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Fickey helped build shotgun program at Clemson
North Hall grad used love of the sport, people skills to attract newcomers
Former Clemson University shotgun team president Wake Fickey was instrumental in building this club sport at the school. - photo by For The Times

Wake Fickey has already found a sport that he'll stay involved with for many years to come.

His last three years as an undergraduate at Clemson University, Fickey, a North Hall High graduate, were spent trying to spread his love for shooting sports.

"Shooting is something that you can still do when you're 72," Fickey said.

And from the looks of things, he's a pretty good salesman. He took the reins of the Tigers shotgun club as president, a sport on the school's campus, and turned it into a thriving program that sent seven shooters to the national championship this spring in the Association of College Unions National Collegiate Shotgun Championships in San Antonio, Texas.

The club took first in sporting clays and second in skeet shooting.

"We took this program from shooting in a cow pasture to a national title," Fickey said.

For Fickey, his love of shooting sports dates back to participating with the 4-H Hall County Clay Busters program as a kid.

In the big picture, he thinks it's important to keep these activities alive to help preserve our Second Amendment rights.

Now that Fickey has graduated from Clemson and moved back to Hall County to work in sales for a petroleum company, he's passed the torch to the next generation, but he will stay involved as much as possible with fundraising and spreading the word of this sport.

He says that the draw of shooting clays and enjoying the outdoors with friends is enough of a draw to get a wide variety of folks involved.

"It's like golf with guns," Fickey said. "Every course you go to is different and it's just a lot of fun."
Being an organizer of a major project like the shotgun club at Clemson, which is striving for NCAA status as an official sport in the future, is nothing that overwhelms Fickey.

He's already been involved with his father, Ed Fickey, with inventing a chair for the disabled or wheelchair-bound hunters to get safely into a tree with an electronic lift called the Tree Glider.

The idea for this invention came about when Wake sustained a career-ending football injury while playing at Western Carolina University and was relegated to an electric wheelchair for a short period of time.

So when his football career was completely finished and he had transferred to Clemson, he was ready to put his people skills to the test to see what he could do to make this fledgling program grow.

He took what resources they already had, with facility advisors and a student elective course, to see if his idea of building a new sport out of shooting was feasible.

Now that he's seen his idea to fruition, it's a pretty satisfying feeling and feather to put in one's cap.

"If something's worth going after, there's no reason to wait," Fickey said.

He knew the first order of business when he stepped into this project in 2008 was to secure funds for necessary items such as clays, shells and targets.

Over the next two years, he applied for and received grants from different organizations in the amount of $7,500 and $5,000, which went a long way to keep their project alive.

They also raised money through local fundraising efforts, which they'll continue to do this fall with a new president in charge.

Next, Fickey and his friends scoured the campus for students who were interesting in trying shooting sports.

Surely at a school the size of Clemson, which has about 15,000 undergraduate students, that shouldn't be a problem either. Fickey knew they just had to be proactive about it.

He said the main networking outlets for attracting new students to the team are freshman orientation, cookouts and handing out flyers about the team on campus.

With all the leg work they put into promoting the club, he was encouraged by the response they received with interested students.

He remembers one student from China, Simon Li, who showed up speaking broken English and with no background at all in shooting a gun.

Fickey said another huge boost to the club was when Clemson University spent $750,000 for two new skeet-trap combo fields and a 100-yard rifle range.

The additions were not designed for the shotgun club, but they were able to use the facilities in exchange for doing maintenance work such as cutting grass and spreading mulch.

Fickey wants to see the shotgun team gain NCAA sanctioning as an official sport and eventually be able to offer athletic scholarships.

"There's so much demand and interest in shooting sports that it's good to be able to get out there and spread the word," Fickey said.


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