By: Teresa Mull
As COVID mandates have put the kibosh on large gatherings, many types of sporting events, concerts, going out to eat and drink, and most of the other fun things we enjoy, there’s one pastime that hasn’t been negatively affected, but is, in fact, gaining in popularity in many places.
“The Mississippi Scholastic Shooting Sports Program is relatively new on the scene, but participation is growing rapidly amid the coronavirus pandemic,” reports the Clarion Ledger.
Prevented from taking part in traditional organized school sports, kids are participating in 5-stand, skeet, trap, and sporting clays, because, as one of the program’s directors points out, the activities are outside, the kids can socially distance, and they don’t share equipment (guns).
The Mississippi program started in 2015 with 30 students. Now, it’s up to 54 schools and 888 students – with some of the girls outshooting the boys.
Likewise, in Pennsylvania, my own local trap league is going strong. I wrote recently for my local newspaper that the Sandy Ridge Sportsmen’s Club Tuesday Trap League ended last month with a bountiful banquet, fellowship, and plenty of prizes for shooters who travel from within a 40-mile radius to participate.
This year and last, 43 people took part in the weekly league. Several of the shooters are former members of the Philipsburg Rod and Gun Club, which was located at Black Moshannon State Park until a lengthy lawsuit with DCNR resulted in the 100-year-old club’s eviction a couple years ago.
“I saw the potential for a league (at Sandy Ridge),” said Scott Holdren, a club organizer. “Both of our clubs were kind of struggling, but now that we’re all together, we’re doing fantastic.”
Brady Lewis, 15, was this year’s top youth shooter. He has been shooting since he was little, and now enjoys coming to the club with his grandfather. Lewis plays baseball and says the hand-eye coordination of shooting helps with both sports.
“I grew up doing it, and now I’m good at it, I guess,” Lewis said.
Holdren said at Sandy Ridge, everyone gets a chance to shine. At the end-of-the-year awards banquet, many shooters take home boxes of prize ammo. “It’s not just the top gun who wins,” Holdren said. “We even everything out. It’s structured so it’s not all about just one shooter. A league like this gives a lot of new shooters a way to win.”
Jim Burns, another league organizer, said the league is the perfect place for a beginner to feel comfortable and learn — a fact that this writer can personally attest to being true.
“Everybody here started out as a new shooter,” Burns said. “We will help anybody. We’ll lend them our guns, we’ll show them what to do, we’ll coach them. We’ll do whatever we can to help them out. That’s one of the main things that happens here.”
“All you gotta do is ask,” Holdren said. “Just say, ‘I’m a new shooter, I’m not really sure what’s going on,’ and we’ll give you what you need to know. Now we can’t improve your shooting, that’s on your own, but we can help you out. New guns, don’t be intimidated by the big guns. They were a beginner once, too. No one will laugh at you.”
Next season, the club plans to have a sponsorship program to pay for the ammo and targets of youth shooters, to encourage them to give the sport a try. Kids will be required to pass a hunter’s safety course to participate.
Teresa Mull (email@example.com) is editor of Gunpowder Magazine.