One of the best-kept secrets in Howard County is the 4-H Shooting Sports program. 4-H has been educating youth for generations and its shooting sports programs have been exemplary in teaching youth about archery and firearms safety in a hands-on, regulated environment.
The focus of all 4-H programs is the development of youth as individuals and as responsible and productive citizens. The National 4-H Shooting Sports Program stands out as a prime example. Youth learn marksmanship, safe and responsible use of firearms, principles of hunting and archery and much more. The activities of the program and the support of caring adult leaders provide young people with the opportunities to develop life skills, self-worth and conservation ethics.
The 4-H Shooting Sports program is by far one of the most popular programs offered by the national organization. Instruction is not theoretical. This program provides hands-on skill development and practice that teaches individual and group responsibility, leadership and competency that students can use for a lifetime.
National studies have shown that youth who are instructed in the safe handling of archery and firearms are far less likely to become involved in delinquent or criminal behaviors. These types of professional instruction also are responsible for a decline in firearms-related accidents.
In Howard County, we are fortunate to have a thriving 4-H Shooting Sports program. Our local program accepts youth from third through twelfth grade.
Last year, with 10 certified instructors and seven additional adult volunteers, Howard County’s program provided in-depth instruction in archery, muzzle loading, pistol, rifle and shotgun. The program had an adult volunteer-to-youth ratio of two adults for every seven students.
Nearly 70 youth took part in the program in 2013, up 23 percent from 2012. This year promises to be even higher. At the Howard County fair, 44 Shooting Sports members created a poster describing what they had learned through this program. Amazingly, all of them received a blue ribbon or higher. In addition to generous grants and individual contributions, the program is strongly supported by the Howard County Izaak Walton League through use of its many ranges and equipment.