Clay Co. 4-H Shooting Sports Club promotes life-long interest by M. Jill Sundstrom Aiming toward a better future may seem a cliche, but that�s exactly what the Clay County 4-H Shooting Sports Club does for its members.
Established several years ago, shooting sports was first recognized as a special activities group. Its successful evolution into a full-fledged 4-H club is due to the interest of the youngsters involved and the dedication of its leaders and parent volunteers.
�The philosophy of the club is to promote shooting sports activities as a lifetime enjoyment,� said Bruce Plate, one of the three leaders. �There are so many facets to shooting sports and if someone finds a hobby through these activities, whether it�s trap shooting, muzzle loading, archery, custom building gun stocks or even cooking wild game, we�ve met our goal.�
Plate, along with co-leaders Glenn Nelson and Lars Aga, meet with the 30 members twice a month at the 4-H Center in Vermillion. There, a shooting gallery is set up where members can practice their skills with BB guns or archery equipment.
�The concept is simple � we don�t want to become ?talking heads� when the kids get here,� Plate said. �They sit in school all day listening to lectures. Here, it�s hands-on. We want them to learn the basics and safety while they actually practice shooting.�
Grants from the South Dakota Friends of NRA Committee and the NRA Foundation have helped pay for the equipment used by the shooting sports club. Through the years, they have purchased targets, nets, BB guns, bows, arrows, eye protection, hearing protection and ammunition.
�These organizations have been a big help to us,� Plate said. �We�re also going to apply for a grant from the 4-H Foundation for other activities and events.�
In addition to a BB Gun Sweepstakes in May, Clay County Shooting Sports 4-H Club members can participate in the annual Sports Fest, set tentatively for June 12 this year. Activities take place at Clay County Park.
�At the Sports Fest, we have several different areas of instruction, including first aid in an outdoor environment, trap shooting, archery and firearm safety, boat safety and muzzle loading demonstrations,� Plate said. �It�s open to the 4-H members and anyone else who wants to participate.�
Clay County 4-H Shooting Sports Club members must be 8 to 18 years of age. Membership is free and participants can also belong to other 4-H clubs, if they wish.
�Our goal is to give the kids an opportunity to experience a sport that can become something they can enjoy for the rest of their lives,� Plate said. �Kids are naturally inquisitive and if they can come and put that to work in a safe environment, we�ve done our part.�