|Phillips County 4-Hers have a blast with shooting sports|
|Written by Darci Tomky|
Shotguns, bows and arrows, air pistols and rifles. No, this isn’t a video game. This is real, hands-on experience.
Phillips County 4-H offers a wide range of projects, and shooting sports is at the top of the list for a dedicated group of 4-Hers.
Whether they prefer taking aim with a bow and arrow or a shotgun, there is something for everyone in shooting sports. (And it’s not just for boys!)
For 4-Hers who love the outdoors, shooting sports are a great opportunity to get them outside, active and learning skills that will help them both now and later in life.
“It’s something they need if they are interested in doing anything outdoors,” said Glen McCallum, shotgun leader. “It gives them respect for it.”
For kids who want to hunt or fish, shooting sports are a great way to introduce them to the idea of using a gun or bow. Hopefully a love and a passion for the sport will take off from there.
“It’s an important part of our American heritage,” said archery leader Jack Wieland.
In all the disciplines, kids learn about shooting safety as well as the fundamentals of shooting their bow or gun.
“The main thing we need to teach the kids is safety,” said Troy Bishop, leader for the .22, air rifle and air pistol group. “This goes a long way in helping our kids understand that what you see in the movies is not what real life is all about.”
“We try to have a little fun with it too,” added assistant leader Ron Anderson.
For 4-H, each project requires a record book as well as a board display for the Phillips County Fair. Other than that, each discipline focuses on a particular aspect of shooting sports.
The .22, air rifle and air pistol group meets weekly from mid-March to the end of June at the county shooting set-up. Their practices lead up to the county shoot. They can also compete at the State Fair in September.
Leaders Bishop and Anderson said anywhere from two to eight kids have participated in this group in one year.
“I didn’t have the chance to do shooting sports when I was in 4-H, so I enjoy helping to teach something I didn’t get to do,” said Bishop.
Phillips County’s archery program began in 2003 with an average of six kids each year, said Wieland. They practice once a week from March to the Fair at the fairgrounds or at their outdoor set-up at Gilbert’s Grove.
The aim of the archery program is to give the kids the right start with proper form, technique and safety requirements. They spend much time shooting correctly, but they also make it fun with games like tic tac toe, baseball and shooting at moving pop cans.
“It’s a talent just like anything else,” said Wieland.
At the classes, Wieland goes over the history of archery, maintenance of equipment and the parts of the bow/arrow/string. The group has also made arrows, arm guards and bow quivers.
Archery participants have the opportunity to attend a number of competitions/camps in the area as well as the state competition.
Shotgun is the one discipline that focuses on shooting moving targets. They learn the fundamentals of shooting trap but also make it fun with some games.
McCallum said they meet weekly at the Haxtun Gun Club from the end of the school year until Fair when they practice twice a week up to the State Fair.
The State Fair competition over Labor Day weekend is the goal they work toward. The group also attends competitive shoots in Northeast Colorado.
Shooting sports leaders emphasized anyone interested should try one of the disciplines just to get their feet wet and to see if they like it. They realize it’s a big investment to purchase a gun and shells or a bow and arrows, so there is oftentimes equipment the 4-Hers can borrow until they know it’s the project for them.
Kids can also cross-participate in the disciplines to get more experience in a variety of shooting sports.
Anyone interested in learning more about 4-H or shooting sports should call the Phillips County Extension office at 854-3616.