Trap shooting, with a focus on safety, can be a fun and exciting sport for older kids. It requires concentration and the ability to follow directions, both skills that tweens and teens can translate to aspects of their lives off the range.

My daughters have been part of a 4-H shooting sports club for the past couple of years, shooting .22 rifles at an indoor range. Their club decided to visit Scarborough Fish & Game for an introduction to a different kind of shooting sport.

My kids were initially intimidated not only at trying to hit a moving target, but at the prospect of using a shotgun. The recoil of even the smallest of shotguns is stronger than their .22 rifles.

To help the kids — and novice shooting adults like myself — understand the basic principle of hitting a flying orange clay, the girls’ 4-H leader offered some advice: “You aim with a rifle, you point with a shotgun.”

This tip was of course offered after the rules of the range and basic gun safety — the most important aspect of any shooting sports program — were discussed in detail.

The trap field of play has five stations arranged in a semicircle. Clays are released on the shooter’s “Pull!” command by a remote button release. We did not play a formal round of trap, which is five shots at each station location, since we were beginners. Instead, each of us found a station we felt comfortable with and did our best to hit the clays flying out of the trap house.

My 12-year-old had a good run in the center position directly behind the trap house and stuck with that location. I preferred a spot slightly off center, as did my older daughter.

My not-quite-100-pound child used a .410 shotgun, which is typically used by kids in her weight range. My 14-year-old opted for the 20-gauge, because she had the physical strength and size to handle it.

The girls did not care for the recoil of either of these shotguns, but both managed to hit their first clay out of the trap house. Each was surprised but clearly pleased, based on their big grins.

When I told one daughter I thought she did a great job, she scoffed, “Mom, that was just a lucky shot. I have no idea how I hit it.”

choosing not to use a 12-gauge, the shotgun of choice for trap, the girls’ chances of hitting a flying clay was lessened because of the lower gauge (not to be confused with a caliber rating, which I learned is a rifle term).

The “wad” of lead balls in a smaller gauge shell allows less room for error in hitting a clay target. The 12-gauge has a larger number of lead balls packed in a shell, so a shooter has a better chance of catching a piece of the clay.

My 14-year-old decided to give the 12-gauge a whirl for a couple of shots, but with a smile and a shake of her shoulder, put the shotgun back on the stand.

She declared that her favorite part of the day was pressing the button to release the clays on the shooter’s command.

Although it was their first time out on a trap range, each of the kids managed to hit a few flying clays and found some success with the sport.

My girls aren’t ready to give up their .22 rifles, but both agreed it was fun to try a different type of shooting sport.

As for mom, I discovered that I really liked this sport. Once I got the hang of the basic principle of pointing, rather than aiming, and was given the chance to use a really nice 12-gauge designed for trap shooting competition (thanks Joe!), I hit a few clays. I thought it was a whole lot of fun and my ex-military spouse is happy that his wife is interested in more visits to the range this summer.

Scarborough Fish & Game has a youth trap shooting league open to 10- to 19-year-olds that runs on Saturdays from mid-May through August. Club membership is not required, nor do kids need their own shotgun. There is a small fee to cover part of the ammunition costs each week.

This league’s focus is on safety and providing youngsters an opportunity to learn the sport in a safe and enjoyable way.

The youth league will compete in the Maine State Trapshooting Championship in July, which also happens to be at its home range in Scarborough. 

Staff Writer Wendy Almeida can be reached at 791-6334 or at:

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