Joseph D. Barrett, Boldt, David M., Morgan, Johnny W. | 5/19/2008 7:21:18 PM
More than 350 Louisiana 4-H regional shooting sports winners participated in the state competition held May 2-3 in Southeast Louisiana.
David Boldt, LSU AgCenter 4-H youth instructor, said the event, held at Goodbee, near Covington, included competition in shotgun, air pistol, air rifle, BB gun, rifle, archery, muzzle loading and hunting discipline.
Part of the national outdoor skills program, the Louisiana 4-H shooting sports program began in 1999.
The program offers 4-H youth the opportunity to learn about firearm safety, marksmanship, hunting and wildlife conservation.
Joe Barrett, LSU AgCenter outdoor skills coordinator for Caddo, Bossier, Webster and Red River parishes, said the shooting sports program offers 4-H'ers and their parents an opportunity to spend time together as they compete in parish, state and national contests.
“This is a volunteer-driven program with lots of volunteers and lots of kids. And we’re finding that we have a lot of adult men who come into this program to help,” he said.
Barrett said traditionally 4-H has had strong female volunteer leaders but hasn’t many male leaders.
“There’s a lot of support for this program that we haven’t had in 4-H before, like the sheriff’s associations and a lot of the wildlife groups such as Ducks Unlimited, Quail Unlimited, the National Wild Turkey Federation and Friends of the NRA,” he said.
Boldt said the program is not as much about shooting as it is about safety and youth spending time with caring adults.
Phillip Knowles Jr., a sixth-grader from Winnfield, said he’s participated in the archery competition for the past three years.
“In fourth grade, they announced that people who would like to join 4-H could join,” Knowles said. “Since I like to try new stuff, my dad told me to give it a try. So I tried it and it turned out OK.”
Knowles said the first year he competed he came in fourth, and last year he came in second. This year he came in fourth again. He said it didn’t bother him because he still did well.
The number of 4-H’ers participating at the state competition shows the popularity of the program, Barrett said.
“The first year Louisiana had the program, only 37 students came to the state competition in the shotgun category, but this year we had over 400 in the regional competition,” Barrett said. “And last year we were second in the nation in the shotgun competition.”
“We’re trying to take the mystery out of firearms by exposing them in the right way of how to be involved with firearms and archery,” Boldt said “We teach them the responsibility that is involved, so they know when they pull that trigger, there’s no pulling back.”
“Each kid has a coach with them at all times during the competition,” Barrett said, add that each participant also has gone through many hours of training and knows there is a zero-tolerance policy.
“They learn up front that this is a privilege, not an absolute right,” Barrett said.
The top four winners in the senior division of each discipline have the opportunity to compete at the national competition in Nebraska.
To become a participant in the shooting sports program or to find out more about the LSU AgCenter’s 4-H Youth Development program, visit the AgCenter’s Web site at www.lsuagcenter.com.
Writer: Johnny Morgan at (225) 578-8484 or firstname.lastname@example.org