Matt and Foster Bartholow with their trophies
Matt and Foster Bartholow with their trophies

Q&A with Trap Kingpins Matt and Foster Bartholow

Q&A with Trap Kingpins Matt and Foster Bartholow

Published on August 16 2023.

Brothers Matt and Foster Bartholow are winning trap shooters and members of the Browning Pro Staff. At the 2023 Grand American Trap Shoot, Matt set a new record with his third-in-a-row, and fourth overall World Doubles Championship, hitting 1,097 out of 1,100 registered targets. Recently, the Bartholow brothers participated in a Q&A with Browning, discussing everything from competitive trap shooting to tips for new shooters.  

How did you get into competitive trap shooting?

Foster: “We have always had a passion for shooting and the outdoors. At a young age, we would shoot clays with our dad, Buddy. The weekend shooting trip was always something we looked forward to. 

“We never really shot much trap in a league, but I saw a flyer for a youth trapshooting league at school. We both went to the league and did well for our first shooting. I shot a 47 out of 50 my first time and a 48 out of 50 the following week. Now, we were those guys bringing blaze orange, our hunting guns, and some shells, so to say we started like an everyday shooter is par for the course.

“We both quickly excelled after our family purchased two of our first Browning Trap shotguns from Guns Unlimited, and from there, our Scholastic Clay Trap Program trapshooting team won the 2005 SCTP Trapshooting Championships in Vandalia, OH.” 

Matt Bartholow with his Browning Over-Under Shotgun
Matt Bartholow with his Browning Over-Under Shotgun

What do your mornings look like before a competition? What is your routine at the range? 

Foster: “We have entirely different ‘recipes’ regarding warm-up, mentality, and shooting. Our dad developed what we now call ‘your recipe,’ the specific shooting method that gets us prepared, focused, and in the zone. We will get our gear ready the night before and clean our guns if they need cleaning to avoid rushing the morning of. Both Matt and I show up to the shooting bank 30 to 40 minutes before we’re up to shoot.”

Matt: “I will grab breakfast, stretch, and read to warm up my eyes. My ‘warm-up’ music routine is softer, more mellow tunes that allow me to calm my nerves, focus, and prepare for the event. While on the range, I will try to block out as much as possible and focus on getting my eyes in the correct spot, reassuring the gun mount is right, and getting my breathing in check before calling pull.”

Foster: “I can’t sit still and must be doing something constantly. I will get up, have breakfast, and stretch for 20 minutes. I will head out to the practice range and get a warm-up round before the event; this will help me warm up my eyes and get in the zone. I typically watch targets to ensure the height, distance, and angles are correct.”

Foster Bartholow Competing
Foster Bartholow Competing

What are you listening to when you’re headed to the range for a competition and getting ready?

Foster: “We listen to music while out shooting, except for doubles, as we spot-shoot and need to hear ourselves saying pull to keep the correct timing within our shot process. The type of music, you might ask. Well, contrary to rumors put out by Matt, I do not listen to Britney Spears anymore. Kidding aside, we both listen to rock/metal. Matt’s more on the harder metal side, but bands like Volbeat, Metallica, A7X (old stuff), Three Days Grace, Fit for a King, and Five Finger Death Punch are our jams.” 

How do you stay calm and patient at a competition? 

Matt: “This question is often asked; honestly, everyone deals with nerves and pressure differently. We commonly see that people aren’t used to tension or pressure because they tend to avoid those situations, so when put into these situations, they are more likely to break down or not understand how to deal with that adrenaline. How do you fix that? Put yourself in where you deal with competition. Shoot off with friends for $20, or even ice cream or $1 will bring out the competition factor. Do it as much as you can, and you’ll get used to it.” 

Foster: “People ask me, ‘How do you handle shooting off against Matt?’ I practice and shoot registered targets with him almost daily during the summer, so if we get into a shoot-off, there’s no pressure or adrenaline. In fact, I feel more comfortable against him than I do anyone else. It honestly feels like we’re just at shooting practice.” 

One thing I do to deal with my nerves is breathing and pushing out negative thoughts with positive ones. I will commonly focus hard on breathing before I bring my gun up, start to let out a little air when I get my eyes set, stop my breathing, and focus on the shot when I call pull.” 

Matt: “I deal with stress by getting myself mentally out of it. If I focus too hard on the targets, I’ll build up pressure on myself or let my mind wander. The more I can go out and shoot without overthinking, the better!”

Sunset over the World Shooting and Recreational Complex in Sparta IL
Sunset over the World Shooting and Recreational Complex in Sparta IL

What are some fundamentals that are overlooked when getting into trap sports? What is one thing you wish you knew before getting into competitive shooting? 

Foster: “I can honestly say finding the correct routine for YOU is one of the more challenging parts of shooting that may take years; this is why we develop and teach ‘Your Recipe’ when hosting several free shooting clinics throughout the U.S. 

“Following that, I would say that proper footwork and stance will be the next most significant fundamental overlooked. Like golf, your stance generates power and consistency within your form while swinging a shotgun. Tweaking your stance will give you tremendous control over your accuracy.

“The third overlooked fundamental is hold points. So many people we work with stay confined to the trap house or don’t move their hold point when changing posts. With each new post, you have different angles of targets that will test your abilities. Make things easier for you to see the target and swing to it.” 

How often do you practice? What does a practice session look like? 

Matt: “Our practice routine starts in early spring, after turkey season for Foster. We start the season slowly and ramp up our daily practice rounds as events get closer, allowing our muscle memory and stamina to build up rather than shooting too much and getting injured. 

“Early on, we were taught to shoot a quantitative number of shells. ‘Each day, rain or shine, you’ll go out and shoot 100 rounds,’ our dad told us. Well, we did that, shooting 100 rounds a day. The only issue, is we were unfocused and unprepared when going out.” 

Foster: “Sure, our shooting abilities continued to rise, but we noticed we plateaued as there was only so much we could do without a plan. After discussions, we generated plans called ‘Your Recipe’ and ‘Practice with a Purpose.’ These mental pieces of training help guide a shooting career in a positive pathway. ‘Instead of a quantitative number of shells, I want you to shoot a qualitative amount. You can shoot between one shell and 1,000 shells a day, but you will do it with a purpose,’ our dad said.

“Since then, we’ve gone out on both sides of those spectrums, shooting one shell and 947 shells without a miss. We recommend shooters go and shoot what they feel that day, don’t limit it to ‘I have to shoot 50 or 100 shots,’ but rather, ‘I will destroy 25 targets perfectly today.’ Typically, we’re shooting 4 to 6 times a week, where Matt will shoot 25 to 100 rounds, and I will shoot 100 to 300 rounds daily.” 

Blue Sky over Trap Shooting complex
Blue Sky over Trap Shooting complex

What is your favorite shooting achievement?

Foster: “My greatest shooting achievement is 2008 when Leo Harrison and I went 200x200 in the Singles World Championship event, followed by each shooting 900x900 in the shoot-off for a total of 1,100x1,100 which still holds the record of being the longest shootoff in Amateur Trap Association (ATA) history.” 

Matt: “My greatest shooting achievement is winning the World Doubles Championship three times now with Browning trap guns in 2011, back-to-back-to-back in 2021, 2022, and 2023. With all these accomplishments and the help of great partners like Browning Firearms, it opened an ability to get our positive message of safe shooting and how to crush clays out to thousands of shooters throughout the years, which is a huge accomplishment.”

Why did you choose Browning?

Foster: “We started like everyone else, using our hunting guns for clay shooting, and it wasn’t until our coach educated us that we found out more about trap-specific shotguns, the reasons behind the price, and the benefits you gain from the investment. After shooting trap for a year and deciding this was something we wanted to do for the rest of our lives, we started looking into trapshooting shotguns. Our coach recommended we look at Browning for several reasons: Price point, features, and ability to service (in case of a breakdown)." 

What competition do you look forward to the most each year? Why?

Foster: “We enjoy a couple of events the most, including the SD State Shoot and the Grand American. You're missing out on a great time if you’ve never shot the South Dakota State shoot. The in-state competition is probably some of the toughest you’ll see throughout the U.S., plus the trophies that they give out are awesome! Our mom, Char, might be the one who oversees all the trophies. We have great people, a great ATA delegate, and many wonderful people who come to our SD State Shoot. 

“The second event we love is the Grand American because of the people worldwide that come to this event, everyone we get to see during the event, and the total awe experience you get from being down at the WSRC complex in Sparta, IL. The complex has 120 trap houses stretching over 3 ½ miles, 2 sporting clay courses, and 24 skeet fields, a sight to see!”

Matt Bartholow with ATA champion trophy
Matt Bartholow with ATA champion trophy

Do you compete in any other shooting sports? What are your hobbies? 

Foster: “I’ve dabbled in sporting clays and love shooting them. I have a passion and love for the outdoors, hunting, and shooting with a shotgun, rifle, archery, and photography/filming. I’m blessed to have a wife who appreciates my passions and will share them with me occasionally.”

Matt: “I am more of a one-track mind and prefer to keep consistent with one discipline throughout the summer. My hobbies are hunting occasionally and enjoying time with family and my 5-year-old son, Wyatt.”

Follow Browning, Matt, and Foster, on social media to keep up to date on their shooting and hunting accomplishments throughout the year, and keep an eye out for the Bartholow’s at a trapshooting event near you!