In the coming week junior Jenna Knott will fire 1,900 shots. Ranked as the fifth female trapshooter in the nation, Knott’s aptitude for shooting is a skill that has helped shape her as a person and defined her goals for the future.
Though trapshooting has been around since the 18th century, with what would eventually be the American Trapshooting Association founded in 1890, trapshooting is a sport unfamiliar to many.
“The first event, and the event that’s probably the most common, is called singles or 16s,” Knott, a junior, said. “I stand on the 16-yard line, which is the closest you can stand, and shoot five targets per post. There’s a single oscillating target, which means it comes out at different directions, so I have to stand here and shoot a target that might be a straight away or a hard left or right.
“Handicaps are supposed to make things a little bit more equal.” Knott said. “A shooter can shoot anywhere between the 18 and the 27-yard line. If you shoot a 96 or above you’re going to get what’s called a ‘punch’ and the more punches you get on your card the farther back you move. When I first started I was at the 19-yard line, which is basically what’s assigned to you as a woman, and now I’m shooting on the 27.”
Her favorite event is the doubles where the shooters get a pair of targets come up in the same spot each time and both of them must be shot.
“Doubles is my favorite,” the 20-year-old said. “Sometimes I don’t do so hot in them, but that’s probably the event that I’m the most competitive. It’s fast because I set up to shoot my first target really quickly and then go over to my second one. It gets over twice as fast because you’re shooting (two targets) at once and then just that confidence.”
Though designed to level the playing field, at Knott’s level the handicap event poses a challenge to her overall score.
“Handicap is my least favorite because it’s so unbelievably challenging,” Knott said. “From the 27-yard line you’re standing so far back that the game becomes so much more precise. Then you have people standing all the way up on the 18. You’re more experienced than they are, but it’s still hard to be competitive.”
In addition to the competitive nature of trapshooting, the sport requires precision not often associated with a 12-gauge shotgun.
“There has to be a visible piece for it to be a dead bird,” Knott said. “There’ve been times that I’ve blown a dust cloud off of a target or knocked the target sideways and that counts as a lost target. The score is out of 100 or for the championship singles an even 200.”
As with other shooting sports, trapshooting requires a nearly super-human mental focus for participants to be competitive and that’s no easy skill to acquire.
“Once you learn the fundamentals and get a grasp on the technical ability it’s completely a mental game,” Knott said. “Every time I miss a target it has nothing to do with my gun or my ability, but most of the time it’s something I’ve done personally. I haven’t mastered that yet, which is why I’m still kind of inconsistent. There are days that I stand out there that I psych myself out or notice every bumble bee buzzing around or every cloud and get distracted. So to prepare I try not to focus on scores and then worry about everyone else when I come in.”
Knott also described a kind of optimism required to keep her head and her spirits up, even when a round is going badly.
“Obviously you can’t be perfect, but something that’s hard for me is not taking a bad round and creating four more bad rounds,” Knott said. “You have to have a short memory about those things and let it roll off your back, and that’s hard for me. I care a lot about shooting. I take a lot of time and effort and sacrifice a lot of things to do it, so having one bad round gets me down. I just have to remember to let it go.”
As much of a part of her life as trapshooting has become, it’s no wonder the mentality Knott has adopted within her sport has helped her in life.
“It’s helped me to not worry so much about being perfect,” she said. “In high school I wanted that. I wanted every single direction a teacher could give me and I was that way when I got here, too, just constantly worried about everything. Shooting has kind of helped me to set things aside and taught me that I don’t have to be perfect all the time. Being an education major I want all of my lesson plans to be perfect and I still strive for that, but if it’s not perfect I don’t let it bring me down.”
While trapshooting is an enormous part of her life and goals for the future, Knott also wants to remain shooting while teaching so she can bring the sport she loves into the lives of her students.
“I’d like to strike a balance between teaching and shooting,” Knott said. “I want to have both. In the state of Kentucky they have trapshooting for FFA chapters, so I definitely want my kids to dominate that competition. I definitely want to inspire young people the way I was inspired by shooting.”