Since the Montlake gun club closed a couple of weeks before Christmas, the fledgling clays target team at Soddy-Daisy High School has had no place to practice.
No place close, at least. Some of the team members have car-pooled to Benton and to northeastern Alabama to get in some shooting, but they hope someone nearby might make some property available to them as spring competition nears.
"You need to practice if you're going to get good at it," said senior Dillon Narramore, whose sophomore brother Logan also is on the team. "This has been something really good for people like us who like to hunt and be outdoors."
Trevor Fuller, a Soddy-Daisy English teacher and assistant wrestling coach, expected "seven or eight" students to respond to his September school announcement gauging interest in a clays shooting team. He was "floored," he said, when 33 came to the informational meeting and a solid 25 kept showing up for practice and a guided quail hunt near Dunlap in December.
"I would willingly buy my own trap machine just to keep them going," said Fuller, who expects to receive a kidney transplant the first week of May. "If we can't find a place to shoot, I'll have to disband the team, and I don't want to do that when there is such an active interest by the kids."
His is the only team in Hamilton County, but the scholastic clays program is flourishing in many areas of Tennessee. It teaches safety, conservation and other outdoors skills besides shotgun operation.
When Fuller attended Soddy-Daisy, it was one of several area schools with skeet-shooting teams. He wasn't on the team but was in a class that Sam Mills took once a month or so to Montlake to learn the principles of safe shooting.
That memory and his own medical crisis led to Fuller forming this new team.
How dedicated is he to it? For the first time in 10 years, he missed Soddy-Daisy's region wrestling tournament Friday night because of required training in Morristown for the scholastic clays target program. He and Alan Bivens, who started the Walker Valley team in Bradley County, rode back and forth to Morristown all weekend.
"Today was really helpful. We learned some good information," Fuller said Friday night.
His sons, Ryan and Mikey, are former standout Soddy-Daisy wrestlers. He and they have always been "a pretty tight threesome," as Trevor said, but just before Christmas they went on their first duck hunt together.
"It was at a great place called Delta Duck Outfitters just outside Tunica, Mississippi," the dad said. "That guy has a great setup."
That trip began with a conversation Trevor and Ryan had in the summer, after it was decided that Ryan would be donating his father a kidney.
"We made a list of all the things we wanted to do before that," Trevor said, "and he wanted to duck hunt. He had never been hunting before.
"So we started going over to Montlake to shoot - the three of us - and I kept seeing some kids over there. Craig Scheaffer, who ran the place, told me that Matt Simcox with the TWRA had been trying to get school teams going in this area - like they have across the rest of the state - but he hadn't had any luck.
"That's when I put out the announcement about starting the team."
Scheaffer was "great," Fuller said, referring to the club operator's patient, knowledgeable assistance and the fact that his team members could go to the club and "shoot all day for five dollars."
Justin Ferrell, a junior, was the one team member who previously had competed in skeet and sporting clays. He has extra reason to miss the Montlake facility.
"I didn't just do it for school," Ferrell said. "Me and my dad went there at least twice a week to shoot. That's what we do together. Now we either have to not do it or drive a couple of hours."
While he was the only experienced clays shooter, Ferrell noted that most of the Soddy-Daisy "A" team had been longtime hunters.
"I was probably 5 years old when I first went rabbit hunting and squirrel hunting with my uncle and granddad," Dillon Narramore said. "I've hunted ducks, turkeys, deer, pretty much anything. I had shot skeet a time or two before we started this team, but that was all. It's fun; sporting clays is really pretty fun. It's good practice for hunting."
Many of the Soddy-Daisy team members plan to attend a Quail Unlimited organizational meeting March 3 at Sportsman's Warehouse, when Fuller will make another push for support for local scholastic clays participation.