For the next two weeks trap shooters of all ages will descend upon the World Shooting and Recreational Complex in Sparta.
The 14-day extravaganza begins July 28 with the opening day of the AIM (Academics-Integrity-Marksmanship) competition. AIM is the official youth shooting program of the Amateur Trapshooting Association.
The AIM competition concludes Aug. 1. The Grand American, the ATA’s signature event, begins the following day. The shoot concludes Aug. 12 with the Grand American Handicap.
Pre-registration is up nearly 10 percent for the AIM competition, almost eight percent for The Grand American.
“We’re up eight percent,” said Lynn Gipson, executive director of the ATA and Grand American tournament director. “It’s one of two things. We changed our pre-squadding software, it’s much more user friendly. Shooters can pick the times and places they want to shoot. Maybe more people are pre-squadding because they can do that.
“We’re happy with that. It’s better than being down eight. It’s just hard to figure now if we have more people or not. “
While the long-range forecast calls for seasonably warm temperatures, high temperatures are expected to be in the low 90s. While temperature normally doesn’t affect overall attendance, it can limit participation.
“They may pick and choose, rather than shooting everything if the weather is moderate,” Gipson said.
The Grand American is a complex event. There are 24 separate events contested over 11 days. Last year 4,534 shooters competed on the WSRC’s 121 trap fields. Getting everyone in the right place at the right time is a monumental task.
“That’s Gary Ebers, he’s a retired math teacher,” Gipson said. “He lives for spread sheets.”
Gipson said even long-time shooters don’t understand all the work that goes on behind the scenes at the Grand American. Last week, WSRC employees unloaded 12 truckloads of targets, each truck contained about a quarter-million targets.
“They don’t grasp it,” he said. “When all that stuff was going on a couple years ago about moving the Grand, even the people that have been here don’t realize. The next biggest shoot in the nation is half this size.”
The AIM shoot has been serving as the Grand American’s opening act since 2012. Previously, the AIM shoot was held on Friday and Saturday of the preliminary week. With about 1,500 shooters, the AIM program outgrew that format.
“We got some pushback on that,” Gipson said. “The initial pushback was some of the vendors weren’t there. It became apparent the AIM program had gotten to the size we wouldn’t be able to have both at the same time.”
Finally, this is the second year the National Trapshooting Hall of Fame will be open during the Grand. Gipson said the Hall of Fame was well-received last year.
“It was great,” he said. “There were a lot of people that never saw the HOF because they had never been to Vandalia (Ohio). There was a lot of traffic over there.
“There have been some changes over there. They will have their silent auction over there. It was very well received. When they were building the building, people were thinking, ‘This is a big barn.’ They’ll never get everything on display at once.”