All across the nation, youth are getting exceptional training in firearms and archery. They are being taught how to be safe, responsible hunters. They are interacting with nature and learning about conservation. And all of this is through the 4H Shooting Sports Program and the generosity of sponsors such as Browning, Midway USA, Hornady Ammunition, CZ-USA, Bushnell, The Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP), Savage Arms, White Flyer, Champion Traps and Targets, Archery Advocates Association, SCI Foundation, National Shooting Sports Foundation, Hodgdon, NWTF, Whitetails Unlimited, Vista Outdoor, and Federal Premium Ammunition. Youth shooters are taught by instructors that are educated and certified in a 12-hour course. One of the goals of Shooting Sports is to provide youth the opportunity for partnerships with caring adults who can encourage, support and help the youth to reach their fullest potential in life.
There are 400,000 kids in shooting sports across the USA and 4,387 kids enrolled in 4H Shooting Sports in the state of South Dakota. Out of the total number of youth enrolled in the program of 4H (9,441) half are in Shooting Sports, which is a very good ratio, and the strongest in the nation. South Dakota is a huge hunting state, which means that we have lots of guns. It’s a part of our culture, and more guns equal more opportunities for firearm accidents. That’s why Shooting Sports is such a good program in rural areas to educate our youth about safe handling of guns and ethical hunting practices. Some say that hunting is “inhumane” and “barbaric”. In all reality, they are the complete opposite. Hunting is actually a form of conservation. In managing the population of game animals, you are ensuring that there is adequate food supply and that’s there is only so many animals per acre to make sure that the animals have the best quality of life possible.
4H Shooting Sports is an awesome program, and it’s on a continues climb upwards. More and more kids are joining 4H Shooting Sports, by the hundreds. Parents are enrolling their kids in 4H and Shooting Sports for the learning. But the knowledge is not the only thing with the kids are coming out of the program with. Along with the shooting skills, kids acquire friendships, self-confidence, self discipline, and sound decision making. They also become more environmentally conscious and are better stewards of natural resources. They also learn responsibility and skills that they can utilize throughout their entire lives. Those are just a few of the things that kids learn in the Shooting Sports program.
My 4H and Shooting Sports Story
Now, I understand that reading something written about an event is different and a little more boring than reading a first hand story. So, I’m going to tell about my 4H and Shooting Sports Story.
My name is Zoe. I’m 15 years old and I am the standing ambassador of the state of South Dakota. Shooting Sports has played a huge part in my rise to where I am now in the 4H community and program, and in my life. It has really shaped me into who I am now and helped me see who I could be. I have been a member of 4H for almost 7 years, since I was 9 years old. I’ve also been a member of 4H shooting sports for 7 years. I first started out shooting BB Gun and Archery and then when I was 12, I added Air Pistol to my list of disciplines. When I was 13, I got into Shotgun in the summers through 4H Shooting Sports, And this year I added .22 Rifle. I spend about 4-5 hours every week shooting, at the minimum. That’s not counting the shooting I do at home, which I do occasionally, when I have time. Overall I spend most of my week with 4H related activities, from horse quiz bowl, to club meetings, horse show practice, preparing for the county fair, shooting sports, community service and so much more. 4H has overtaken my life, but I don’t mind it because it has given me so much in return and has made me into the best version of myself, but Im still a work in progress!
When I was 9 years old, I started my first year in shooting sports. At this point in time, I could barely hold a BB Gun. I couldn’t shoot the broadside of a barn, much less a bullseye. Also, I knew nothing about guns. (and when I say nothing, I mean nothing. You might underestimate my true inexperience here, but believe me. I knew nothing.) During my first safety meeting, while our instructors were going over parts of the gun, range commands and safety procedures, I was convinced that I would never learn it all! Now, here I am, nearly 7 years later. The past two years I helped at the safety meetings for the new kids. I was helping one little girl shoot a BB Gun in the prone position and I realized that, I am doing the same thing for these kids that my shooting instructors did for me half a decade earlier. It was a startling realization that, these kids, just might remember me and do the same thing in 5 or 10 years and influence more little lives. I might just be inspiring a generation of new volunteers.
After I realized that, I then thought about how so many volunteers donate their time, to better our lives as kids and help us become the best we can be. I think those volunteers are among the best people I have ever met. My Gun Instructors and Archery Instructors have helped me so much on this insane adventure that I can’t even begin to thank them enough for everything they have done for me, and for every other shooter in my County and across the state.
I Learned a Lot
Through my Shooting Sports years, I have learned many things, and not of them are all about shooting. Most of them are pieces of advice from my Instructors and fellow shooters, or their parents. I have met many people through shooting in different places across the state so I’ve had the opportunity to meet someone that I can swap shooting stories with and also can give me good advice and information pertaining to shooting. It awesome to have all the connections all over the state due to shooting competitions at different locations.
As this platform is called SurvivalBlog, it would be only proper to address the issue of 4H Shooting Sports and how it is all linked into the survival/prepper community. 4H teaches weapon knowledge. In a survival situation, your definitely going to need to know about your firearm, such as ammunition for it, cleaning it, gunsmithing, ect, and 4H Shooting Sports encourages it. In fact, there is a program called “Hunting Skills” in the 4H shooting sports.
Broader Survival Skillls
4H also encourages the knowledge and practice of hunting skills and other outdoor related activities such as trapping, wildlife identification, range knowledge and orienteering, as well as “boy scout” skills like Shelter Building, Survival skills, Plant Identification and other basic things about survival (water purification, edible plants, ect.). Very few kids participate in it and that’s why this is one of the least known about disciplines in the Shooting Sports program.
I live in Tripp County, and we do not have any kids in the hunting skills side of shooting sports at the moment. However, our neighboring county, Gregory County, has a very flourishing Hunting Skills program that is quickly on the way to the top of the South Dakota Hunting Skills Competition at the state event, and before my County has meshed with Gregory County for events such as this. For example, I am the captain of the current South Dakota State Horse Quiz Bowl team and one of our members of our champion team is Elijah E. is from Gregory county. He is also one of 3 South Dakota Shooting Sports ambassadors and is a member of the Hunting Skills Team from Gregory County. He went to 4H Shooting Sports Nationals this year in Grand Island, Nebraska during June of 2018. My sister, Elle also attended as she placed third in the state for Recurve Archery.
What I consider to be one of the most important things about 4H Shooting Sports is the impact it has on the gun violence issues in America. Now, most people will think that we are making our states a more dangerous place by giving guns to kids and teaching them to use them and shoot accurately, because remember, everyone, guns kill people. Wrong actually. The shooter kills people. The shooter is in control of the gun so, a safer shooter equals a safer gun. Our answer to all of our gun violence issues is to educate everyone on safe shooting technique and proper usage of a gun. And while that is not the total answer to all of our gun issues in America, it will significantly reduce our problems. Gun control will just make our issues worse, plus we all know the real goal of gun control is just to take our guns anyways, which is stupid because gun control without guns is just useless anyways. Also its stupid and we don’t need it at all. It will only intensify the problem.
Builds Social Skills
Now, another benefit of Shooting Sports is that it gives kids an activity that is both productive and fun! It encourages learning and building relationships with other like-minded youth and adults, and social development is very important in anyone’s life, for obvious reasons. You know why the Sandy Hook shooting happened? Because the shooter “had no friends” and “felt like he was alone in life”. Had he been in shooting sports, he would have had both friends, a caring adult role model, and a better knowledge of gun safety. (Does anyone know where not to point a gun? That’s right, do not point guns at students and teachers, folks. That’s not gonna get you on the Honor Roll anytime soon kids.) I have made many friends through shooting sports as I have said earlier, and I still continue to do that.
As I mentioned earlier, 4H Shooting Sports has many big names in marksmanship representing them and sponsoring the program. The biggest sponsor at the moment and in the past is Midway USA. They have provided us with equipment, matching grants, raffle items and more, at no cost or disadvantage to the Shooting Sports program. Though we as 4H Shooting Sports Counties do some of our own fundraising as well. The Shooting Sports Program of my county decided to buy an electronic target scorer a few years ago because our program was growing way too fast to continue scoring each target by hand every week. Currently, we have about 170 kids in our county shooting sports program and it grows more and more each year.
So we raised money for an Orion Scoring System. A local gun store donated a .22 LR rifle and the 4H Kids were all given the opportunity to sell tickets. At $5 a ticket and $10 for three tickets, we all thought it would be impossible but we sold almost all of the books in three months and ended up with enough to buy the Orion System, so around $2,000. Some kids even made a game out of it by competing with other kids to see who could sell the most tickets.
Overall, I highly recommend 4H Shooting Sports to anyone who is presented with the opportunity to participate in it because it provides useful life skills, lasting friendships, knowledge of firearms and the outdoors, awesome memories, and so much more. It especially important for rural areas due to more hunting accidents being likely, but I am in no way downplaying the need for this program in cities. This program is needed everywhere, and should be instituted everywhere.
Overall, this program has provided me personally with so many skills, and not just skills that others have taught me. It has provided me with opportunities to teach younger kids and pass on skills that were crucial to me. It also gave me a knowledge of how to teach because I remembered what it was like to be in the kid’s position. 4H Shooting Sports has made me a better person and I want to use this avenue to help other kids and spread awareness about Shooting Sports and the need for gun safety education among our youth. Thanks to Shooting Sports, I also now understand that life is not only about what you can get out of it, but about how you can make other people’s lives better as well.
4H State Ambassador, South Dakota