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051010 trap shoot
Larry Guenther of Colville, Wash., fires at a clay pigeon at the Missoula Trap & Skeet Club during the 28th annual Ron Hoppie Memorial Trapshoot on Sunday afternoon. Photo by LINDA THOMPSON/Missoulian

Holding a shotgun nearly as long as he is tall, Dustin Caldwell prepared for a shoot-off Sunday at the Missoula Trap and Skeet Club.

Just 13 years old, Caldwell held his own against four of the top shooters in the state at the 28th annual Ron Hoppie Memorial Trapshoot.

He missed twice, shattering 23 of 25 targets in the tie-breaker to finish the tournament with a 93.2 percent mark, breaking 559 of 600 clay pigeons through three days of shooting.

Tom Kuka of Bozeman later won the event, but after just 13 months of practice, Caldwell proved he can already shoot with the best.

"I was excited and a little bit nervous," the youngster from Moses Lake, Wash., said. "I was hoping to beat them, but it's been a really good time still."

Earlier in the day, Caldwell hit his first 100 birds in a row to win the sub-junior singles championship handily, an accomplishment that dominated most conversations on the final day of the tournament.

Not bad considering it was just his third tournament ever.

"I'm hooked into this," Caldwell said. "It is a very fun sport."

More than 300 shooters took part in the trapshoot, which was started in 1982.

"And there were well over 300,000 plus ka-booms that went off out here," said event organizer Steve Sautter, alluding to the more than 300,000 clay pigeons blasted to pieces over the weekend and the abundance of ear plugs on site.

"Our grounds keeper, he's not thrilled, but what can you expect?" Missoula Trap and Skeet Club member Hugh Martinsen said.

Many of the competitors camped in campers in the club parking lot, which transformed the shooting range into a small, bustling town for the weekend.

It's a site Sautter said has dwindled at many similar events around the country.

"You know, there are a lot of tournaments that have had big downturns because of the economy, but we've been lucky enough to not have that," he said. "Over the years, we've grown into one of the largest tournaments in the Northwest. It sounds a little arrogant, but I think it's tough to find a better shoot out there.

"We take a lot of pride in what we do here and how we run this so competitors keep coming back."

Brian Sipe, 63, of Kalispell is one of those returning competitors.

"We make this shoot every year. You have to if you are serious about the sport in Montana," Sipe said as he took out his ear plugs and inserted his hearing aids into each ear. "It's addictive. Look at us, this morning my friend Howard and I got up to run to town and get some flowers for Mother's Day for our wives."

Sipe said his wife of 34 years, Jolene, enjoys the tournament as well, even if the couple isn't competing in the husband and wife division.

"This is an escape for both of us," Sipe said.

The veteran shooter is one of the few hundred in the sport of trap shooting who have managed to post the coveted grand slam.

About three years ago at a tournament in Hamilton, Sipe broke 200 straight clay pigeons in singles competition. He then downed 100 straight doubles and 100 more birds from 27 yards out - the farthest distance in competition.

"It's a lifetime achievement," he said. "This is a game of concentration. You have to focus, because the higher you go in class, the tougher it gets. One missed target and you're out of the game."

Sipe finished hitting 951 of 1,000 targets he had this weekend. He won Friday's AA singles competition and finished Sunday by closing runner-up in the AA doubles.

Travis Iksic was the men's overall winner, turning 959 targets to dust. He edged Mike Seers (958) by one bird.

Teresa Kohn won the women's overall with a 926. She downed 100 straight birds in singles competition Sunday for a two-day total of 195 out of 200.

"I shot pretty good today, some days you don't," she said. "Today the target was just flying into my shot, I think."

At the Missoula clubhouse as the tournament wound down, Kohn made a point to congratulate Caldwell.

"Hey, good job!" Kohn said to Caldwell, who was holding his Ron Hoppie plaque for winning the singles in sub-juniors.

"First thing like this I've won," Caldwell said.

It likely won't be the last.

Ron Hoppie Memorial Trap Shooting Tournament in Missoula

Men's High Overall (through all nine events) - 1, Travis Iksic 959-1000; 2, Mike Steers 958.

Class AA - Tom Van Balle 955.

Class A - Terry Barkell, Butte, 934.

Class B - John Shor, Anaconda, 903.

Class C - Tedd Herreid, 902.

Class D - Kurt Hoppie, Missoula, 883.

Women's High Overall - Teresa Kohn, 926.

Junior - Shawn Cahoon, 942.

Sub-Junior - Hayden Oertli, 838.

Veteran - Pad Redler, Billings, 929.

Senior Veteran - Don Rimmer, Billings, 913.


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