More than 3600 4-H members participate in one of the five 4-H shooting sports disciplines. Each fall, the oldest of those members compete in four state contests to determine the state winners and delegates to the National 4-H Shooting Sports Competition to be held in June 2020.
The shooting sports project teaches the responsible and safe handling of firearms. Members must be involved in a club led by a certified volunteer who has completed the National 4-H Shooting Sports training.
"4-H Shooting Sports Clubs are founded on the principles of positive youth development," said Lisa Diaz, University of Illinois assistant dean and Illinois Extension 4-H director. "We want our members to feel welcomed in our program, to grow in leadership and independence, and be inspired to be generous in service to others as they master the skills of shooting sports." Sometimes the real wins have nothing to do with how many bull's-eyes they hit; it's what changes inside of them because they tried.
"The project teaches responsibility, patience, and precision which will transfer to other aspects of life," said Robin Mizell of Massac County, Extension 4-H program coordinator. Mizell said he sees older members take time during events to mentor and encourage younger members.
"That's what 4-H is all about." Mizell said. "Whether it's shooting sports or public speaking or cooking or showing livestock, inspiring others to work hard to achieve their own personal best is a core 4-H value."
Top finishers in the contest have the option to advance to national competition, said Curt Sinclair, Extension 4-H shooting sports specialist. The Illinois 4-H Foundation provides financial support for the national teams.
To become involved in the 4-H shooting sports program, contact the local Extension office or go to 4-H.illinois.edu. Locally, 29 4-H members competed for top honors at the State 4-H Rifle Shoot held Oct. 12-13 at Central Illinois Precision Shooters in Bloomington.
The smallbore .22 caliber division of the contest tests the participants' ability to shoot from three positions, lying prone, kneeling or sitting and standing.
In addition, participants shoot from different distances, either 25 or 50 feet. For some rounds, the youth must take all five shots within a 25-second time limit; other rounds allow up to 15 minutes to complete the set of shots.
Nine of the 10 top participants in the air rifle division were first-time competitors. Madison County 4-H member Gloria Bremer claimed the championship, followed by Paul Knipmeyer of McLean County in second and Braden May of Massac County, who participate in the Johnson County Shooting Sports, placed third.