4-H shooting club takes aim on new year
DESOTO COUNTY — The DeSoto County Shooting Sports Club is taking aim on its second year of sport shooting activities. After a year of going back and forth to Polk County to use some of their facilities, the DeSoto club held its 2011 organizational meeting Sept. 9 at the DeSoto County Extension Office. Two days later, the club held shooting activities for its members at the DeSoto Shooting Gun Club firing range in Arcadia.
A club consists of at least five youths and a leader. The shooting club is one of the 10 4-H clubs that make up the DeSoto County 4-H program.
“I think this club fits our overall 4-H program beautifully,” said Christi Pryor, DeSoto County 4-H agent. “Our kids are interested in hunting, they are interested in agriculture, they are interested in firearms and firearms safety. I think it will be a good match.”
Pryor said last year’s club included about 25 kids. “It started out really big, but because of other sports, it shrank some. But there was a group of eight to 10 kids determined to get ahead and they went up to Polk County twice a month to use the gun range up there.”
The DeSoto club is fortunate to have two 4-H leaders — Susan and Rick Hatcher — to head up the shooting sports club. “They have been here from the beginning,” Pryor said. Susan noted she was raised in the city, but her husband Rick has hunted all of his life and shoots targets just for fun.
The Hatchers have been certified to teach firearms and they have undergone special training that no other club had to go through, including how to create a risk management plan. They learned about liability and proper range safety procedures.
“Without dedicated leaders like Rick and Susan, I don’t think it would have happened,” Pryor said.
“4-H has a certification class for each firearm,” said Susan, “and we have to be certified in rifle to do what we’re doing here in Arcadia. We’re also certified in shotgun and a bunch of kids shoot skeet and trap.
Pryor said DeSoto 4-H did not have a lot of money to establish the club, but the National Rifle Association helps new clubs with grants. “But before you can get the grant, you have to be established for one year,” Pryor said. “It is sort of a Catch-22. If you don’t have the materials to start up the club how are you going to have the club (for a year)?”
The club has now applied for a National Rifle Association grant to purchase guns. “We need more guns,” Susan said. “Our club didn’t have any guns to shoot here in Arcadia. If we used our own personal rifles, they would quickly get worn out.” The club requested six .22 cal rifles and six air rifles. They’ve also asked for lockers to store the guns. Susan said it was likely the club would get everything they’re requesting. “We’ll find out later this month,” she said.
Meanwhile, the DeSoto kids picked up what experience they could by going to Polk County on the second and third Fridays of every month.
“We went to Polk County twice a month,” Pryor said. “Our kids got to shoot up there and familiarize themselves with the range; they still had a record book to complete, they still had to prove they were learning firearms safety. So once we got that first year established,” Pryor said, “we were able this year to put in for our NRA grant so we could get the guns and ammunition we would like.
“We just want to make sure that the kids are learning while they’re doing.” Susan said it was her idea to become a 4-H leader in the shooting club.“I’ve always thought about what we could do to involve the kids. We talked about it for about a year before deciding. It’s a big responsibility — safety is important. It’s one thing when you’re safe with your kids, but when we’re are responsible for other peoples’ kids, we are extra safe and safety conscious.”
The 4-H age requirement for a rifle is 8 - 18 years. For a shotgun, it’s 11 - 18 years. Shooters can become eligible to attend district, state and national competitions.
“Last year, we competed in shotgun,” Susan said. “Counties set standards for shooters who are interested in going to the district or state level. You have to make 17 out of 25 when you’re shooting skeet, so that’s their standard. The nationals last year were in Oklahoma. Seniors who qualify at state are eligible to travel on to a higher level.
“I know we have some good shooters with the shotgun from last year,” said Susan.“I told their parents that I wanted to see them at least go to state. They’re old enough and I know they can shoot.”
Susan wanted to thank friends of the gun club. Calvin Newberry, who runs Performance Automotive, who donated four guns, and Jack Posser, who donated an air rifle. Susan noted Gator Guns in Arcadia helped out with ammunition.
For more informations about the shooting club, call Susan or Rick at 863-990-0718.
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