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Newman Swamp Rats keep trapshooting tradition alive

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Newman Swamp Rats keep trapshooting tradition alive

Newman Swamp Rat youth trap shooter Ali Vieria shoots at a target during a recent practice.

Photo contributed/

POSTED April 28, 2012 1:41 a.m.

NEWMAN — Trapshooting — which began in the early 1790s as a sporting event where gunmen would shoot passenger pigeons — is one of the country’s oldest sports.

Today trap shooting remains similar to its original form, however, clay target birds are released from a trap house and competitors use a 12-gauge single-barreled shotgun to hit them. In the 209, one of the largest trapshooting clubs is the Newman Swamp Rats, with a membership of 100 people.

President Esther Puckett said members come from all walks of life.

“This is a very family-friendly sport and we definitely have a family-oriented atmosphere here. We have young adults, youth, older and retired people. We all have fun and a good time, but safety is of the utmost importance,” she said.

The Swamp Rats were established in 1933, and was known first by the name Swamp Rats Blue Rock Club. The clubhouse, which is the same clubhouse the Newman Swamp Rats use today, was built in 1953. Later, in the mid 1950s, the Blue Rock Club formed the Westside Pistol & Rifle Club as part of the club bringing in bullet traps for rifle and pistol shooting within the clubhouse. The pistol and rifle club disbanded in the early 1970s, making the Newman Swamp Rats strictly a trapshooting range.

Often confused with skeet shooting, trapshooting is similar and often believed to require an advanced skill level.

In skeet shooting the field is laid out on a semi-circle (or half clock) with eight stations for shooting. Targets in skeet are always thrown in the same pattern of flight, but the angle of the shot varies because the shooter changes position as the skeet squad moves from station to station.

In trap, the shooting is done from five adjacent positions in a crescent-shaped formation 16 or more yards behind the trap. Shooting is done in rotation with the person in number one position firing first and so on. Each person fires at an individual target. After each has fired five shots from a particular position on the crescent, all move one station to the right until everyone on the squad has fired from all five positions for a total of 25 shots. The trap squad consists of five people or less.

The trap is concealed in a low house in front of the shooting stations. Clay targets are thrown from the house at various angles unknown to the shooter. Unlike skeet, trap contains an element of the unpredictable. Because the shooter can never guess which angle the target will follow, it is impossible to use a cut and dried formula in determining proper leads. The principles of lead, swing, and follow-through are applicable to all forms of shotgun shooting.

The Newman Swamp Rats members participate in both competitive and recreational shoots through Amateur Trapshooters Association-sanctioned events.

“The skill levels vary in our club, but whatever level you’re at everyone has fun,” said Pickett.

The Newman Swamp Rats trapshooting club has participated in the California Scholastic Clay Target Program since 2003, under the direction of the Scholastic Shooting Sports Foundation. The mission of the SSSF is to introduce school-aged youth in grades 12 and under to clay target sports. The SCTP provides young people with a positive experience in sports designed to instill them with personal values and character traits such as fair play, compassion, individual responsibility, sportsmanship, self-discipline, personal commitment, and a special camaraderie that can only be found in team sports.

Pickett encourages those interested in guns to consider trapshooting — no matter what their age or experience level. Pickett was introduced to trapshooting as a young adult in 1992 when her husband Jim (then her boyfriend) introduced her to the sport. She now attributes the couple’s eventual marriage to trap shooting.

For more information on the Newman Swamp Rats visit

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