Whitman Gun Club takes another shot

Evan Taylor

“Pull!” yells junior Kemper Brightman. A bright orange, bio-degradable clay pigeon flies out of the trap and––bam! A shot is fired from the shotgun and the clay shatters into countless little pieces over the trap field.

Whitman’s Trap Shooting Club met for the first time this year Saturday, Oct. 13 at the Walla Walla Gun Club for a day of shooting. A group of about 15 students, male and female, drove out to the local shooting range, which is situated among fields on the outskirts of town close to the Walla Walla Regional Airport. Apparently even among the largely liberal student body of Whitman, there is still a place for some good old shootin’.

Photos by Catie Bergman.

Some of the students had shot before, some had been trap shooting and others had never even fired a weapon, but all took part in the sport.

“It’s great to introduce people who haven’t shot before, especially at Whitman––there [are] not a lot of people who are shooting,” said senior Peter Atkinson, the club’s president and budget manager. “It’s a good opportunity to give it a shot.”

After the group was taught how to shoot with a good stance, taught how to track their targets and, most importantly, given ear plugs, they took turns trying their luck shooting the clay pigeons. “Trap shooting” is a sport that involves shooting orange disks––called clay pigeons––which are projected from a machine in the “trap,” a small structure at ground level in front of the shooters. Trap shooting was originally designed as bird hunting practice, hence the “clay pigeon,” a replacement for live pigeons.

The club was founded by alumnus Bennett Baucom ’12, who decided to start Whitman’s first ever Trap Shooting Club last year. Before that, Whitman’s only link with the local gun club was through the Beta Theta Pi fraternity house, which traditionally goes trap shooting as a rush event.

An official connection with the Walla Walla Gun Club was made last year when Baucom founded the club, and continues with Atkinson currently. He corresponds with Bob Bloch, secretary of the Walla Walla Gun Club and alumnus of Whitman, who is excited about having more college-age boys and girls come out to shoot.

“We love to see [Whitman students] come out,” said Bloch. “It’s nice to see people who aren’t really from rural towns come to Walla Walla and figure out that you can actually shoot here.”

The trap shooting club receives funding from ASWC to purchase ammunition and clay pigeons so that the connection with the Walla Walla gun club can be made. Although the club is still new, it is gaining attention and plans on making a trip every other week.

“[The club] only had two or three events last semester … and the word didn’t really get out, but then we set up at the activities fair at the start of the semester,” said Atkinson.

Atkinson is still in the process of figuring out funding with ASWC, which will determine the frequency of trips.

“I’d like to go every weekend, but I think it’ll probably be every other weekend,” he said.

John Lee is a first-year who had his first experience shooting a gun with the club this Saturday.

“It’s an experience that I’m glad to have taken part in,” said Lee. “I’m from New Jersey, so you don’t really get a chance to shoot guns like this. It’s definitely something I’ve always wanted to try.”

The Walla Walla Gun Club has about 125 members and is run solely by volunteers like Bloch, who say they are proud that they are part of the oldest continuously operated gun club in the state of Washington. The club was started in 1892 at the cavalry post at the old Fort Walla Walla.

The newly founded Trap Shooting Club is still fine tuning a few issues such as the amount of funding they are allowed and their inventory of guns. Currently, the shotguns are supplied entirely by Whitman students, and although Atkinson would love Whitman to finance the purchase of guns for the club, it is unlikely.

The club seems to stray from a the traditional Whitman––and Northwest––culture, which lacks a large shooting, hunting or gun rights following.

“It is kinda counter to the stereotypical Whitman culture here,” said Professor of Geology Patrick Spencer, the advisor to the club. “I’ve definitely had people look at me kinda sideways when they find out that I enjoy hunting. People––when they hear gun or shotgun––usually they associate it with hunting or shooting things and I know a lot of people that don’t hunt birds very often or never, but they do like trap shooting just for the recreational opportunity.”

Whitman’s own trap shooting club is open to any student, whether they’re seeking to further their hobby or try something a bit outside of their comfort zone.