap. It can be taught. So, everybody participates. There is no riding the bench—every score matters with the true team scoring system that USA Clay Target League has set up. I ran the number on our roster, and there was over 60 percent of the kids on our roster don’t participate in any other extracurricular activity. We’re drawing from a whole new pool of kids who get to be part of a team and experience student athletics.”
High School trap teams compete virtually from their home ranges until the state qualifier explained Ramsey. “It’s virtual for the regular season,” said Ramsey. “And then, the second week of June, they have the state championship qualifier. All the Minnesota teams are invited to Alexandria, and over a nine-day period, all the teams in the state will shoot. There are 1.2 million shotguns shells fired from student-athletes across the state. The top 40 teams are invited to shoot in the state championship in Prior Lake the following weekend. The top 100 kids from across the state get an automatic bid on the individual side, which is quite an accomplishment with close 13,000 kids shooting.”
The range will sit on a fairly isolated area off Highway 1, right on the Polk and Norman County line about five miles southwest of Fertile. Ramsey said power will have to be brought in for an eventual clubhouse from about a mile away. “We’re going to put in three trap houses with poured concrete walls and roofs,” said Ramsey. “The sidewalks and shooting paths will all be poured concrete. And we’re going to have a 400-yard rifle range and a handgun range for this year. Then, we’re going to hold a fundraiser, have a big BBQ toward fall to bring power in from over a mile, and that will be $20,000 or so. And we’ll put up a clubhouse.”
The shooting park will sit on 30 acres that were donated by a local family. “I want to say thank you to the Rob and Shelly Ramz family for donating the property,” said Ramsey. “Everybody who put all the work into it. We have several people who’ve been working hard for a long time on this. It’s rewarding to see it all coming to fruition. The facility will be named the Walter Ramz Memorial Shooting Park after Rob’s dad. It was pretty amazing what they did for the youth of this community. That’s a lot of money in 30 acres. We’re indebted to them.”
Ramsey said the plan is the building would host classes such as firearm safety or conceal and carry when completed. The team will still use the Red Lake Falls range to shoot this spring, but Ramsey said they should be ready to fire the first shots at their own shooting park by July.