Members of the Faulkner County 4-H Shooting Sports Club set their sights high each year as they prepare for, and then participate in, several events throughout the state. Their motto is “Making the Best Better.”
Kendall Casey of Enola is the main adult leader for the 4-H Shooting Sports Club, an educational program sponsored by the Faulkner County Cooperative Extension Service, the University of Arkansas, Division of Agriculture. Leigh Helms is the cooperative extension agent for 4-H in Conway and works with the program, which is for youths ages 8 to 19.
Casey said the program “teaches safe and responsible firearm-handling skills.”
The young people involved in the program come from several school districts — Conway, Greenbrier, Guy-Perkins, Quitman, Mount Vernon-Enola and Vilonia — as well as private schools; plus there are several home-schoolers. Students who live near Faulkner County but do not have a county shooting-sports program may join the Faulkner County program.
“We teach and practice multiple disciplines, including trap shotgun and sporting clays, .22 rifle, air rifle, .22 pistol, air pistol, archery, BB gun and muzzleloader,” Casey said. “The major events for our club are the Daisy State BB Gun Championship in February, the Arkansas Youth Shooting Sports Program in May, the Youth Hunter Education Challenge in June and the Arkansas 4-H State Range Events in July.”
Casey said the Faulkner County 4-H Shooting Sports Club currently has 15 certified coaches and many volunteer parents involved at each practice.
“We usually practice two or three disciplines twice a week leading up to each
competition,” said Casey, who is a certified coach. “We normally start practice with BB guns in October or November and finish with all competitions in July.”
Practice is usually held at the home of Jimmy and Linda Newsom of Conway, who are both certified coaches. Jimmy Newsom has constructed a firing range at his home, located outside the city limits, where the young people can develop their skills.
“Safety is our goal,” Newsom said. “The Shooting Sports Club is open to any 4-H member, but he or she has to have taken the hunter education course first. It’s all about safety.
“We have a lot of fun, but it’s a lot of work, too,” Newsom said. “It takes all of us — coaches and parents. We’re like a big family.
“This program teaches kids responsibility and helps them develop self-confidence and leadership abilities. Qualifying for a team is based on a scoring system. That’s how we set our teams.”
The Faulkner County 4-H Shooting Sports Club conducts fundraisers throughout the year that help the club and youth cover the cost of supplies and entry fees associated with practices and competitions.
Club members and their parents will participate in the annual Bargains Galore on 64 on Friday and Saturday.
“We will be set up near the Eight-Mile Store on U.S. 64 going toward Vilonia,” Newsom said.
“All items that we sell are donated, so all money earned stays within the club.”
Several members of the Faulkner County 4-H Shooting Sports Club participated in the International Youth Hunter Education Challenge, held July 26-31 at the National Rifle Association Whittington Center in Raton, New Mexico.
“We had one senior team and one junior team qualify to go,” Newsom said.
Members of the junior team participating at IYHEC call themselves the Remington Rednecks. Members include Julie Newsom, who attends Carl Stewart Middle School in Conway; Jesse McClellan, who attends Greenbrier Junior High School; Kadee Fason, who attends Guy-Perkins Middle School; and Samuel Welch and Seth Welch, both of Conway, who are home-schooled.
Members of the qualifying senior team call themselves the Banded Mallards. Team members include Tommy Newsom, who attends Conway High School; Landon Casey, who attends Mount Vernon-Enola High School; Ty Knopp of Cato, who is home-schooled; Alec Ohlde, who attends Conway Christian High School; and Ali Verkler, who attends Conway Junior High School.
James McClellan of Solgohachia, who is also a certified coach, said three students competed “on their own merits” as individual competitors at IYHEC. They are Bailey Smith of Quitman, Harlan Knopp of Cato and Layton Casey of Enola.
The Faulkner County students competed — as teams and as individuals — against students from 14 other states. Newsom said this was the first year for a Faulkner County senior team to participate at IYHEC and the second year for a junior team to participate.
Tommy Newsom placed third in the individual senior muzzleloader category at this year’s IYHEC event. He placed first in the individual junior muzzleloader category at the 2014 IYHEC event that was held in Mansfield, Pennsylvania. In addition to Tommy Newsom, other members of the 2014 junior team were Julie Newsom, Ali Verkler, Clay Kellett of Vilonia and Russell Jackson of Conway.
To qualify for the IYHEC event in New Mexico, the teams had to be one of the top three teams at the Youth Hunter Education Challenge held June 3-6 at the C.A. Vines Arkansas 4-H Center in Ferndale. Both the junior and senior teams placed third in the state event to qualify for the international event.
Jimmy Newsom said three senior teams and two junior teams participated at the state YHEC event.
“Every single member was called out onstage,” he said. “We came home with 83 trophies. We were ecstatic.”
Newsom said the YHEC competitions include more than just demonstrating shooting and archery skills.
“There is a written discipline, too,” he said. “They had to take a hunter-safety exam, a compass and orienteering test, identify wildlife and walk a safety trail. They have to know all the rules.”
A senior team also qualified for the National 4-H Range Events that will be held in June 2016 in Grand Island, Nebraska. Members include Landon Casey of Enola; and Tommy Newsom, Alec Ohlde and Wyatt Richardson, all of Conway.
For more information on the Faulkner County 4-H Shooting Sports program, call the Faulkner County Cooperative Extension Service at (501) 329-8344.