Area youth shooting sports clubs were just getting their seasons started, or about to get them started, when the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions sidetracked plans. 

The athletes and coaches are in the same position as all spring sports teams, wondering if anything can be salvaged when officials finally lift social distancing measures.

"We keep postponing the season," said Harvey Bechtel, coach of the Buckeye-Chippewa Trap Shooting team. "It all depends on what Gov. DeWine does. We were scheduled to start April 1, now we’re aiming to have our safety meeting for new shooters on May 3 and start shooting on May 4.

But," Bechtel continued, "who knows what’s going to happen. We’re keeping our kids updated though emails and texts. May 4 may be wishful thinking. It’s not locked in, but that’s the current plan. ... Our top priority is everyone’s health. If we miss the season, then this too shall pass."

The area’s trap shooting teams were just about to get their seasons started when the statewide pandemic regulations went into effect. For the Waynedale Archery Club, which participates in the National Archery in the Schools Program, it already had a couple of shoots in before having to stop.

"Two weeks into it, my daughter Molly said to me, "I miss shooting archery and hanging out with my friends,’" said Chad Lorentz, coach of the Waynedale Archery Program. "And I miss working with the kids. We’ve cancelled the archery season, and NASP did a virtual state tournament based on scores the kids shot earlier in the year."

Lorentz said NASP has already cancelled the national tournament on May 8 and the June 10-11 Open Tournament in Daytona Beach, Fla.

That doesn’t mean the Waynedale archers won’t get a chance to strut their stuff this year, as Lorentz has teamed up with the Silver Dollar Sportsman’s Club in Wooster for an outdoor 3-D season when regulations are lifted.

"We hope to start in June or July," said Lorentz, noting the Scholastic 3-D Program is not school-based like NASP is. "We’re going to practice with the kids, charge a small fee and give some of that money to Silver Dollar, and that way it helps both of us out."

Don Witner, who coaches the Ohio Claybusters, has 32 trap shooters in his program, which also uses the Silver Dollar Sportsman’s Club as its home base.

"We’re going to try to get in 20 (practices) any way we can," said Witner, noting his team under normal conditions shoots every other Sunday morning and every Friday night during the season. "We’ll run into the fall if we have to so we can give the kids the training and practice they need."

In the meantime, Witner is like all the other shooting sports coaches, ready to begin when allowed.

"We’re ready to go. It’s just a matter of getting the go-ahead," he said.

Sean Snyder, who coaches the Youth Shooting Sports teams at the North Lawrence Fish and Game Club, says Facebook and the Internet are his best friends during this time when plans change daily.

"We’re fortunate our SCTP state meet hasn’t been canceled yet," said Snyder, who unlike other area shooting sports coaches, also has his team entered in the Scholastic Action Shooting Program, which is for pistols. "Usually, we would practice trap on Friday nights and shoot pistols on Saturdays. But right now, we’re postponed until at least the beginning of May."

Bechtel noted that his most dedicated shooters are finding ways to stay sharp on their own during the lockdown, but the majority of his team members don’t have that option.

"It’s a skill that if you don’t practice it, you lose it," said Bechtel. "Hopefully, after a couple hundred rounds, they’ll be right back into it.

"But," Bechtel continued, "we’ve got 30 new shooters and those are the ones missing out. Usually, in April, May and June we’re shooting three days a week."

Snyder said he likes to take it slow with his new shooters, and ramping up the season quickly is not ideal.

"With the young shooters, you still want to take your time with them to ensure safety first," said Snyder.

Should the season get pushed back several months, the Buckeye-Chippewa trapshooters will get less practice time as area regulations at their trap range in Copley only allows them to shoot two days a week in July and August.

Right now, the SCTP season nationwide is not cancelled, but has been altered. 

"You don’t have to shoot at the state meet to shoot at nationals," said Bechtel. "SCTP is bending the rules because of the pandemic."

SCTP Nationals are currently slated for June 20-22 at the Cardinal Shooting Center in Marengo, just north of Columbus.

Outdoor correspondent Art Holden can be reached at aholden@the-daily-record.com