By Larry Moore
With a cold blast of winter air and snow blowing throughout the area, most people are likely not thinking about the Greene County Fair. Yet that is exactly what the youth and their families who are involved with 4H are doing. Some of the animals have been weighed in, clubs are meeting and projects are started.
I caught up with the Guns N’ Clovers 4H Club at the Miami Valley Shooting Range facility in Springfield where members are participating in the 4H Shooting Sports. Classroom work on firearm handling and safety was in progress. Others, who have completed the class work, were on the range shooting pistols or rifles at the indoor facility.
The Gun N” Clovers leaders include Brenda Sandman-Stover and Rick Stull. Sandman-Stover works at the Greene County OSU Extension office and coordinates the program while Stull is volunteering as both an instructor and coordinator.
Along with a team of background checked, trained and extremely dedicated instructors, they are giving these young people, many who have never been around firearms before, a quality start in the shooting sports. Instructors or volunteers who decide to get involved must take considerable training before being certified to instruct.
Stull explains, “I trained at Canter’s Cave for a full weekend. The training starts on late Friday afternoon through Sunday afternoon. It is in-depth training with a concentrated focus on safety and how to work with the kids. Instructors must take the weekend class for each discipline they wish to teach. I am certified to only teach pistol and would need additional classes to instruct rifle or shotgun. The focus is that the instructors will be well trained in the type of firearm being utilized. Prior to taking the 4H Shooting Sports training, instructors must have completed 4H volunteer training which includes a background check.”
He continues, “Brenda Sandman-Stover had taken over the club and brought it into the local extension office the year before I joined. I came on as an instructor because my daughter was interested in shooting. I thought this would be a great way to have an activity with her. I was already a 4H volunteer so I had been through the background check. We currently have eight instructors working with the club and offer all the disciplines for the youth.”
The members are currently shooting rifles and pistols on the indoor ranges at the Miami Valley Shooting Grounds. The shotgun, muzzleloading firearms, archery and living history will start the beginning of April. The range time for those is in cooperation with the Greene County Fish and Game Association. The youngsters are excited about the program. They are the best ambassadors for the 4H Shooting Sports and getting more young people involved.
Club member Elijah Beekman, Jamestown, explains, “This is my third year as part of the 4H Shooting Sports. I shoot shotgun and pistol programs. I love to shoot so when I heard about the shooting club and I joined to learn more. I like the shotgun best. I love it when I hit the target and it breaks in all directions. I think the pistol is harder because you have to aim very carefully. At the beginning of the year you get a shooting sports book. You have to read that and understand it. You make a poster and go to judging for the fair. The first year students must take gun safety as part of their project. We demonstrate shooting for safety but there is no competition shooting involved for the fair. Other kids should join because it’s fun learning about guns and shooting. It’s all about being safe.”
Some of the kids are outside their comfort zone and often nervous about shooting in a group or especially for the first time. It’s great to see them come off the range with a big smile of success and with knowing “Hey I can really do this!” On new shooter I watched was Lia Johnson. She was very safety conscious and precise handling her rifle.
Her parents are not shooters but understand the need to learn proper safety and handling of firearms. Since their daughter is enjoying it so much, they have an interest in learning to shoot. Her Mother, Cathi Johnson noted, “We did archery last year and she really liked it. We encouraged her to take guns this year to understand safety with firearms and have a new experience. She is doing both archery and rifles this year. Every Thursday she can’t wait to shoot.”
While having never fired a gun before, Emma Johnson had a real sparkle of anticipation in her eye going into the range. The instructor spent a lot of time reviewing the pistol, explaining all the parts, verifying her master eye, plus working with her grip and sight alignment. Johnson had an even bigger smile on her face and was giggling after the first shot. She soon settled down and immediately began to shoot some more. The training permitted the instructors to get new shooters comfortable very quickly.
Stull concludes, “We are really happy with the opportunity to teach the kids and have them on ranges where they can safely shoot. It’s great to watch the kids as they become confident and proficient with a firearm. The kids love the outdoor facility at the Greene County Fish and Game Association. Last year we had a youngster who had never shot a firearm who went into the shotgun program. You could really see the excitement in his eyes and on his face as he began hitting the clay trap targets. It is really satisfying to the coaches when that happens. It is quite an advancement from firing a shotgun as your first experience and hitting the moving targets.”
For more information on the 4H Shooting Sports program call Brenda Sandman Stover at the OSU Extension at 937-372-9971. The website for the Guns N’ Clovers Club is gunsandclover.com. More information on the Ohio 4H Shooting Sports is available online at www.ohio4hshootingsports.org/