Mention kids and guns in the same sentence in many public settings and the “enlightened” folks will recoil in horror. Those of us who don’t live in the artificial bubble of New York City or Los Angeles understand that introducing young people to the shooting sports is a tradition as old as this nation. Thankfully there are still people in the United States dedicated to providing education and training to the next generation of shooters.
On July 15, 2012 I was present for the opening of the Ohio 4H Shooting Education Camp, a weeklong program designed to teach young people the safe and effective use of firearms and archery gear. This year marks the fifteenth annual Shooting Education Camp held at Canter’s Cave 4H Camp just outside of Jackson, Ohio. Nearly two hundred kids aged 13 to 18 took part in the camp and were coached by over forty trained adult volunteers.
During the Shooting Education Camp young people can participate in a number of disciplines. Campers can choose from pistol, rifle, shotgun, archery, and muzzleloading/living history. Naturally, traditional camp activities such as canoeing, swimming, fishing, hiking, and a camp bonfire are all a part of the experience.
Larry Harris, the Ohio 4H Shooting Sports coordinator, has been overseeing these events since the original pilot course held during the summer of 1998. “The shooting sports program is the fastest growing area of 4H and we’ve experienced tremendous growth at camp since that first year.” Larry related. “We started with fewer than fifty campers and now we hold Junior and Senior Shooting Education Camps to accommodate over three hundred young people each summer.”
Many industry leaders have gotten on board with the 4H Shooting Sports program. The 2012 Shooting Education Camp was supported and sponsored by Federal Cartridge Company, Smith & Wesson, the Michigan Ammunition Co., Scholastic Steel Challenge, Hodgdon Powder Co., Team Safariland, and Winchester Ammunition.
Fred Sherman, the President of the Ohio 4H Shooting Sport Council, summed up the purpose of the program very well: “4H Shooting Sports is about much more than guns and shooting. Our primary goal is youth development. The shooting sports program gives these young people a place to learn and develop mental and physical discipline. That’s truly what we are all about, helping young folks grow into mature adults and good citizens.”
The 4H Shooting Sports is always looking for adult volunteers and open to young people from ages 9 to 18. For more information about the National 4H Shooting Sports program visit http://www.4-hshootingsports.org or for the Ohio 4H and the Shooting Education Camp go to http://www.ohio4hshootingsports.org.
Images copyright and courtesy of Paul Markel