Gunning for gold

Written by | October 2, 2012

Kate Bonn targets the 2016 Olympic Games

Maya Seaman/VANGUARD STAFF

SHOTGUN:Kate Bonn takes aim. She practices at the
Hillsboro Trap and Skeet Club and has been shooting since she was 10.

When she was only 10 years old, Kate Bonn’s father handed her a gun. Since he kept firearms in the house, he wanted her to understand the importance of gun safety. So he took his little girl to the shooting range and gave her a .410-gauge shotgun, and she broke six out of her first 25 clay targets.

On March 27, Bonn became the female collegiate champion in international bunker trap, an elite shotgun competition at the Intercollegiate Clay Target Championships. She won the event as a representative of Portland State using her custom Perazzi shotgun, which she lovingly refers to as
“Lambert.”

International bunker trap is a little-known shooting discipline that originated in Italy, and one of the three shotgun events held at the summer Olympic Games, where Bonn aims to compete in 2016. Currently 22 years old and double majoring in psychology and criminal justice, one would think that by Olympic standards she is running out of time to contend. In shooting, however, the opposite is true.

“Some of the best trap shooters are in their 40s and 50s,” Bonn said. While she is aiming for the 2016 summer Olympics, she could easily compete in the 2024 games as well. “You get better with age.”

Which is a good thing given that the U.S. Olympic team only offers one spot for the female international bunker trap event. But according to Bonn’s coach, Dave Senter, she is well ahead of schedule. “She’s realizing the cumulative effect of about six years of really good training. If you want to get to ‘world’ or ‘elite’ level, it’s about 10,000 hours or six years,” Senter said. “I think she’s got what it takes to do this.”

Like skeet shooting, bunker trap involves a clay puck about the diameter of a grapefruit that is launched into the air, giving the shooter a small window of time in which to shoot it. But bunker trap is far more difficult. Bunker trap targets are fired into the air from ground level, traveling away from the shooter, which makes skeet’s targets look like they are being lobbed overhead by a child playing softball.

In skeet shooting, the shooter knows the height and direction the targets will fly each time. In bunker trap, the clay pucks are fired from one of 15 machines, each programmed to launch a puck anywhere from a 45-degree right angle to a 45-degree left angle—and at speeds up to 70 miles per hour.

During each round, the shooter rotates through five stations, shooting five pucks from each, for a total of 25 pucks in a round. Other than knowing that the targets will be fired from the ground-level bunker in front of them, the shooter has no idea in which direction the next target will fly. This makes for a shooter with zen-like patience and lightning reflexes—and Bonn is no exception.

Joking with Bonn after an afternoon of watching her shoot at the Hillsboro Trap and Skeet Club, I said she would be great to have around in a survival situation. “If you want to have somebody to help you out during the zombie apocalypse,” she replied, “I have lots of shotguns. ”

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