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Club to offer fall hunting skills program
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Returning for a second year, Paige Koehn decided to try the archery project for something new to do. Shes a good shot, it turns out, especially in the Bare Bow class where she took first place in the 3-D field event and second place in the FITA target event in the age 9 and under class. - photo by Veronica Coons

With recent box-office hits like the Pixar movie Brave, Marvel comics and Paramount theaters collaboration on The Avengers, and this spring’s Lionsgate adaptation of The Hunger Games, archery is gaining more public attention. For several kids in Barton County, archery is more than a fantasy. Not only can they hit a target, they excell at it.

Saturday, Aug. 4, Barton County Sharp Shooters 4-H club sponsored a multi-county archery shoot at the Barton County fairgrounds. The qualifying event helped young archers from Central Kansas prepare to go to the 2012 Fall State Match for 4-H Shooting Sports to be held October 6 at the Capital City Gun Club in Topeka. Teams from Barton, Reno, Rice, Russell, and Gray counties competed.

Logan Hammeke and brother Landen both participated in the age 9 and under Open class events.

“My dad hunts, so I wanted to do this so I could practice my shooting,” Logan said.

Logan has been part of the archery project for one year, and this was his second time competing. In a previous meet, he came in second in the FITA match, and third in the three-dimensional target match. At Saturday’s match, he came in second in both matches. His younger brother finished third in the 3-D.

FITA and 3-D are both archery events. FITA is an acronym for what the World Archery Federation was once called. The term FITA stuck, and qualifying matches are referred to as FITA. The target matches use the traditional round “bullseye” targets. Shooters are required to shoot from two different distances, and points received are based on where on the target their arrows hit. For shooters 12 and under, they shoot from distances of 20 and 30 meters. For the 13 and over group, they shoot from distances of 30 and 40 meters.

The 3-D field events require shooters to hit a target on a dimensional life like foam animal placed in a rural or forested setting. Distances are not marked, so shooters need to be able to estimate how far to shoot. Targets are centered over a critical part of the animal, like the heart or lungs.

Another Barton County Sharp Shooter, Paige Koehn, also competed in the age 9 and under class, using a bare bow borrowed from the club. Paige said she’s been doing archery for two years. She wanted something new to do when she started. “I just like shooting and it feels good to hit the target,” she said. The petite toxophilite, shorter than her bow, is a pretty good shot. She placed 1st in her class for 3-D and 2nd for FITA, shooting Bare Bow.

The team includes several older members too, like Sam McGinnis, in the 13 and older class, who has been to State competition and medalled last year. He has been in the program for six years now, and on Saturday competed in Open class with his compound bow, coming in 2nd in the FITA and 1st in the 3-D. This qualifies him to make another trip to State.

Sharp Shooters

In the 1980s, the National 4-H program was experiencing a decline in enrollment around age 13, and there were more girls involved than boys. The 4-H shooting sports program was designed to bring young men back into the program.

Today, there are 25 kids in the project, according to archery instructor Dennis Trapp. The Sharp Shooters is not a fully active shooting sports club. Only archery and air rifle are offered at this time. The club needs to grow to include black powder, shotgun, and hunting skills to become a fully active club. Two instructors have recently become certified to teach hunting skills, and hope to add this program in the fall, Trapp said.

There are now 19 participants in archery, and at least that many in air-rifle. Some are in both, he said. When the Dennis and Patricia Trapp started in the program, their youngest daughter was age 11. She was one of the first archery participants in the club. That was 18 years ago, and the Trapps have been building the program ever since.

“The kids are just so much fun,” Patricia said. “They get out there, enjoy what they’re doing , and they have fun.” Their enjoyment is what keeps the Trapps involved year after year.

Most of the kids who choose the shooting sports project do it because they want to have fun, and for some, they want to improve their hunting skills and go hunting with family members, Mr. Trapp said. But there are many other benefits to becoming skilled in archery.

The nature of archery itself requires concentration and relaxation in order to make a perfect shot. The archer stands in position, sights the target, takes aim, breathing, and lets the arrow take flight. According to a Minnesota Extension report, “Taking Aim at Youth Development” by Angie Hauer and Stephen Carlson, mastering the skills builds confidence, which spills over into other activities like school and work. Many of the same skills are suggested for relieving stress, so it’s no wonder it is a recommended activity for stress relief.

The archery project takes the equipment out to Camp Hope every year. Camp Hope is an annual camp held in Barton County in June for children who have survived or are currently fighting cancer. Dennis offers instruction, and it isn’t long before campers are experiencing the fun, he said. The Trapps have been going for 16 years now.
“We have them hitting targets right away,” he said. “We start close, because we want the kids to enjoy it, not get discouraged. Then they back up and start doing other things.”

It takes a couple of years before most archers really get competitive about the sport. The young ones have a great time, and the Trapps said the more they enjoy it, the better they get.

Kathy McGinnis is the county 4-H shooting sports coordinator and has also been to the instructor class. Her nephew, Scott McGinnis got her involved with the program when he became a Sharp Shooter. She is helping the club grow by preparing to write grants for equipment and training in other shooting disciplines.

Growing disciplines

Both McGinnis and instructor Roger McPherson became certified earlier this summer to instruct a hunting skills project, and hope to offer one to club members this fall. At certification, they learned how to observe habitat, how to tell what an animal was by a skull, a wing, a pelt, a footprint and teeth. McGinnis said she never used to do things outside, but her nephew keeps her going and she credits him with getting her involved.

The club wants to add additional shooting disciplines, McGinnis said. In order to offer black powder and shotgun, however, the club needs to locate a place to practice. They’ve looked into using police ranges, McGinnis said, but the club would have to hire an off-duty police officer to act as a range master during their practices. In the meantime, six Sharp Shooters were able to work out a reciprocation agreement with another 4-H club in Pawnee county, and were able to do black powder in the spring.

“They’ve got a taste for it now,” she said.

Sharp Shooters meets the first Monday of every month, and will be meeting the second week of September this year due to the Labor Day holiday. Archery participants train on Monday evenings and Sunday afternoons. Air rifle trains on Tuesday and Thursday nights. Both groups train every week throughout the school year, except for Thanksgiving and Christmas, McGinnis said. Those interested in participating can contact McGinnis at 620-653-2110.