What would you guess is the largest 4-H project in Montana? If you’ve ever been to the livestock sale at your local 4-H fair, you might think it is swine, but you’d be mistaken. It is shooting sports.
4-H shooting sports encompass several project areas – the most popular in this region are archery, air rifle and air pistol.
Shotgun is growing in numbers, and in Teton County, Cowboy Action shooting is providing a unique and fun opportunity. Other projects include small bore rifle, black powder shooting and hunting.
Regardless of which shooting disciplines 4-H members choose to participate in, they will receive some basic training that is consistent throughout – things like safety, shooting ethics, technique, and the care and maintenance of equipment.
Area Hunter Education instructors often say that it is easy to pick out the 4-H shooters in any class because they can begin shooting in 4-H at age nine and by the time they take Hunter Education at age 12, they understand the basics of handling the equipment.
The heart of the 4-H shooting program is the volunteer leaders. In order to participate, members must have a certified 4-H shooting sports leader who is trained specifically in their discipline.
This provides a consistent program with leaders who are all utilizing the same instruction in regard to safety and ethics, and who understand the 4-H model for learning. Some programs are fortunate to have both facilities and a group of leaders who will provide instruction to all the 4-H members who want to participate in one or several disciplines. Although it is challenging, the leaders work to schedule shooting times that fit into busy student schedules.
In addition to shooting each week, participants have the opportunity to compete in several competitions throughout the state.
The closest of those competitions are generally in Conrad or Shelby, and they are the Marias Fair tournaments. Tournaments provide the chance to get to know other 4-H members and leaders from across the state, learn new techniques, and hone shooting skills that they can use the rest of their lives. Older members can even earn the chance to participate in national competitions.
Youth who are at least nine-years-old by Oct. 1, and who are interested in seeing what the shooting sports program has to offer, should stop by their local Extension Office in the Pondera County Courthouse to see what disciplines are offered in their area. Remember, they can only sign up for the disciplines in which there are leaders to teach it. So if there are no leaders, there is no shooting sports program.
The good news is that this October there will be a 4-H shooting sports leader training in Conrad, which will offer training in all disciplines. So, if you’d like to help youth in your community to gain skills and confidence in shooting and in themselves, you can sign up for the training at your local MSU Extension office. There is a fee for the training course and the class will run from 5 p.m.-8 p.m. on Oct. 15, and from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. on Oct. 16.
The registration deadline for the leader training is Oct. 1, so if you’d like to make a positive difference in the life of a child through shooting sports, contact your local Extension office as soon as possible. For youth interested in joining 4-H Shooting, the sooner you sign up, the better.
The 4-H year begins Oct. 1, and the sooner you sign up, the sooner you will begin getting information and can get involved in your local 4-H program and begin gaining skills that will last a lifetime.
To ask questions or for more information, contact Adele Stenson in the Extension office at 271-4054.