DONIPHAN, Neb. — The trap shooting season is going out with a bang.

And it’s perhaps the biggest bang yet. A record 951 junior high shooters competed in Thursday’s Cornhusker Trap Shoot in Doniphan. Hunter Education Coordinator Hunter Nikolai is in his first year directing the meet.

“It’s just amazing what it takes to put this all together but then really see the smiles on those kids faces and parents faces when they’re out there on the line doing what they love to do,” Nikolai said.

The event is in its 53rd year and could set another participation record during the senior high competition on Friday and Saturday. More than 1500 shooters are expected.

Nikolai says the surging numbers mirror the nationwide growth of shooting sports.

“They’re in it for themselves, they’re in it for their team. I think that culmination, they’re out there enjoying Nebraska’s great outdoors at the same time," Nikolai said. "I think there’s a lot of unity but also a lot of self challenge in trap shooting that brings people together.”

Minden middle schoolers Matt Dixson and Aaron Nielsen say it’s a wide-ranging group of competitors.

“Good shooters,” Dixson said.

“(They’re) good, all different sizes, ages. Anyone can do it,” Nielsen said.

Their team finished second overall, behind Ord’s SouthSide 4-H. The Minden team hit 460 out of 500 targets using a simple approach.

“See target, shoot target. That’s about it,” Nielsen said.

Safety is always top of mind for Nikolai and the conservation officers staffing the event. Each shooter is required to have completed a hunter education course.

“You go out on the line and they amaze you in what they do and what they know and how they’re always keeping that muzzle pointed in a safe direction, always pointed obviously downrange when they’re out there shooting," Nikolai said. "When you can bring 900-plus 6th through 8th graders together and they’re all shooting safely, I think that speaks for itself.”

Event organizers will present 200 awards over the three-day competition, culminating with the presentation of the Cornhusker Cup on Saturday evening.