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Taylor Rowles, Special Correspondent

Suited with safety glasses, earplugs, a vest for ammunition and a shotgun, John Bush, a junior at Holliston High School, gears up for his upcoming shooting competition.

Contrary to outsiders’ perspectives, Bush explained that competitive shooting is the “safest sport that is designed to protect other people.”

Teammate and HHS junior Jordan Payne, agrees and said that one common misconception about shooting is that it is extremely dangerous just because guns are involved.

Bush joined the Fin, Fur and Feather Club in Millis, MA in sixth grade and has been shooting ever since. Through hard work and dedication, Bush has earned his spot on the ‘Hot Shots’ Varsity team. His “squad” is part the of  the Scholastic Clay Target Program (SCTP) and he recently competed at the New England Qualifications the weekend of May 28 and 29.

The New England Qualifications was held at the Minute Men Sportsman’s Club in Burlington, MA. Bush said that the Minute Men has always been their greatest competition. However, they competed against hundreds of people, separated into approximately 10 clubs from all over the state, with different levels of experience.

Unlike other sports, shooting competitions are unique because anyone can win. It’s possible that Bush may even compete against his younger sister. He said that “she is a pretty good shot.”

Mark Bush, Bush’s father and head coach at the Fin, Fur and Feather Club, recalls one of his proudest moments.  Bush’s JV team beat the Varsity squad at the Maine State Shoot in 2013. That just shows that everyone is evaluated at the same level.

Bush also participates in cross country and winter and spring track at HHS. He thinks that shooting is much more of a “mental game.”

His father described shooting as extremely disciplined and said the event itself builds suspense.

A squad consists of five members that corresponds to the five positions/angles to shoot from on the field. The orange clay discs fly out at approximately 45 mph and the squad members take turns firing. They fire shotgun shells because when a shell is fired one cartridge that is filled with hundreds of small bee-bees provides the spread needed to hit a  moving target.

Overall, each squad member gets 25 clays during a round of the competition. John usually hits 21+ out  of the 25 clays. Bush “does statistically very well and is very constant in his high scores,” Payne said.

In theory, Bush could go to the Junior Olympic tryouts in Colorado if he wanted to compete for a spot on the team. He explained that he does the sport for fun and not serious competition. But he looks forward to the possibility of taking part in Nationals for American Trap shooting this summer. This discipline of shooting involves clays that move at approximately 60 mph and in different directions.

The squad trains on Saturday mornings and sometimes on Wednesday afternoons at the Fin, Fur and Feather Club. During practices the coaches give “very individual attention” to the players, which is different than other sports.  They compete during the spring, summer and early fall.  The only thing that will prevent them from shooting is thunder for safety precautions. Otherwise, a little rain doesn’t stop them.

Bush actually introduced Payne to the sport during the summer before their freshman year. Payne stated that Bush has been a great leader. “I love shooting with him and being apart of the same squad. He is always fun to be around and does not take anything too seriously.” Their squad has a tradition of trying to steal each other’s shooting hats and hide them in order to get each other excited before a competition.

Stricter gun regulation will likely affect their sport. Bush, Mark and Payne fully support their right to bear arms found in the 2nd amendment of The United States Constitution. Payne believes that if their right was restricted it would “prevent people like, John and I, from doing the sport we love.” It would also “prevent new people who might want to try [competitive shooting] out from getting their chance to participate.”

Mark just wants the kids to have fun and it seems as though he has accomplished his goal. When asked if he would change anything about his sport, John quickly replied no and explained that he truly enjoys this unique form of competition.

In the end, Bush did “not too well” because “it’s different than the normal American version that I usually do.” However, he adds that it was “a lot of fun, so it doesn’t matter.”

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