Shooting Star

Reared on shotguns and hooked on trap shooting, Clark teen aims for Olympics

Peering through the amber-tinted lenses of his safety glasses, Wiley Button scans the horizon for a fast-moving clay pigeon.

In the time it takes most people to blink, the 13-year-old shooter finds his target, lines up the barrel of his custom-made Beretta 303 automatic shotgun and squeezes the trigger.

BANG.

Button first heard the ear-splitting sound that comes from firing a shotgun when he was 9 years old. His father introduced him to the sport of trap shooting in a pasture on their family ranch north of Clark near Pearl Lake.

For his birthday, Button's father, Doug, bouht him a shotgun from a pawn shop.

It took a few rounds with the gun for Button to get used to the sport's noisy disposition, but after he nailed his first 4-inch clay pigeon, the youngster was hooked. He spent the next couple of years messing around with the sport on the ranch.

Button began shooting competitively three years ago. He is a member of a scholastic shooting team based in Grand Junction and the Routt County 4-H shooting team.

"I've come a long way in the last three years," the soft-spoken Button said. "I've always enjoyed it because it's just a lot of fun."

Once his dad taught him the basics, Button fell in love with trap shooting. He said the sport requires a sharp mind, quick reflexes and nerves of steel.

"If you miss, you can't spend a lot of time thinking about it," Button said. "You've got to move on and start thinking about the next shot."

Button has grown up around big-game hunting, but said he hasn't done a lot of hunting himself with a shotgun -- except for the breed of pigeons made out of clay. However, he said picking up a shotgun was second nature for him.

Last year, Button placed second at the Colorado State Fair in Pueblo and helped the Routt County team finish third in the team standings. His scholastic team also placed third in another big state shoot held in Delta.

His unshakable personality and cool attitude make him a natural on the range, and he is driven by a desire to make a run at the Olympics someday.

Two weeks ago, Button was invited to take part in the National Shooting Sports Foundation's Junior Olympic Development Camp. Button was one of 15 athletes nationwide who was invited to take part, and he was the only one from Colorado.

"It was really, really hard," Button said of the camp. "The other shooters were very good."

Still, Button said he was able to hold his own and thinks he finished the camp somewhere in the middle of a group that is expected to make up the next generation of Olympic-level shooters.

"It's inspired me to work harder to try to get to that next level," Button said. "I learned all kinds of things at the camp, and I think it's going to help me get better."

As part of the NSSF's Scholastic Clay Target Program, the camp was established to introduce competitors to the international version of trap (where the target moves away from the shooter) and skeet (where the target moves parallel to the shooter) under the watchful eyes of USA Shooting's shotgun coaches. The camp also gave USA Shooting an opportunity to scout for new talent.

The camp was held at the U.S. Olympic Training Center complex in Colorado Springs.

In a trap competition, Olympic-level shooters move through a series of five adjacent shooting stations. At each station, competitors call for a target, and fire up to two shots per target. The targets, 4-inch clay disks, are thrown at speeds of up to 65 mph. Button said the targets move a little slower at the scholastic level.

The shooter has two rounds to break the target and score a point. If he or she misses it, then it is recorded as a loss. At the end of each round, a shooter is given a score based on how many targets were hit in the air.

Button's first taste of competitive shooting came through his involvement with the Routt County 4-H where the targets are thrown at a slightly slower speed.

Button is hoping to travel to the National Junior Olympic Shooting Championships in November where he could earn a spot on the National Junior Olympic Shooting Team.

As a member of that team, he would become eligible for funding, camps and the international competitions that will help him get to the Olympics someday.

-- To reach John F. Russell call 871-4209

or e-mail jrussell@steamboatpilot.com

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