The Northern Stokes 4H shooting club has their sights set on qualifying at the state level, but first they have to get through regionals on Saturday.
“I think we’ll have several go to state,” said 4H instructor Ben Hall. “We’ve got some that are really good in all three events and several standouts in individual events. We may have some possibly make nationals.”
Sixteen kids ages 9-18 will travel to Ellerbe, NC to compete in: Archery, Skeet, 22 Rifle, Pistol, and Black Powder.
“This area is primed for this,” Hall said. “Patrick County’s 4H is very successful and Forbush has won at nationals. This region is competitive and I think it’s something that could really take off.”
Hall believes it’s a good use of farmland and he’s appreciative of Lynn Knight who allows his group to use her property.
“Everything you hear about guns is negative and there’s nothing negative about what these kids are doing. This is safe and controlled and it takes skill. You can’t just pick it up and do it because it takes practice. It’s just like any other sport where you use equipment to accomplish a goal.”
The program advocates hunter education and Hall said most kids participating have experience with firearms and bows.
“But this is a different situation from shooting in your backyard because there’s so much more going on. We teach how to shoot and we emphasize eye and ear protection. Usually after a couple of practices they catch right onto it,” Hall said.
On Tuesday, Russ Tuttle was giving instruction to a group of five young men waiting their turn to shoot a neon orange skeet.
“Eyes and ears on,” he said.
Minutes later he explained some kids won’t play ball, but this sport gives them other options.
“They love this. They get to see results pretty quick,” Tuttle said. “I had a boy a couple years ago who didn’t shoot one skeet at his first practice so I gave his some things to work on at home and he came back the next time and only missed two. Watching him get some confidence meant the world to me.”
The shooting club has been awarded two NRA grants helping fund ammunition and equipment to keep the program running. It’s also seen local support from places such as Betty’s Country Grocery, Bait and Tackle Shop.
“They’ve been very good to us,” Hall said. “We’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from people wanting to support what the kids are doing.”
A year ago Nick Roscoe joined the club and is now set to compete at regionals in archery and shotgun.
The rising junior at North Stokes practices three to four times a week and said he’s seen a tremendous amount of improvement.
“It’s a lot of fun. I really enjoy it and it keeps me out of trouble.”
Amanda Dodson can be reached at 336-813-2426 or on Twitter at AmandaTDodson.