Popular 4-H shooting sports program begins new season
Pierce County 4-H Shooting Sports launched Monday classes on Jan. 6 at the Rugby armory, and instructors say they’re happy with the turnout.
Class organizer Christie Jaeger estimated 4-H “branched into shooting sports about eight or 10 years ago. It’s just gradually gotten bigger and bigger.”
The 4-H classes offer lessons in archery and air rifle shooting.
About 65 students age 8-18 registered the first Monday classes were held. The classes were divided into skill level groups from beginners through more advanced shooters and archers.
“They did the safety rules. They helped them to learn which eye was their dominant shooting eye. Those kinds of things,” Jaeger said of the beginner classes. “Then, they started teaching them the basics.”
Jaeger pointed to racks holding bows ranging in size from small to adult size. “These are all equipment that the club has purchased. We’ve done various fundraisers. We’ve received grants from places like the Eagles and Jaycees and other places that have helped us purchase the equipment,” she explained.
“A lot of the older kids or kids that are more experienced are bringing their own bows, but they don’t have to,” Jaeger added. “So, they come and try these bows. They’re called ‘bare bows.’ They don’t have a sight on them. The kids usually start with them.”
“We do have some occasional eight or nine year olds who come with their own bows. Maybe their parents shoot with them at home, but they start with these. They don’t have to use our equipment, but being it’s available. It’s a great way to get started.”
Parents who registered their children for the sports paid a $5 fee plus a $20 fee for the local 4-H club.
Jaeger said of the beginners, “This group was asked to come (for the first class). They were kids who hadn’t shot archery before, so they put them a little closer to the targets. They’re shooting from 10 yards to the target. These are kids who need help even getting the arrow into the bow and pull it back and that kind of thing.
“As they get more confident and comfortable, they’ll move them back to 15 yards. If we were to go onto competition, even the beginner age shoots at 15 yards. So, this group is more needing a little extra help, and within a couple of weeks, they’ll probably be shooting back farther.”
Jaeger said the students competing in state 4-H tournaments are grouped according to age.
One advanced 4-H archer, Rylee Geiszler, has already competed this season. Geiszler placed first for her age division in freestyle archery.
Did first place mean lots of bull’s-eyes?
“Yeah,” the Rugby eighth grader said with a giggle.
Geiszler, whose father, Cory, coaches for the 4-H shooting program, said she’s been a participant for “four years or five.”
Geiszler explained the event where she competed.
“Freestyle is just a bow with a sight. You shoot a target at 15 yards. You shoot five arrows at a time for six rounds.”
Upstairs from the archery lesson area, students practiced air rifle shooting on the stage area.
Air rifle coach Kent Christenson said of his classes, “We have two different levels. From eight to 11, juniors, and we have the older ones come in after that.”
Christenson and coach Dale Broe said the students sit at tables, or “benches,” resting their guns on cushions and shoot at 12 small targets on paper not much larger than the size of a standard letter from a distance of 33 feet, or 10 meters.
“Yeah, it isn’t very big,” Broe said of the targets. “They have to try and hit the bull’s eye.”
Broe explained that the stands holding the targets “have a piece of cardboard and tin behind them. That tin has just about all holes in it now.”
The students shooting first range in age from 8-11. Two older students practice after the first class.
Beginner Carter Teigen, who competed last year at a state 4-H air rifle competition, demonstrated air rifle shooting.
“You shoot in three positions,” Teigen said, “standing, kneeling and prone.”
“Carter did really well last year,” Jaeger said. “He got second place in state.”
The beginner group, all students at Ely Elementary School, said they enjoyed air rifle shooting. Three students said they hunted as well.
Jaeger said competitive shooting sports are “just growing tremendously. The state matches tend to be 100-150 kids shooting archery. Air rifle’s growing but not as quickly. The kids are really liking the archery.”
Because the shooting sport program is through 4-H, Jaeger said students are required to record their achievement days, but the shooting classes serve as their activity.
“Then,” Jaeger added, “It’s optional if they choose to go to competitions across the state.”
Jaeger said 4-H shooting tournaments and classes “fill up fast. They’re becoming very popular.”
Jaeger added, “I want to give a plug for our instructors. They’re all volunteers. They put their time in this. To become instructors, they have to have done a daylong training. So, there is general knowledge about helping kids, and then knowing the safety rules. “
Instructors for this year’s 4-H Pierce County Shooting Sports program for archery are Jaeger, Renata Warner, Cory Geiszler, Mike Reiger, Steven Wentz, Chris Heilman, Carter Medalen and Andrea Beaver. Air rifle instructors are Christenson, Broe, Kirby Harmel and Dave Teigen.
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