HAYDEN - Shooters called for targets and raised their gun barrels.
Observers tilted their heads back, their eyes following the clay shooters' goals sailing through the air, as they anticipated the popping noise that followed each trigger pull.
The sights and sounds Aug. 26 at Coeur d'Alene Skeet and Trap Club were not unusual, but there was something unique about the shooting going on that day.
It was the first Idaho student shooting championship, part of the Scholastic Clay Target Shooting Program, with newly formed teams from two Coeur d'Alene high schools participating.
"We started because parents came to us because their kids are shooters and they wanted a club," said Kiersten Kerr, a media specialist at Coeur d'Alene High School and one of the Viking Trap and Skeet Club advisers. "We promote safety and sportsmanship."
The CHS team, formed in the fall of 2011, won the overall competition that Sunday, competing against student shooters from Lake City High School and from schools in Twin Falls and Boise.
Competitive shooting sports have long been Olympic events, but they're just gaining ground at the high school level in North Idaho.
"The amazing thing is that most Olympic shooters have come from student organizations like this," said CHS shop teacher Bill White, the Viking trap and skeet team's head coach.
Seven of the 30 students on the CHS club's roster participated in the state competition on Aug. 26. Membership fluctuates throughout the school year as other athletic seasons come and go.
Cody Wilson, 17, participated in competitive shooting before joining the CHS team, but said he has learned new game variations and more about safety with the high school club.
"I didn't think it would be fun, but it's kind of addicting," said Wilson, an incoming senior at CHS.
Larkin Henkel, 18, started the skeet and trap club at Lake City High School last year.
Henkel is now attending North Idaho College, and working on her Gold Award, the highest honor a Girl Scout can achieve. Shooting sports is the focus of Henkel's Gold Award effort.
"She is promoting empowerment for women and girls through marksmanship," said Henkel's mother, Elizabeth.
Elizabeth said skeet and trap shooting is a non-traditional sport that is more inclusive than many school athletics activities.
"It is ideally suited to be a school sponsored Title IX sport," states the Scholastic Clay Target Program's website, www.shootsctp.org. "There is no other sport that offers such an absolutely level playing field for gender integration as do the shooting sports."
The program has major national sponsorship and is partnered with other shooting sports-related organizations, including 4-H, the National Skeet Shooting Association, the National Sporting Clays Association, the National Rifle Association and the National Shooting Sports Foundation, which offers scholarships to student shooters.
Local vendors Black Sheep Sporting Goods and Wholesale Sports have provided support for the scholastic program at CHS, said Kerr.
"We've had huge support from the boosters," Kerr said.
Coeur d'Alene Skeet and Trap Club has also partnered with the school clubs.
"It's a continuation of a culture we've tried to offer," said J.D. Owen, who manages the facility near the airport on West Miles Avenue in Hayden.
The nonprofit skeet and trap club offers family memberships only, but is open to the public. They have 950 individuals on their roster, representing more than 500 memberships.
Owen said the club supports moving shooting sports away from a sport for men and hunters, to a broad range of participants, and instilling the safe handling of shotguns in youths.
"It's important because of recent events and the recurrence of situations where students find themselves in difficult situations because they brought a firearm to school," Owen said.
The emphasis at the club, Owen said, is on education and safety, acknowledging that guns can be dangerous, and should only be used for recreation.
"And shooting at a moving target is a lot more fun than shooting holes in paper," Owen said.