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story.lead_photo.caption Rhonda Jacobs, business teacher at Dover High School, will be the coach for the new shooting-sports program in the school district. Jacobs stands by a gun rack made for the program. She enjoys trapshooting, and her three sons also participate in the sport. Her husband, Gary, will assist her with the teams. Students will take safety training in January, and practice will begin in February, she said. - Photo by William Harvey

DOVER — Caleb Jacobs and his brother Ethan were on competitive-shooting teams when they attended Hector schools, but when they moved to Dover, there wasn’t one.

“I find trapping and skeet shooting fun; it’s something I always enjoyed and something

I missed at Dover,” Caleb said.

Thanks to his mother — outdoorsy business teacher Rhonda

Jacobs —the Dover School District will start a trapshooting program in January for students in sixth through 12th grades. It is being sponsored in conjunction with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission through its Arkansas Youth Shooting Sports Program.

The program will involve the entire Jacobs family. Jacobs, who is in her fourth year teaching in the Dover School District, was certified in September as a coach. Her husband, Gary, was also certified and will be her assistant. Their sons Caleb, 17, a senior, and Ethan, 15, a sophomore, will be on the senior high team; younger brother Eli, an 11-year-old sixth-grader, will be on the junior high team.

Rhonda Jacobs said she was inspired by her oldest son’s comment that he missed the competitive shooting team in Hector, where she taught for 19 years.

The teenagers, along with their younger brother, participate in competitive shooting through 4-H, too, and Jacobs said she enjoys shooting with her sons occasionally.

In trapshooting, a machine throws clay targets, called pigeons, from a single machine or “house.” In skeet shooting, the targets are released from upper and lower machines.

“I find trap easier,” said Caleb, who added that he’s been trapshooting since he was in the sixth grade.

Dover Superintendent Jerry Owens said Jacobs got the program off the ground. She came to him with the proposal and volunteered to be certified.

“She’s the only reason this thing is going,” Owens said.

The first year of the program could essentially be free to the school district if a grant is received from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. The grant would provide the clay-target thrower, ammunition, and ear and eye protection. Students would provide their own shotguns.

“It’s a program we’ve been looking at here for a couple of years. We did a survey from our kids, and we had like 70 kids respond that they were interested,” Owens said. He said about 50 students showed up for an after-school meeting about the shooting program.

Jacobs said as of last week, 41 students had signed up for the program — 22 in junior high and 19 in senior high. Of those, eight are female.

Kailey May, 13, is one of those. A daughter of Robert and Tehya May, Kailey will be on the junior high team.

“I’ve been hunting since I was really little; my dad and I go hunting every year,” she said.“I’ve shot a bear and probably about six deer.”

Trapshooting is something new to her.

“I’ve never actually been skeet or trap shooting, but I think it would be a really fun activity to do and get everybody working as a team,” Kailey said. “I’m not really nervous about it. Being one of the few girls will be a learning experience. We’ll start on the same level, and we’ll have a good time.”

Jacobs, who teaches at the high school, said she wants to recruit more females for the senior high team, which now has two.

“I know I’ve got some girls who like to shoot and hunt in senior high,” she said.

The practice site will be north of the elementary school.

“[The site is] overlooking a mile section of wood, so it’s very safe, very secure, kind of out in the country,” Owens said. “The school is back behind it. We’ll be shooting away from the school; we’ll be shooting on weekends. No children will be present [at the school].”

Jacobs said the students will be standing on school property, but students will be shooting the clay targets across a wooded area owned by David Bewley, who gave his permission for its use. The district bought 40 acres from Bewley to build the

elementary school.

Owens said that because city ordinance forbids guns to be shot in the city limits, the school district also had to go before the Dover City Council for approval for the program.

“This is a rural community, and it has lots of sportsmen in the area. It’s a positive activity,” Owens said.

Jacobs said safety training will be done in January, and practices will begin in February.

“Safety is our biggest concern, and our biggest goal is to be safe,” she said. “They’ll check their guns in when they get here and check

them out after practice.”

Jacobs said she will have the ammunition when the students arrive at practice, and a clear-barrel indicator will be used at the beginning and end of practices to make sure each student’s gun is unloaded.

Trapshooting is done with squads of five-person teams. Several schools in the area have competitive-shooting sports teams, she said.

“There are several little different competitions you can go to,” Jacobs said.

The district conference is in May in Jacksonville, and the state competition is held there in June, she said.

Although she wants the Dover teams to excel, Jacobs has a bigger goal.

“They learn gun safety and handling the gun properly, and my big goal is just for them to enjoy the outdoors and learn to compete on a friendly level and have good family-friendly competition — just the great outdoors,” Jacobs said. “Get them back outside and enjoying the outdoors.

“Technology is wonderful, but I think sometimes it keeps them from enjoying [being] outside.”

Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or tkeith@arkansasonline.com.

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