By Joe Arterburn


The Bartholow brothers credit a local trap club’s youth shooting league for igniting a passion that has taken them to the heights of competitive trapshooting, so much so they dedicate time and to teaching others.

The Bartholow brothers, both members of Browning’s pro staff, are Foster, 28, and Matt, 26, who are in their 15th year of competitive shooting so you can do the math to determine their age when Foster, then in high school, and Matt, in middle school, found a flyer advertising a five-week trapshooting league that would teach the fundamentals of shooting and safety.

“We went out and tried it,” Matt said, “and from there it escalated. We found out we could be pretty competitive and started shooting pretty much full time.”

Pretty competitive indeed. At the 2008 Grand American Clay Target Championship, Foster and Leo Harrison III were locked in a shoot-off for first place, neither missing any of the first 1,100 straight targets. They were offered co-championships, something never done before. With their record-setting performance behind them, they accepted.

In 2011, Matt achieved a personal goal by winning the doubles championship at the Grand American and has continued to rack up wins that puts him at the top of an impressive list of shooters on Browning’s pro staff.

Foster is quick to acknowledge his younger brother’s shooting skills. “Like I always say, if I can tie Matt, it will be a good day and if I can beat Matt, it will be a great day.”

Rather than dwell on accomplishments, both turn the conversation to youth-shooting programs.

I think there’s a gap these days of not understanding firearms and firearms safety.
Unfortunately, a lot of kids growing up today are not introduced to it the same as we have been. That’s what we’re trying to do, get the word out, promote safety. Realistically, we are trying to grow the sport to make it better.

Both are South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department-certified hunter education instructors and as they travel to shooting competitions they hold free shooting clinics. “We teach gun safety and responsibility to respect firearms as well as to go out and have fun,” Matt said.

They give back because youth shooting programs have “impacted our lives tremendously,” Foster said. “We want to make shooting sports even better than when we first got involved.”

Competitive shooting has made them better hunters as well, they said. Foster is “a hardcore hunter,” Matt said. “I’m more a casual guy when it comes to hunting.”

Competitive shooting “definitely makes bringing the gun up, swinging it and finding the target—and hand-eye coordination—more natural,” Matt said.

“The more you practice, the better you get,” Foster said. “Trap shooting has helped us in the mental game, showing us if we’re out in the field and miss a shot, just let it go and get the next one.”

Browning has been supportive of their youth-education efforts, providing gear for clinic attendees and a “youth arsenal program,” a collection of shotguns that youths and adults can try out. “It opens possibilities to those not really into shooting yet or who have never tried a trapshooting gun,” Foster said. “I don’t know of any other manufacturer that has anything like this, that will openly say ‘go try these and have fun with them, see what you like.’”