VIENNA - Times have surely changed since 1975.
Gas prices have increased by more than $3 per gallon, and the United States has seen seven different presidents, but in those 38 years, the Mahoning Valley Trap League has continued to run strong.
For those unfamiliar with the sport, trapshooting is a competition sport where shotgun shooters take aim at clay pigeons, or discs, launched from a single location away from the shooter. The Mahoning Valley Trap League follows the rules and regulations of the Amateur Trapshooting Association. Competitors participate in two rounds of shooting, each consisting of 25 shots. In the first round, the shooters stand at the 16-yard line. After the round is completed, a handicap is determined, and the shooters adjust their distances accordingly for round two. The final score recorded is out of 50 possible points.
Tribune Chronicle / Michael Taylor
Robyn Bird (above) leads the Lowellville Rod and Gun Club in average scoring. It marks the first time in the history of the Mahoning Valley Trap League that a woman has led one of the clubs in average scoring. The league is currently in its 38th year.
The Mahoning Valley Trap League shoots every Monday, rotating between one of the five teams in the league. Those five teams are New Middletown Farmers, Mahoning Sportsman, Fish and Game Club of Vienna, Columbiana Fish and Game Club, and the Lowellville Rod and Gun Club. The top 12 scores from each team are tallied to determine the winning team.
The league's longevity is attributed to the camaraderie experienced by its members and its open attitude of accepting any interested shooter.
"We welcome all the new people we can get," secretary Carol Day said. "There are women and kids of all ages. Our youngest is 15 and our oldest is in his 80s."
The oldest member of the league, Dale Furlong, is 87 years old, to be exact. Bob Shultz shot all 50 targets at age 85.
"The friendship, the competition and the camaraderie is what keeps me coming back," president Dale Bertuzzi said.
The league currently has about seven consistent female competitors. The top woman in the league is Robyn Bird, who is the first woman to ever lead an individual team. Bird is leading the Lowellville Rod and Gun club and is also the first woman in the history of the league to shoot back-to-back perfect 50 scores, which she did in the two weeks prior to Monday's shoot.
The league has about 130 members who shoot every week, but that number used to be much higher (around 220 members according to Lowellville representative and competitor Walt Bodine).
Bertuzzi, and others, believe the increasing prices of ammunition are effecting the participation of the sport. Most of the shooters assemble the shotgun shells themselves, but the prices of the components are higher than ever.
"It's so hard to do because the price of things," Bertuzzi said. "Twenty-five pounds of lead shot has gone through the roof. It's killing the game."
Bertuzzi described how he bought a ton - yes, 2,000 pounds - of lead shot when the price was down to around $20. The price of 25 pounds of lead shot today can cost closer to $50.
As the attendance drops in league, the introduction of youth participants is as important as ever before.
The Columbiana County Fish and Game recognizes this importance and is putting on a kids day July 27. All kids under 18 can shoot rifles, archery, trap, crossbow, pistols and fish for free. The event is from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
"The best way to get people involved is through their parents," Bodine said. "Getting young people involved, other than by sponsoring them, is tough. But family participation is the best way to get people involved."
The Mahoning Valley Trap League is competitive but is a league dedicated to enjoying the sport and no payout is awarded to the winners.
"We're all rivals, but it's all in fun," Bodine said.