Every other Sunday afternoon, you’ll find about 30 Washington County 4-H’ers and their parents at the archery range or skeet/trap range for shooting sports practice.  They’re laughing, talking and having a good time, but as soon as they step up to shooting line, the expressions on their faces let you know this is serious business to them.  Across the nation, the 4-H Shooting Sports program has become one of the most popular programs, and Florida 4-H is no exception.  Washington County 4-H hosts two of the shooting sports disciplines in shotgun and archery.  Taking a deeper look into the program, you’ll learn that youth aren’t just being taught to shoot targets with accuracy; they are learning positive skills that will go with them throughout their lives. 

The mission of Extension 4-H programs is positive youth development.  The different programs, including shooting sports, are vehicles to achieve this.  Not only are youth learning safe and responsible use of firearms and principles of archery, they are developing life skills in self-confidence, personal discipline, responsibility and sportsmanship.

Shotgun coach, Gary Clark, stated that safety is the top priority in everything he teaches his members.  At a recent shotgun coach recertification session, the trainer commented that Sure Shots 4-H Club members were some of the most conscientious youth she had worked with and that Clark’s dedication to teaching safety and respect for firearms was evident in everything the 4-H’ers did. 

Samantha Raney knows first-hand the value of the 4-H Youth Development program; once a Washington County 4-H’er, Raney is now a 4-H volunteer and coach of Top Nocks 4-H Club.  While she’s participated in everything from science projects to public speaking to consumer judging, she says that the shooting sports program was one of the most beneficial experiences that she had as a 4-H’er, and she wants to pass that on to other kids. 

At the recent Florida 4-H state archery match, 4-H Juniors Gavin Kindig, Cole Dillard and Avery Sapp competed along with Senior 4-H members Levi McDaniel, Joel Owen, Aaron Doss and Nathan Nichols. 
Held at the Easton Newberry Sports Complex, 4-H’ers competed in FITA (Federation of International Target Archery) which are the traditional ringed archery targets, field which involves shooting in wooded, rough and rugged terrain at different distances and angels as well as 3-D which involves shooting at wildlife targets where hits are scored according to where it lands on the target.

After a full day of competition with over 230 4-H’ers from all over the state, Cole Dillard placed 10thin Junior Compound and Avery Sapp placed ninth in Junior Compound.  Senior 4-H member Aaron Doss placed eighth in Compound.  Levi McDaniel, who competed as a Florida National Archery Team Member last year, placed third in Recurve. 

The Florida 4-H state shotgun match was hugely successful for the Sure Shots 4-H Club who took away the majority of top placing at the competition.  Following are their awards:

Senior Team 1 — Morgan Locke, Whit Pettis, Seth Pemberton, and John Michael Walsingham first in skeet, second in trap, and first Overall Team

Senior Team 2— Tyler Daniels, Matt Fisher, Tyler Imke, and Colby Williams third in trap, and third in Skeet

Intermediate Team 1 — James Wesley Clark, Tripp Hodges, and Tyler Lee first in skeet, first in trap, and first overall

Jr. Team 2 — Caleb Hutching, Dylan Rudd, and Kolton Cox third in trap 

Senior Skeet Individual awards — first Morgan Locke, second Whit Pettis, fifth John Walsingham, sixth Tyler Daniels, seventh Tyler Imke, and eighth Seth Pemberton

Senior Trap Individual awards — fifth Colby Williams, seventh Tyler Daniels, eighth Whit Pettis, ninth John Walsingham, and 10thSeth Pemberton

Intermediates Individual Skeet awards — first James Wesley Clark and forth Tyler Lee

Intermediates individual Trap awards — third Tyler Lee, forth James Wesley Clark, fifth Tripp Hodges, sixth Caleb Hutching and eighth Tripp Hodges

Other Notable accomplishments — Morgan Locke had a 25 straight in skeet, Highest overall Senior - Whit Pettis, Highest overall Intermediate - James Wesley Clark

Three 4-H’ers qualified for the National Florida Shotgun Team match to be held this summer in Nebraska - Whit Pettis, Seth Pemberton, and Tyler Daniels.

Parents of the Sure Shots 4-H Club shared these remarks about the positive impacts of the 4-H Shooting Sports program:

There are many personal qualities learned only through individual competition, and many valuable others, only through team competition.  The 4-H Shooting Sports program is a unique opportunity that encompasses both aspects of competition, while developing confidence and camaraderie in our youth.

This club has really helped its members with so many different individual aspects:  self-control, composure, discipline, disappointment, team spirit, attitude and so much more.  The pressure they feel mentally when they are competing is a big part of their performance.  They have to learn how to deal with pressure while being the focus of a lot of people.  I am so proud to see what an impact this has made on their lives and to know that the character development they are experiencing will last the rest of their lives and will help shape the adults they become.

For more information on 4-H programs, contact Julie Pigott Dillard, 4-H Youth Development Agent, UF IFAS Washington County Extension, at 638-6180 or juliepd@ufl.edu