In this day and age of gun paranoia, the leaders of 4-H have opened the doors to educating our nations youth on the safe handling and fun experience of firearms. Through the 4-H shooting sports activities, more than 300,000 youth are annually taught the joy of shooting sports and safe gun handling.

Through 4-H shooting sports, youth of every race, gender and economic situation are equal and can participate and compete head-to-head in fun and challenging activities. From air-rifle, small bore, shotgun and archery; youth are exposed to and educated about the challenge of shooting sports.

In addition to the 300,000 teens annually, over 46,000 adult volunteers donate tens of thousands of hours to educate and assist teens in participating in these different shooting disciplines. Shooting sports are open to youth from ages 8-18 and are exposed according to their age and maturity. They begin with air rifles and pistols, then at age 14 can begin shooting small bore and shotguns. Some of the most exciting shooting however is with these modern air guns.

Lydia Patterson, world renowned air pistol shooter got her first exposure to shooting through 4-H shooting sports. Lydia started in 4-H shooting sports when she was eight years old. She stayed in the program until she turned 18 when all youth age out of 4-H programs. Patterson held the 2010 Daisy National BB gun title, broke the National Jr air pistol record by two points that was held since 1995 a year before she was born.  She now has earned an Olympic quota for the United States of America in air pistol. Patterson is the first female American to earn this quota since 2005.  Lydia’s brother, Caleb has won three 4-H National Shooting titles and is now helping coach the Kansas National 4-H team.

4-H shooting sports is an overlooked aspect of the overall 4-H agenda. This past week in Montgomery, Alabama, six participants on 4-H shooting programs were invited to attend the 5th annual Squirrel Masters Classic, sponsored by Gamo USA air guns and Buckmasters. The classic pits some of outdoor television’s most prominent personalities with 4-H shooters from Alabama in a squirrel hunting contest and a marksmanship contest. This year the participants included, Aliyah Frick (14), Silas Frick (15), Joshua Frick (12), Matthew and Ethan Lenna (14), and Shelby Moore (15). During the marksmanship contest, for the second year in a row, a female won the contest. This year 15 year old, Shelby Moore from Waverly, AL shot eight out of ten targets at different distances and stances to best the competition.

Opportunities like the 4-H shooting sports program work to educate and encourage youth of today to get outside and participate in fun sports. Where competition, camaraderie and excitement are all rolled into one.

On a personal note, it is refreshing to see that in today’s world, there is no need to separate genders in competition such as shooting sports. Both men and women alike can, and often do, excel in these activities. People from all walks of life and backgrounds participate in 4-H shooting activities. These activities help to encourage and position young teens into productive, self-assured adults who will carry on the tradition of shooting in America.

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