4H shooting club gives participants unique opportunities to explore

Published 7:00 am Thursday, July 11, 2019

Alex Shook plans to create a safe, interactive environment for children in Pearl River County to explore projects of which they have an interest. To do this he helps run the 4-H programs in the county, providing avenues of exploration and innovation for over 520 kids that participate in various projects.

One such project is the Pearl River County Hot Shots. This is a club with between 60 and 75 young members who participate in shooting sports. Shook said that not only do the participants learn how to safely and accurately handle a firearm, but that they also learn about the history of the armaments they’re using.

The club trains its members to participate in competitions such as .22 rifle shooting, muzzle loading shooting, and even archery.

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However, for Shook the programs are about more than just learning how to shoot accurately and safely.

“The purpose of 4-H is to teach life skills to youth through projects that they find an interest in,” Shook said.

Not only is the program beneficial for the athletes on the range, but Shook said that some of the skills 4H members learn off the shooting range are responsibility, leadership, and public speaking.

“We’re helping to mold and grow youth without them knowing it,” Shook said.

Some of the children may just think they’re there to have fun and compete, but Shook said in reality 4-H is making them better young adults. If a member has enough experience, and decides to apply, senior 4-H members aged 14 to 18 can become shooting sports ambassadors. Being named an ambassador is an honor for a select group of athletes from across the state.

The process is strenuous, requiring an application and in person interview before a shooter can be chosen as an ambassador.

Ambassadors can sometimes be the better shots of the group, and Pearl River County has had no shortage of marksmen over the years.

Shook said that for the past 12 years, Pearl River County has had a member represent the county at the state level in at least one event.

These members come from varying areas, and Shook said that the diversity of the club is incredible.

“The great thing about shooting sports and 4H is we get kids from towns and out in the country,” Shook said.

Additionally, the club sparks interaction between parents and their children.

“4-H is not a drop your kids off kind of deal, we’re not a babysitting service,” Shook said.

“We encourage that youth-parent connection.”

In time, the parents learn how to handle firearms as well, and transition from onlookers to helpers for the club’s young members.

This can vary from helping with sighting techniques and breathing techniques.

Other times the parents will handle ammunition for their child on the firing line.

The club has steadily grown over the years to the point that the Hot Shots Shooting Club is now a year-round program.

The offseason portion of the year is focused on learning from industry professionals and understanding the mechanics behind the tools they’re using.

The local 4-H club has over 100 projects available to interested parties, and Shook hopes that people continue to join and take the organization to new heights.