SIDNEY — A local 4-H club is the recipient of a grant from the National Rifle Association. The NRA donated over $10,000 worth of shooting equipment to the Shelby County 4-H Shooting Sports Club: Kids and Guns.
The donation provided the 4-H club with the essential equipment needed to educate local youth about safety while at the same time giving students a practical hands-on experience with firearms and archery equipment. The NRA donated rifles, shotguns, handguns, and a large gun safe for secure storage. They also provided re-curve bows, ammunition, clay targets for trap shooting and other equipment necessary to teach proper safety and handling techniques.
The formation of the club is rooted in a responsibility and desire to make things better in the local community. Realizing the foolishness in blaming an inanimate object like a firearm or bow as the core of the problem in hunting-related accidents or criminal activity a local couple decided it was time to provide a better education for their children and other local youth through education.
“This whole thing started because of our interest in providing a better education for our kids,” said 4-H Shooting Sports Adviser Hope Abke.
In 2015, Hope Abke and her husband Chris, along with Rob Wooddell, Jeremy Hatfield, and Matt Low joined together to pursue a common goal after each had approached Laura Norris at the Shelby County OSU Extension Office looking for advice and assistance in starting up a 4-H Shooting Sports Club in Sidney.
“At the time, Laura was the Shelby County OSU Extension educator and head of the 4-H Youth Development Department and she recognized the potential of the opportunity at hand and helped us get organized; Rob and Jeremy were the first to get the training required to develop a shooting sports chapter and in time we all attended classes to became certified instructors.” Abke said.
“It is a serious commitment as each adviser is required to participate in several week-end long classes that run from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. It is a lot if information to digest but fortunately the instructors did a good job keeping it interesting,” she said.
Abke noted club growth will depend on the amount of volunteers willing to complete the training to get the certification necessary to be an advisor and teach as there is a huge emphasis on safety; a lot of instructors are needed as much of the training is conducted on a one-on-one basis.
While the original group of advisers were completing their training it was obvious the club would need a proper, more permanent setting to conduct their classes and shooting exercises. Fortunately the perfect location already existed and the Shelby County Deer Hunters Association graciously agreed to let the 4-H group use their grounds and clubhouse as a meeting place where advisors could educate and train their students.
“The Shelby County Deer Hunters Club took us under their wing and have gone out their way to help us get set up,” said Abke. “Jerry Seitz, Randy Sailor and countless others helped us get settled in and made us feel right at home. The Deer Hunters have the perfect location and we are so thankful for their kind and generous attitude and concern for our youth.”
A recent meeting held Monday, Nov. 7, at the Shelby County Deer Hunters found nearly 50 people in attendance with about 25 to 30 students (both boys and girls) aged 9 to 18 participating in the election of new officers and conducting other business affairs. The meeting was well organized and conducted in an orderly fashion with an emphasis on good manners and proper behavior which reflects the level of good leadership enjoyed by the club.
When the groups meet for shooting exercises personal responsibility is the rule of the day. Students help set up and tear down range materials, clean guns and inspect all equipment before storage, and help replenish materials that are used and need replaced for future exercises. While not being used firearms and ammo are stored in two large gun safes provided by the NRA and the Youth Shooting Sports Alliance for safe keeping. Members who wish to participate in the use of firearms and bows must attend all safety meetings and are also required to do a 4-H project for the Shelby County Fair.
Brady Davidson, who will soon be 15, attended the Monday night 4-H meeting with his father Jason. Brady who is the club’s vice president is a certified 4-H Junior Leader in the shotgun discipline of the shooting sports club; he is passionate about his role in education.
“I want to help others to learn the correct way to handle firearms because I hope to change the misconception that guns are bad. It’s not the gun’s fault when someone gets injured with a firearm and if I can keep just one person from getting hurt it will be worth my time invested,” he said. “I plan to get certified in all the disciplines currently offered by the club so I can help in all aspects of training.”
Brady is also a member of the Anna chapter of the FFA. While Brady enjoys shooting and has completed the hunter safety course he does not hunt at present.
“I would like to hunt but it’s getting harder to find landowners who are willing to let anyone on their property, I guess traditional values are changing and while I understand their concerns it sure would be nice if more people would cooperate with qualified and properly trained youth hunters.” Brady is looking far ahead regarding his future plans and contributions to the club and his community. The club has many outstanding young people and reflects their maturity and good leadership qualities.
The Shelby County 4-H Foundation provided the initial seed money to start the shooting sports club, however, financial assistance was also provided by The National Wild Turkey Federation, Shelby County Ducks Unlimited, Ticon Paving, Tactical Solutions, Whitetails Unlimited, Olde English Outfitters, and Barrett Materials. Other donations in the form of equipment and supplies were supplied by the National Rifle Association, Youth Shooting Sports Alliance, A.A. Leonard (safety glasses), and Custom Foam Products who provided the archery targets.
Anyone wishing to play a part in this most worthy organization whether by assisting in a leadership role or contributing equipment or financially should contact Judie Gaerke at the Shelby County OSU Extension Office at 937-498-7239 or e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on Ohio 4-H Shooting Sports in general visit their website at: www.ohio4h.org/shootingsports or call Larry Harris at 740-286-4058 or email, email@example.com
The writer is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News.