By: Cassidy Syftestad
Couched in the middle of 113 acres, Hillsdale College’s Shooting Sports Education Center was created to “expose a new generation to shooting sports, encourage older shooters to return to the sport and to bring the ideas of liberty to life.”
Since the establishment of an intercollegiate shooting team in 2011, Hillsdale College is represented at a number of Amateur Trapshooting Association (ATA) events and the Association of College Unions International (ACUI) Intercollegiate Clay Target Championships hillsdale.edu.
Growth and Development
In addition to a nationally ranked shotgun team, the Shooting Sports Education Center houses retreats, scholarship competitions, and a series of shooting courses for beginners.
Hillsdale College graduate and former team captain, Joseph Kain ‘16, said the program and coaching staff grew very quickly during his time at Hillsdale. “The venues and shooting facility expanded from three trap fields during my first visit to Hillsdale in 2009 to a world class athletic facility for serious shooting athletes,” Kain said.
Today, the range includes five American trap fields, a five-stand sporting clays field, a small arms range, a skeet field for American and International skeet, and an Olympic bunker. In addition, the College plans to expand the pistol range to accommodate the newly formed Hillsdale College Action Shooting Sports Team whose members shoot with 9mm handguns and 22LR rifles.
Second Amendment Rights and Gun Safety
In addition to the range’s recreational features, the lodge and education center provides a series of basic and advanced courses in shotgun, pistol, rifle, and archery. Adam Burlew, Shotgun Team Administrator, explained that each class contains a diversity of experience.
“There are students who spend quite a lot of time on the range and others who have never seen a gun before. So, we begin with a foundation of safety before moving to steel targets and having fun with it,” Burlew said.
Upon the completion of an eight-week course at the Shooting Center, students receive a certificate from the NRA’s Home Firearm Safety Course. With an overview of the Constitution and gun history, students are able to articulate the freedoms guaranteed by the Second Amendment.
Burlew also encourages his students to discuss current issues like mass shootings and a proper consideration of gun control in America. “In light of recent events in Florida, we hashed out what could have been done differently, who was at fault, and what causes individuals to do things like this. My students dive below party lines and public reactions to discuss topics like gun control and armed citizens.”
“Most importantly,” Kain said, “our college and facility stands as a citadel for promoting the importance of our Second Amendment and awareness of firearms in society.”
Hillsdale College senior and Shotgun athlete, Emanuel Boyer, discovered the college when he attended the Liberty and Learning Youth Conference. This four-day summer conference “focuses on America’s founding principles and constitutional government” while hosting a series of hands-on activities at the range hillsdale.edu. Although he did not receive the $4,000 scholarship rewarded for the essay competition, Boyer won the shooting portion of the competition as a thirteen-year-old. Soon after, he began communications with the current range master, Bart Spieth, who helped Boyer tailor himself to gain acceptance into Hillsdale College.
In 2017, Hillsdale College hosted the 2nd Annual Sporting Clays Fall Classic during the return of alumni for Homecoming Weekend [hillsdale.edu](http://hillsdale.edu). Boyer and his teammates attended the event to provide instruction and guidance regarding shooting techniques and firearm safety. Burlew said it was a great opportunity to partner with the Alumni Association Board in an effort to encourage participation in shooting sports.
“All of our athletes on the Shotgun Team do an excellent job at promoting the program and teaching newcomers proper safety and important skills,” Kain said about events like the Fall Classic.
National Champions and All-American Shooters
Under the leadership of Head Coach Michael Carl, the Hillsdale shotgun team won five Division III ACUI Clay Target Championships and will pursue a sixth in March. There are six events: American Trap, American Skeet, Modified International Trap, Modified International Skeet, Super Sporting, and Sporting Clays.
According to a Hillsdale College press release, “Hillsdale’s 10-person team posted a total score of 2,244. By comparison, this score is competitive with winning schools in the Division I National Championship whose teams have over 40 members. The Chargers took first place in four of six events, taking home the top prize in the Five Stand, Sporting Clays, International Trap, and American Trap,” hillsdale.edu.
Last year, Drew Lieske ‘18, won the High Overall title with a composite score of 531 targets out of 550. “Senior Kie Kababik followed second in the overall with a 519, sophomore Matt Grunzweig finished fifth with 517, and senior Jordan Hintz in eighth with 515. All four shooters earned a position on the NRA Open All-American team, with Lieske occupying the first position on the team,” hillsdale.edu.
In the previous years, Drew Lieske secured a position on the All-American team three times; Kie Kababik, Jordan Hintz, and Ian Dupre earned a position two times; and Matthew Grunzweig and Joseph Kain made the team one time.
During his freshman year, Jordan Hintz ’18, shot 100 out of 100 targets in skeet and American trap. When asked about Hintz, Boyer said that “you could put Jordan on a stand and have him shoot an event he has never heard of and he would do well. He is one of the most talented shooters I have ever met.”
When asked about Kain, who competed at Nationals five times and subsequently coached for six months, Boyer said that Kain had a lot of experience in international skeet and sporting clays, which was what the team needed to focus on.
“From a team captain perspective, Joe could get the team fired up. Since he went through the growth process in each event, he could assess a teammate’s strengths and encourage him to overcome his weaknesses,” Barlew said.
Overall, Boyer, Burlew, and Kain agree that the team has a lot of depth where skill is concerned.
“Everyone on the team and those involved with the program have an important role,” Kain said. “But the experience and leadership from the coaches and older members of the team is critical. In just eight years, the program has become a team and family with important values that transcend classes year-to-year. The tradition of Hillsdale’s values, positive energy, and an intense work ethic is why our team wins events every season.”