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College of Education > News and Publications > 2016: 01-03 news > Competitive trapshooting leads research assistant to new adventures

Competitive trapshooting leads research assistant to new adventures

Growing up in the world of competitive trapshooting has led KayLynn Hamilton on a journey of adventure that has brought multiple titles, including a national championship.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — It’s been said that every little girl grows up to marry a man just like her father. While that just may be an old wives’ tale to many, for KayLynn Hamilton it proved true.

KayLynn Hamilton trapshooting
KayLynn Hamilton, left, participates in the doubles trapshooting event in San Antonio, Texas. She later went on to win the Southwest Grand Lady Singles Championship after a shootoff with two other participants. (Photo: Mike Hessong)
Hamilton, senior research faculty assistant for the Institute for the Study of Adult Literacy in the College of Education, grew up the daughter of a competitive trapshooter, a shotgun sport that requires participants to shoot disc-shaped clay pigeons.

“Trapshooting is more than just shooting on the holidays,” she said. “It is an Olympic sport and we have a national organization and sanctioned shoots all across the country where you compete with sometimes dozens of people, sometimes hundreds or thousands of people.”

While she never competed in trapshooting growing up or even during most of her adult years, she was heavily involved with the competitions in which her father participated.

“I’ve been around the sport my whole life,” Hamilton said. “I used to score and referee. I used to help organize different shoots. But it wasn’t until after I got married that I started shooting competitively.”

Hamilton’s husband, also a competitive shooter, encouraged her to start competing so at the age of 42, she bought a 12-gauge shotgun and he taught her how to shoot.

“I had been around shooting but I didn’t really shoot so my dad didn’t really help teach me,” she said. “I didn’t start shooting competitively until 2002 so I’ve only been doing it for about 13 years.”

In that short time, Hamilton has made a name for herself among the trapshooting world. She has won state, regional and national championship titles and this year was named to the trapshooting All-American team, an honor that she shares with 25 of the country’s best shooters, including her father. Last year, her average was 96 per 100 targets.

“Trapshooting is different from skeet shooting in the fact that the way you’re positioned is different,” she said, explaining that trapshooting targets go away from you. In skeet shooting competitions, the targets typically cross in front of the shooter.

KayLynn Hamilton reloading
KayLynn Hamilton prepares to reload her shotgun during a trapshooting event in San Antonio, Texas. (Photo: Mike Hessong)
While each competition is set up differently, they all function similarly. At the national championships, which are held in southern Illinois every August, there are more than 120 traps that are 3.5 miles long. When competing, shooters take aim at 25 targets at four different traps, totaling 100 targets.

“The idea is to break as many as you can,” Hamilton said. “You are scored on breaks so it doesn’t matter if it’s just a little piece or if it’s completely shattered. It’s a hit for hit. There’s no ranking.”

Trapshooting consists of three events — singles, doubles and handicap — which require her to use two different guns, she said.

“My singles gun is a Silver Seitz shotgun,” she said, adding that she uses it for both singles and handicap since both events release only one target at a time. “The guns are custom-made in Maryland and only about 800 of those guns exist.” When shooting doubles, where two targets are released simultaneously, Hamilton uses a Perazzi shotgun with over and under barrels.

In March, Hamilton’s trapshooting season will begin with a trip to Florida. In April, she will head to Texas for another competition and in May she will travel the East Coast every weekend to compete in different competitions.

“Some of our biggest events attract more than 2,500 competitors,” she said, explaining that shooters range in age from school-aged kids to those older than her father. “Programs in high schools have become popular so you might have an eighth-grade kid next to an 80-year-old man, and they’ll be shooting together on the same squad. So it’s really a life-long recreation.”

Although she got a later start as a competitive trapshooter, Hamilton does not see herself slowing down anytime soon.

“For me, it’s my personal drive and the friendships I’ve developed over my lifetime,” Hamilton said. “I’ll continue to shoot until as long as I feel like I am competitive.”

If she continues to follow in her father’s footsteps — he is 77 years old and competes from his scooter — her skill and ability are sure to improve.

By Jessica Buterbaugh (January 2016)