From: John Nolan, The Wisconsin State Journal
Published March 9, 2005 12:00 AM

Shooting Hobbyist Invents Eco-Friendly Target

Joe Schroeder is a man who isn't afraid to pull the trigger on an inventive idea.


Living on a portion of his family's farm in Juneau, the self-employed 44-year-old used to spend time pondering ways to fire his shotgun at targets across the open spaces. But, an environmentally conscious shooting hobbyist, Schroeder could not bring himself to fire a single shot.


"I couldn't shoot trap because of the crops. The shot was bad for an animal's digestion," said Schroeder, who also didn't want exploding clay targets, which contain significant levels of petroleum pitch, to sprinkle his mother's vegetable garden.


His predicament is not uncommon among rural Wisconsin residents who enjoy shooting trap but want nothing to do with polluting the land, which can be their livelihood. Schroeder, a man with a mind for business who once produced and sold machines to recycle television cables, turned his sights toward a solution.


By developing a non-toxic chemical formula which mixes with water "the formula is a secret and only my dog knows, and he's not talking" Schroeder's Ice Blasters solution is poured into molds, tossed into the freezer and can be hand-thrown just like any sporting target. Subsequent blasting comes secure in the knowledge that the shattered target is environmentally safe.


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In fact, no cleanup is required.


"It's all completely biodegradeable. I actually ate a piece of one, but I don't recommend anyone do that because it's not made under sterile conditions," said Schroeder, who began selling from his company line (Ecotargets) a year ago and uses it at home or at nearby Pumpkin Center Sportsman's Club where "we always have to clean things up that people blow up."


Dan Small, host of public television's "Outdoor Wisconsin," caught wind of the product last summer. He and a film crew met up with Schroeder, who was armed with a shotgun and a hand-held cooler to store the targets, on a 90-degree day in July to get a first-hand look.


"My first thought was, There's nothing to this. It's just an ice cube.' In fact, they don't look any different than if you left a saucer of water out for a cat and it froze," said Small, whose episode about the targets was recently aired on PBS. "But they fly amazingly well. ... the flying birds, when hit with a shotgun charge, disintigrate just like a clay target."


Small and Schroeder shot flying and hanging ecotargets.


"Each target exploded satisfactorily, there was a clear result in shooting, but the most impressive factor is it's totally biodegradeable and can be used anywhere you can safely shoot," said Small, who found only wet spots when he searched for debris.


Cami Peterson, a water management specialist for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, said her agency has no problems with his product, which includes the use of natural color dyes.


"They're made out of ice, so you can't get much more natural than that," Peterson said.


Small can only shake his head.


"This falls into the category of Why didn't I think of this!' It's like the Hula Hoop and the pet rock ... every once in a while a product comes along like that. It's a simple concept, but it works," Small said.


The Ice Blasters can be produced in the form of birds, rabbits, squirrels, ducks, stars or saucers. They aren't conducive to all operations for which targets are loaded they have to be hand-thrown or hand-loaded into a mechanical trap, especially in warm weather but Schroeder said he's working on machinery that would work in fast-trap league shooting and hopes to be able to produce an ice maker "to keep popping them out."


Products for purchase include a trap shooting kit ($9.95), sporting clay kit ($19.95), rifle range kit ($9.95), trap adaptor kit ($3.50) and additional molds and colorants for day or night shooting.


"For a guy and a kid who just want to go out and do some shooting, it's a good deal," said Randy Firari, president of the Pumpkin Center Sportsman's Club, which is about an hour's drive northeast of Madison.


Firari, who is from rural Reeseville, said he was especially impressed with the rifle range kit.


Schroeder's targets can be viewed and purchased at www.ecotargets.com and can be purchased by calling 1-920-927-3899, writing to Ecotargets, W7742 Lighthouse Road, Juneau, WI 53039 or sending e-mail to iceblaster@powerweb.net.


Ecotargets products also can be purchased by contacting Dan Small at http://dansmalloutdoors.com.


Source: Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News


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