A 'hot shot' at a new facility — Perham Sportsman's Club fundraises for new kids' trap shooting location
A fundraising campaign, recently launched by the Perham Sportsman's Club, will help get the Perham Hot Shots a new trap shooting facility with the assistance of community donations.
PERHAM — The Perham Hot Shots are ready to return home, and with the help of the Perham Sportsman's Club, it may soon be possible. Despite being a program run through Perham schools, the Hot Shots Yellowjackets Clay Target Team has been practicing at the Rush Lake Range near New York Mills since the range at Thunder Road stopped operating around 2019.
This will all change soon, however. With the help of community donations through a new fundraising campaign, the Perham Sportsman's Club hopes to complete building a trap shooting facility for the Hot Shots on the club's 160-acre property by the start of the 2023 fall clay target season.
While the sportsman's club considered making a deal to purchase the range by Fort Thunder Road, they decided to go in a different direction.
"We found it was going to be a lot more beneficial to build new than it would be to try and update those facilities," said Perham Sportsman's Club Executive Director Nick Theroux. "Being that we already owned a piece of property there, and we had a gun range on it, it was pretty easy to move into the trap side of it. So that's why we're building it, and our mission is to support the youth in the outdoors of course."
Though the Perham Sportsman's Club is leading the charge to provide the team with new facilities, they will also need the help of the community to get there. The club recently started a fundraising campaign to gather the necessary money to complete the $205,000 project. While they've already raised $125,000 in total, they still have about $80,000 more to go.
"From the point of view of the Hot Shots, we are very excited to go home," said John Lengyel, the team's head coach. "We're finally coming home to Perham. We're excited to bring the team back to a permanent home."
The Perham Hot Shots have been a part of the community since 2013, and having a facility back in town will help cut down on travel time and costs.
While the Perham Hot Shots are an official school activity, they're not governed by the Minnesota State High School League, Lengyel explained. Instead, the team is a part of the Minnesota High School Clay Target League, which is both a separate entity and a nonprofit. Schools don't contribute toward it, Theroux said, so funding is gathered through sponsorships from parents of shooters, corporations, nonprofits or more.
Lengyel himself has been involved in competitive trap and clay target shooting for more than 30 years. He even once managed a trap shooting range, but now he's retired. He takes that opportunity to give back to the community, which includes dedicating his time to help and teach the next generation.
"There's so much demand," he said about the trap shooting team. "Once these kids start as sixth and seventh graders, they're in it for good. They're in there until they graduate. And almost every case, they have so much fun at it, and it's safe. They just can't wait to get back. And that, for me, is just my ability to help our future generations in an activity that kids can enjoy going into adulthood and beyond."
Currently, about 60 students are on the Hot Shots team. Trap shooting is available for all kids grades 6-12 and is open for area kids who don't attend public school. It's also accessible and open for students with disabilities to participate.
At team events, shooters line up at the range on a trap field. Clay targets are launched into the air by facility personnel and shooters then aim to hit the flying clay objects. On top of providing a lifelong activity, Lengyel said it also promotes safe firearm handling.
Due to specific needs for trap shooting as an activity, the Perham Sportsman's Club plans for their construction project to include:
- Two fire-lane shooting fields with voice-activated trap houses
- A shaded audience section with seating
- Lights for shooting in the dark
- A building to store bulk supplies
- A security system
- A kiosk to buy clay targets for the general public
- A new driveway and gate for large deliveries
- General landscaping and signs
The new facility will be near the club's rifle range and clubhouse, located in Perham at 42825 Harvest Ave.
Though the Perham Sportsman's Club is leading the charge of this project, they are collaborating with Lakes Area Outdoor Initiative to process donations. Since the Sportsman's Club is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, they are not tax deductible. Lakes Area Outdoor Initiative, however, is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, meaning that donations toward them are tax deductible.
To make a tax-deductible donation, mail raised funds to Lakes Area Outdoor Initiative (LAOI), P.O. Box 421, Perham, MN 56573.
"We're coming home," said Lengyel. "Which is great."