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Knutson really hits the mark with her shooting career

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HARTINGTON — When Maya Knutson says ‘shoot,’ she doesn’t mean it as a polite expletive.

The Hartington-Newcastle senior literally means the action of shooting, and so far, her involvement in the sport of air pistol has gone pretty well for her.

Beginning officially Tuesday, Knutson is heading to the 4-H Nationals to begin a five-day event.

Knutson, 17, has been shooting competitively for two years and was hoping to go last year to nationals, but it was canceled by the pandemic.

The event will occur at the Heartland Shooting Complex in Grand Island.

“It’s always been a fun hobby that my family has always done and I have been shooting a rifle since I was three,” Knutson said. “They have not had any competitive rifle in our area and my dad was in a trap league and got certified to be a trap coach, so I started trap.

She was asked to try out for nationals and ended up getting first. She was then asked to try pistol – even though she had never shot a pistol before – and ended up getting third there.

Knutson will participate in three categories – slow fire, silhouettes and rapid fire. A shooter can win medals in any of those, but overall points and finishes account for the overall standings.

Slow fire involves a shooter taking their time to take five different shot-targets in a little over two minutes with 40 shots.

Rapid fire uses single-shot pistols, and the target turns and participants shoot on a “fire” command and have three seconds to execute the mission.

In silhouettes, the shooters aim at 40 steel targets, and they represent chickens at 40 meters, boars at 60 meters, turkeys at 77 meters and rams at 100 meters.

Hartington now has a 4-H trap team so Knutson teams up with people of all backgrounds from all over, but they don’t have a team name yet.

“More adults ask about it, but students don’t say much,” Knutson said. “But mostly everyone shoots around here, just not competitively."

Shooting has always come naturally for her.

“I have always been confident in it, but not high school sports. I enjoy the competition and I love beating the boys. It feels good when you hit the target and hear the ding or watch it explode.”

Participating in a sport involving something that is a hot-button topic politically in the country today, Knutson feels that guns are not the issue.

“They aren’t bad in general if you use them responsibly and respectively,” she said. “It can teach you how to safely use equipment like that.” Knutson said she would potentially look at a future with a collegiate program.

“I’ve thought of it, but the colleges I have been looking at it don’t have it,” Knutson said. “I could see myself doing it in college. It would be a fun thing to do.”

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